Two members of the extended first family are now officially United States citizens. Viktor and Amalija Knavs, the parents of first lady Melania Trump, took the oath of citizenship in a private ceremony in New York City on Aug. 9.

Their attorney Michael Wildes told members of the press following the ceremony, “This golden experiment, these doors that are in America, remain hinged open to beautiful people as they have today.” He went on to describe family immigration as a bedrock of the country’s immigration process as a means of family reunification.

President Donald Trump and Melania did not attend the ceremony and her White House office cited the privacy of the Knavses in declining to comment. The first lady moved to New York in 1996, obtained a green card in 2001 and became a citizen in 2006.

Obtaining U.S. citizenship

The process through which green card holders like Melania Trump and the Knavses become U.S. citizens is citizenship by naturalization. According to the Immigration and Nationality Act, foreign nationals may gain U.S. citizenship by meeting the following requirements:

  • Continuous residence: lived in the U.S. for five years as a permanent resident (green card holder) before applying. If someone is married to and living with a U.S. citizen, the requirement is three years.
  • Age: at least 18 years old
  • English proficiency: ability to read, write and speak English and tested during naturalization interview
  • Good moral character: various ways to demonstrate good moral character include paying taxes and having a clean criminal record
  • Physical presence: must be physically present in the country for approximately half the time of the continuous residence requirement, 1.5 or 2.5 years depending on that category
  • Jurisdiction: lived within the state or USCIS district with jurisdiction over residence for at least three months before filing citizenship application
  • Knowledge of and allegiance to the U.S.: demonstrate basic understanding of U.S. history and government; pledge allegiance to the U.S. Constitution and its enshrined ideals

Qualified applicants complete the Form N-400 Application for Naturalization to begin the naturalization process. Additionally, speaking, reading, writing and civics tests determine success in those categories. For anyone preparing for these tests, utilize the study materials available from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services resources.

Navigating the naturalization process

The U.S. citizenship process can take time, expertise and legal prowess to successfully navigate. For your best chance at successfully completing the convoluted process, consult the Law Office of Alison Yew and our expert immigration attorneys in San Jose. Taking the oath of citizenship like the Knavses were able to is an honorable, fulfilling experience, so let us help you work to achieve that goal as well.