What Every Floridian Should Know About Citizenship Laws

Once you turn 18 years old, you will have certain legal responsibilities as a U.S. citizen. You may be called to jury duty, and men are required to register for the Selective Service System within 30 days of their 18th birthday. You will also gain the right to vote and make your voice heard in U.S. elections. If you are not a U.S. citizen, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the laws surrounding permanent residency and the application process for citizenship.

You must be at least 18, a citizen of the United States, a resident of Florida, and have a valid driver license or identification card issued by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles or an executed affidavit as prescribed in Section 40.011, Florida Statutes.

No. More people are called than will be chosen as jurors. People may be excused from a jury by the judge or one of the attorneys for a variety of reasons. However, a prospective juror may not be struck from a jury for a discriminatory reason or for being a member of a protected class (such as women, minorities, or the hearing impaired).

The judge will excuse a governor, lieutenant governor, a cabinet officer, a full-time law enforcement officer, a clerk of the court, or a judge. A judge will also excuse a person who is involved in the case, who is physically incapacitated, or who is being prosecuted for any crime or has been convicted of certain crimes unless the individual’s civil rights have been restored.

In addition, the judge may excuse other persons upon showing of hardship, extreme inconvenience, or public necessity; a person 70 years of age or older; a person who has served as a juror in any court in his or her county within the previous year; a person who is responsible for the care of a person with certain disabilities; an expectant mother; or a parent who is not employed full-time and has custody of a child under age six (6). A full-time student between the ages of 18 and 21 attending high school, or any state university, private postsecondary educational institution, Florida College System institution, or career center shall be excused from jury service if the student requests to be excused.

A person may be permanently excused from jury duty if the request is accompanied by a written statement from a licensed physician due to mental illness, intellectual disability, senility, or other physical or mental incapacity, or if the person is permanently incapable of caring for himself or herself.

Yes. In Florida state court, jurors who are not employed regularly or who do not continue to be paid their regular wages while serving as a juror are paid $15 per day for the first three days of jury service and $30 per day starting on the fourth day of jury service and each day afterward, but they are not paid for travel from their home. Jurors serving a federal court are normally paid $50 per day and a mileage rate for travel. If your circuit allows jurors to donate their service, the juror may irrevocably donate the compensation to one of several specified entities.

You cannot lose your job because of your jury duty. However, State law does not require employers to continue to pay wages to employees who are on jury duty. There are some county ordinances (e.g., Broward County) that require some employers to pay some employees for their jury service. Check with your county government to find out whether or not your employer is required to pay you wages while you are on jury duty.

In each county, the clerk of the court selects at random enough juror candidates from driver license lists to fill a jury. If selected for jury duty, you will receive a notice in the mail. You must appear at the location indicated when notified or contact the clerk of the court if you have a problem. Failure to appear may result in a fine not to exceed $100.00 being imposed by the judge and may be considered contempt of court.

The Selective Service System is an agency under the authority of the Executive Branch of the U.S. Federal Government. The U.S. President appoints, and the U.S. Senate confirms the agency’s director. The Selective Service System’s legislative authority is the Military Selective Service Act. The Selective Service System operates independently of any other agency, including the Department of Defense.

The Selective Service System maintains an active standby organization that would rapidly provide personnel for the U.S. Armed Forces in a fair and equitable manner in the event a conscription order (draft) was authorized by the U.S. Congress and ordered by the U.S. President. Following a draft, the Selective Service would also manage an alternative service program for conscientious objectors.

All male U.S. citizens must register with the Selective Service System within 30 days of his 18th birthday. Selective Service may accept a late registration, but not after a man has reached his 26th birthday. Male immigrants living in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 25 must also register, regardless of their legal right to be in the country. For purposes of Selective Service registration, determination of who is “male” is based on gender at birth, not gender identity or gender modified by gender reassignment procedure(s).

There are few exemptions from the registration requirement. If a man is serving on active duty in the Armed Forces prior to reaching the age of 18, he does not have to register upon reaching the age of 18; however, if he leaves active duty prior to reaching age 26, he must timely register after his discharge from active duty. Those attending a U.S. Service Academy or certain other U.S. military colleges are also exempt so long as they remain enrolled in the academy or on active-duty status; such men must register upon withdrawing from the academy or leaving active-duty service. Non-immigrant non-citizens in the U.S. on student, visitor, tourist, or diplomatic visas are also exempt from registration. A man who is confined to a home for medical reasons (and unable to leave without medical assistance), or placed in a hospital, nursing home, long-term care facility or mental institution, prior to his 18th birthday is exempt from registration for so long as the homebound confinement or institutional placement continues. Please contact www.sss.gov for further possible exemptions from the registration requirement.

Many states and territories (including Florida) include as part of their application for, or renewal of, a driver’s permit, license or identification card a statement telling applicants that by applying for a permit, license or ID card they are consenting to have their information automatically used to register the applicant with Selective Service. In these “automatic” states, consent to registration is a requirement of obtaining driving privileges (or a government-issued ID card). Several other states provide an option to get registered with the Selective Service as a part of an eligible male applicant’s application for a driver’s permit, license, or ID card.

The Selective Service System cannot be fair and equitable without a high level of compliance with the law. According to the Selective Service Agency, failure to register, if required to do so, is a felony punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years and/or a fine of not more than $250,000. Those who fail to register may also not be eligible for certain programs and benefits at both the Federal and state level, if those programs or benefits have been linked to registration. These programs and benefits include government jobs; student financial aid, loans, or grants; security clearances; job training; and other government aid. Non-citizen males of age should register to protect their future hopes of becoming a citizen.

The easiest and fastest way for a man, who has a valid social security number, to register is online. Registration may also be done at most high schools or any United States Post Office. For more information and for males who have a social security number and wish to register online, please visit www.sss.gov.

You may preregister to vote on or after your 16th birthday, and may vote in any election occurring on or after your 18th birthday. Exceptions to this right are set out in the Florida Election Code.

When you register, you must take an oath to defend the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Florida and fill out a registration application. This information, and the step-by-step process, including online applications, can be found at the Florida Department of State’s website.

In order to vote in primary elections in Florida, you must be a registered voter in the party for which the primary is being held; a few exceptions apply

With limited exceptions for the military, you must register to vote at least twenty-nine (29) days before Election Day.

Yes, assuming you are registered, you may “Vote-by-Mail”. When you receive your ballot, follow the ballot instructions carefully to ensure that your ballot is properly completed, returned timely, and counted. Additionally, please keep in mind that, as a convenience to voters, Florida has allowed early voting throughout the State since 2004.

Each county in Florida is divided into numbered voting precincts. You will be assigned a polling place within your precinct where you will go to vote. Your voting precinct can change depending upon the address of your legal residence. If you move, some options are available to you to vote more locally.

At the polls, you will be asked to provide a current and valid picture identification. Refer to the Florida voter’s website above for a current list of acceptable proof of identification.

Polls are open from 7:00 am until 7:00 pm on Election Day. Any voter who is standing in line at the official closing of the polls is eligible to cast a vote.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) was an American immigration policy that allowed some individuals who entered the U.S. as minors, and had either entered or remained in the country illegally, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible for a work permit or Employment Authorization Document (“EAD”). In 2017, the Federal Government announced that it was ending the program. If you currently have DACA, you will be allowed to retain both DACA and your work authorization until they expire, unless terminated or revoked. The U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (“USCIS”) will adjudicate, on an individual, case by case basis properly filed DACA requests and applications that were pending at the time the end of the program was announced.

Only a licensed attorney or an accredited representative working for a Department of Justice (“DOJ”) recognized organization can give you legal advice.

USCIS is a governmental entity and WILL NOT ask you to do any of the following:

  • Transfer money to an individual;
  • Pay Immigration fees using Western Union or PayPal;
  • Pay fees to a person on the phone or by email (You can pay some immigration fees online only if you use myUSCIS.gov.); or
  • Pay to download USCIS forms (The forms are free on the website. You can also get forms at your local USCIS office or by calling 800-870-3676 and order the forms over the phone).

Lawful Permanent Residency is required for employment in the U.S. You are not allowed to work in the United States unless you have a permanent resident card, informally referred to as a “Green Card”, an Employment Authorization Document (“EAD” or work permit”), or an employment-related visa which allows you to work for a particular employer. If you are in the United States on a student visa or if you are about to graduate and are applying for Optional Practical Training (OPT), talk with your foreign student advisor (designated school official) at your school before you take any job.

A person seeking to apply for Lawful Permanent Residency (“a Green Card”) may be eligible under one of the categories listed below:

  • as an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen if you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen;
  • as an unmarried child under the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen or a parent of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old;
  • as a relative of a U.S. citizen or relative of a lawful permanent resident under the family-based preference categories;
  • as a family member of a U.S. citizen, meaning you are the: unmarried son or daughter of a U.S. citizen and you are 21 years old or older, married son or
  • daughter of a U.S. citizen or brother or sister of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old;
  • as the family member of a lawful permanent resident, meaning you are the: spouse of a lawful permanent resident unmarried child under the age of 21 of a lawful permanent resident or a married son or daughter of a lawful permanent resident 21 years old or older;
  • as an immigrant worker if you are a third preference immigrant worker, meaning you are: a skilled worker (meaning your job requires a minimum of 2 years training or work experience), or as an unskilled worker (meaning you will perform unskilled labor requiring less than 2 years training or experience);
  • as a Special Immigrant Juvenile (“SIJ”) (a foreign juvenile in the United States who has been abused, abandoned, or neglected;
  • as an Asylee or Refugee;
  • as a crime or human trafficking victim; or
  • as an abused spouse, child, or parent; or
  • as a victim of battery or extreme cruelty.

Although the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) had previously published a rule that allowed foreign entrepreneurs to stay in the United States for a period of time, DHS proposed to eliminate this rule in 2018. While DHS recognizes that some foreign entrepreneurs may face difficulty establishing eligibility under existing nonimmigrant and immigrant categories, options are still available for some foreign entrepreneurs. The United States has visa classifications that can be used by certain entrepreneurs or investors coming to the United States, e.g., E-2 treaty investor nonimmigrant classification, EB-5 immigrant classification, INA sections 101(a)(15)(E), 203(b)(5).

As a permanent resident (Green Card holder), you have the right to: live permanently in the United States provided you do not commit any actions that would make you removable under immigration law, work in the United States at legal work of your qualification and choosing, and be protected by all laws of the United States, your state of residence and local jurisdictions.

As a permanent resident, you are required to obey all laws of the United States, the states, and localities; required to file your income tax returns and report your income to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service; expected to support the democratic form of government and not to change the government through illegal means and required; and if you are a male age 18 through 25, to register with the Selective Service.

As a citizen, you have many rights, including freedom to express yourself, freedom to worship as you wish, right to a prompt, fair trial by jury, right to vote in elections for public officials, right to apply for federal employment requiring U.S. citizenship, right to run for elected office and freedom to pursue “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

As a citizen, you are required to support and defend the Constitution; stay informed of the issues affecting your community; participate in the democratic process; respect and obey federal, state, and local laws, respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others; participate in your local community; pay income and other taxes honestly and on time to federal, state, and local authorities; serve on a jury when called upon; and defend the country if the need should arise.

Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”). To apply for naturalization, file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. You may qualify for naturalization if you have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years and meet all other eligibility requirements, you have been a permanent resident for 3 years or more and meet all eligibility requirements to file as a spouse of a U.S. citizen, you have qualifying service in the U.S. armed forces and meet all other eligibility requirements and your child may qualify for naturalization if you are a U.S. citizen, the child was born outside the U.S., the child is currently residing outside the U.S., and all other eligibility requirements are met. Note: You may already be a U.S. citizen and not need to apply for naturalization if your biological or adoptive parent(s) became a U.S. citizen before you reached the age of 18.

USCIS has revised the civics portion of the naturalization test. All applicants for naturalization with a filing date (also known as a received date) on or after Dec. 1, 2020, will be required to take the 2020 version of the civics test. For more information, visit USCIS’ 2020 Version of the Civics Test web page.

Applicants for naturalization with a filing date before Dec. 1, 2020, are required to take the 2008 version of the civics test.