U.S. Citizenship

photoH1UScitizenshipAll persons born or naturalized in the United States are citizens of the United States and of the state where they reside.

Most people become U.S. citizens in one of two ways:

      By birth, either within the territory of the United States or to U.S. citizen parents, or
      By Naturalization.

In addition, in 2000, Congress passed the Child Citizenship Act (CCA), which allows any child under the age of 18 who is adopted by a U.S. citizen and immigrates to the United States to acquire immediate citizenship.

To learn more about eligibility for citizenship, dual citizenship and to review frequently asked questions, please click on the links below.

  • Eligibility
  • Dual Citizenship
  • Frequently Asked Citizenship Questions

U.S. citizenship gives a person all the rights that the U.S. has to offer; for example, the right to vote, to petition for family members to immigrate, and to live abroad without losing your right to return.  For these reasons, citizenship is not easily obtained.

To become a U.S. citizen, you must first have a "Green Card" (permanent residence) and then meet other requirements, listed below. There are a few rare exceptions in which a person goes straight from having no U.S. status to getting U.S. citizenship.

What are the Eligibility Criteria?

If you are interested in applying for U.S. citizenship, first make sure that all of the following apply to you:

    • You have lived in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least five years (with exceptions for spouses of U.S. citizens, and U.S. military personnel);
    • You have been physically present in the United States for at least half of the last five years (with exceptions for spouses of U.S. citizens and U.S. military personnel);
    • You are at least 18 years old;
    • You have good moral character;
    • You are able to speak, read, and write in English (with some exceptions);
    • You are able to pass a test covering U.S. history and government (with some exceptions); and
    • You are willing to take the oath of citizenship.

What is Dual Citizenship?

Dual citizenship means that an individual is a citizen of two countries at the same time.  Some times dual citizenship occurs as an operation of law.  For example, a child born in the United States to foreign parents is usually both a citizen of the United States and his/her parent’s home country.

U.S. Dual Citizenship

While some countries do not allow their citizens to hold citizenship in other states, the U.S. government allows, but does not encourage, dual citizenship. It is important to understand that the United States does not have jurisdiction to take away another country’s citizenship from those who wish to naturalize.  Thus, an individual who becomes a U.S. citizen through naturalization may keep his or her original citizenship provided that the country of original citizenship does not prohibit dual citizenship.  Dual citizenship may also expose an individual to additional liabilities, including taxation.  Because dual citizenship carries unique rights and responsibilities, it is important to consider naturalization carefully.

 

Frequently Asked Citizenship Questions

How can I become a United States citizen?

A person may become a U.S. citizen by birth or through naturalization.

Who is born a United States citizen?

Generally, people are born U.S. citizens if they are born in the United States or if they are children of U.S. citizens:

  • By being born in the United States
    • If you were born in the United States, you are an American citizen at birth (unless you were born to a foreign diplomat).  Your birth certificate is proof of your citizenship.
  • Through birth abroad to TWO United States citizens
    • You may be a U.S. citizen if ALL of the following are true:
      • Both your parents were U.S. citizens when you were born; and
      • At least one of your parents lived in the United States at some point in their life.
      • Your record of birth abroad, if registered with a U.S. consulate or embassy, is proof of your citizenship.  You may also apply for a passport to have your citizenship recognized.
  • Through birth abroad to ONE United States citizen
    • You may be a U.S. citizen if ALL of the following are true:
      • One of your parents was a U.S. citizen when you were born; and
      • Your citizen parent lived in the U.S. at least 5 years before you were born.
      • Your record of birth abroad, if registered with a U.S. consulate or embassy, is proof of your citizenship.  You may also apply for a passport to have your citizenship recognized.

How do I become a naturalized U.S. citizen?

To naturalize, you must submit an Application for Naturalization, or N-400.  After submitting the application, the applicant will be scheduled for an in-person interview with an immigration officer.  At this interview, the officer will review the application and administer English and Civics tests (unless an exception to the normal testing obligations applies).  At the conclusion of the interview, a successful applicant will be instructed about upcoming naturalization ceremonies and the swearing-in process.  An applicant is not a U.S. citizen until being officially sworn in as a citizen.  Please contact our office if you would like help with your application or interview.

What are the requirements for becoming a citizen/naturalization?

  • You have lived in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least five years (with exceptions for spouses of U.S. citizens, and U.S. military personnel);
  • You have been physically present in the United States for at least half of the last five years (with exceptions for spouses of U.S. citizens and U.S. military personnel);
  • You are at least 18 years old;
  • You have good moral character;
  • You are able to speak, read, and write in English (with some exceptions);
  • You are able to pass a test covering U.S. history and government (with some exceptions); and
  • You are willing to take the oath of citizenship.

Your time as a Permanent Resident begins on the date you were granted permanent resident status.  This date is on your Permanent Resident Card (commonly known as Green Card).

How long will it take to become naturalized?

It takes on average between 6 and 9 months for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to adjudicate a properly submitted application. By statute, the government has 120 days from the date of the interview to adjudicate a naturalization application. Lawsuits can compel the government to make decisions on long-delayed naturalization applications. Please contact our office if you have any questions or concerns regarding naturalization delays.

Are there any waivers for the English and History Requirements?

You may waive one or more of the testing requirements if:

  • You are unable to comply with the requirements due to a disability; or
  • You are over 50 and have been a permanent resident for 20 years or more; or
  • You are over 55 and have been a permanent resident for 15 years or more.

What are the rights of a naturalized citizen?

Naturalized citizens have all the protections, rights and responsibilities of citizens born in the U.S., except they are not eligible to be President of the United States.

If you need legal help for your immigration, or if you know someone who does, please contact us to set up an initial consultation.