Citizenship is a birthright for some Americans while others have to take the longer route to get there. So how does the process differ for those born in the US and those that come here in later life?
How to become a US Citizen.
There are four key methods for obtaining citizenship. Those born in the US or to US citizens have the easiest route. Immigrants looking for improved status in the country can follow the naturalization process. It is long and there are important requirements over 5 years. But, it is possible.
The four methods for obtaining citizenship.
1) Citizenship by birth in the United States.
This one is fairly simple and applies to any child born in any of the United States, or within the inhabited territories, such as Guam and Puerto Rico. This is an automatic right to citizenship and the Constitutional rights this allows for. The measure comes from the 14th amendment, which states:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
2) Citizenship through acquisition.
This is another important route to automatic citizenship that helps many American children achieve the same rights as others. There is an issue where children born outside of the United States and its territories isn’t a natural-born citizen. This can affect children born on military bases and those born while parents are out of the country.
However, these children may automatically gain US citizenship through their parents. Only one parent needs to be a U.S. citizen at the time of the child’s birth. Therefore, an American-born father could have a child in Canada with a Canadian mother and the child would be entitled to US citizenship through acquisition.
3) Citizenship through derivation.
This tends to relate to the children of immigrants. Children that live with a parent that obtains citizenship during their residency in the US can achieve the same rights. The benefits that are given to the mother or father (or both) pass down through derivation. A bonus here is that kids don’t have to go through the same naturalization process.
4) Citizenship through naturalization.
The naturalization process is the more long-winded process of residency, form-filling, testing, and other practices for foreign-born residents. Those willing to go through this process and pay the costs can earn citizenship through naturalization. It is said that there are almost 1 million applicants for this each year.
How to become a US citizen through the naturalization process.
The most common option for those not born in the US is to go through the naturalization process. The initial requirements and qualifications for citizenship include the following:
1) Applicants much be at least 18 years old to apply for themselves. Those younger can apply through a resident adult.
2) Applicants must have entered the US legally and continually maintained all the necessary requirements for their residency.
3) This includes an “adequate physical presence” in the United States. Basically, applicants must have remained resident in the Us for five years with no more than 30 months spent outside of the country. You can’t live in the US for 4 months of the year and then another country for 6 months and still maintain that adequate 5 month residency period. Also, you can’t leave for more than a year at a time.
4) Applicants must prove that they abided by the tenants of the US Constitution.
5) At the same time, applicants must possess good moral character. While this is a vague term, it typically means that you were law-abiding throughout those 5 years.
The process of becoming a US citizen.
The full process of arriving in the United States and obtaining your citizenship through naturalization is a long process that requires time, money, study, and patience.
The first step is to apply for permanent residency and obtain your green card. There are several ways to gain a green card or visa into the US and potentially speed up the process. Green cards are commonly given to those that are:
a) Priority workers
b) Professionals holding advanced degrees or other exceptional abilities
c) Skilled workers and professionals.
These all sound similar because they are. An athlete with a scholarship could be a professional or someone with exceptional abilities. A medic could be a priority worker or someone with an advanced degree. This is where it is important to research green card options more carefully.
Once you receive the green card and find a place to stay in the US, you need to follow the residency rules stated above. This is where time and patience come in. Five years need to pass, with no breaking of the rules, before moving onto the next step.
Then you can apply for naturalization and prove that you meet the requirements above. This means filling in the N-400 form along with all necessary documentation and your $725 fee for the application and biometrics. This is no small sum of money. Immigrants are advised to start putting money aside for this as soon as they can to avoid delays and disappointment.
Then comes the test. This is often overblown as a difficult part of the process. However, there are guides out there to help, including one direct from US Customs and Immigration. The exam focuses on two factors. The first is an English test. Here applicants need to showcase their comprehension of the English language through reading and writing. Those that study from arrival should do fine. Then there is the Civics test. This means proving your knowledge of history and the workings of the US government.
Those that pass the test and are accepted for US Citizenship then attend a ceremony. This makes everything official as successful applicants take the Oath of Allegiance. This means renouncing their allegiances to their country of birth, as well as agreeing to support the Constitution, obey all US laws, and serve in the military.
How to become a US citizen.
In short, there are different ways to become a US citizen. Those that come to the country legally with a green card can eventually gain their citizenship through the correct process. It takes a while, but it will eventually allow for the same rights as those natural-born citizens.