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How do you become a US Citizen?
It is a long process with many requirements and can take over five years to complete.
The Four Methods for Obtaining Citizenship
1) Citizenship by being born in the United States
This one is relatively simple and applies to any child born in any United States or within inhabited territories, such as Guam and Puerto Rico.
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and 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 citizens.
There is an issue where children born outside of the United States and its territories aren’t natural-born citizens. This can affect children born on military bases and those born while their parents are out of the country.
However, these children may automatically gain U.S. citizenship because their parents are US citizens. Only one parent must be a U.S. citizen at the time of the child’s birth to gain citizenship.
Therefore, an American-born father could have a child in Canada with a Canadian mother, and the child would be entitled to U.S. citizenship through acquisition.
3) Citizenship through derivation
Citizenship through derivation tends to relate to the children of immigrants. Children that live with a parent that obtains citizenship during their residency in the U.S. are entitled to the same rights to citizenship.
The benefits given to the mother or father (or both) pass down through derivation. A bonus here is that kids don’t have to undergo the same naturalization process.
4) Citizenship through naturalization
The naturalization process is the more long-winded process of residency. There is a lot of 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 citizenship each year.
How To Become a U.S. Citizen Through the Naturalization Process
The most common option for those not born in the U.S. is to go through the naturalization process. The initial requirements and qualifications for citizenship include the following:
- Applicants must be at least 18 years old to apply for citizenship. Those younger can apply through a resident adult.
- Applicants must have entered the U.S. legally and continually maintained all the requirements for their residency.
- Applicants must have remained resident in the U.S. for five years with no more than 30 months spent outside the country. So, for example, you can’t live in the U.S. for four months of the year and then in another country for eight months and still maintain that adequate five-month residency period. Also, you can’t leave for more than a year at a time.
- Applicants must prove that they abided by the tenants of the U.S. Constitution.
- Applicants must possess and show good moral character. While this is a vague term, it typically means that you were law-abiding throughout those five years you were a resident.
The Process of Becoming a U.S. Citizen
The complete 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 U.S. and potentially speed up the process.
Green cards are commonly given to:
- Priority workers
- Professionals holding advanced degrees or other exceptional abilities
- Skilled workers and professionals
Once you receive the green card and find a place to stay in the U.S., you must follow the above residency rules. This is where time and patience come in.
Five years need to pass, with no breaking of the rules, before moving on to 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 (currently) for the application and biometrics.
Then comes the test. This is often overblown as a difficult part of the process. However, there are guides to help, including one direct from U.S. Customs and Immigration.
The exam focuses on two factors. The first is an English test. Here, applicants need to showcase their English language comprehension 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 U.S. government.
Those that pass the test and are accepted for U.S. 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. They must also agree to support the Constitution, obey all U.S. laws, and serve in the military if necessary.
Ways To Obtain U.S. Citizenship
In short, there are four different ways to become a U.S. citizen. Those that come to the country legally with a green card can eventually gain their citizenship if they follow the correct process.
It takes a while, but it will ultimately allow for the same rights as natural-born citizens.