Ways to Become a U.S. Citizen
The final step for many to fully realize the American Dream, is becoming a U.S Citizen. Form many it may have been a very long and difficult path from when it was first a dream to claim the stars and stripes as their own, for others a short span of but a few years or less. Whatever the path may have been, the realization of a dream is culminated by the oath ceremony where one takes the Oath Of Allegiance to the United States.
Apart from being born on terra firma U.S. soil (what is known as birthright citizenship), there are a few other ways to become a U.S. Citizen, the most common ones described below.
Naturalization (INA 316(a)
An applicant must be 18 or older; a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 5 years (or 3 years if applying through Marriage to a U.S. Citizen, through marriage of a parent to a U.S. Citizen, or through an approved VAWA petition granted as a result of an abusive U.S. Citizen); have lived within the state for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing the application; have continuous residence in the United States as a permanent resident for at least 5 (or 3) years immediately preceding the date of the filing; be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately; reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization up to the time of naturalization; be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government; be a person of good moral character (GMC). N-400
Through Parents (INA 320)
A child automatically becomes a U.S. citizen when all of the following conditions have been met, as amended by the Child Citizenship Act (CCA). The child must have at least one parent of the child is a U.S. citizen, whether by birth or naturalization, be under the age of 18 years, reside in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent based on a lawful admission for permanent residence.
An adopted child may automatically become a citizen under section 320 of the INA if the child satisfies the requirements applicable to adopted children under INA 101(b)(1). N-600.
Biological or adopted children who regularly reside outside of the United States may qualify for naturalization under section 322 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended by the Child Citizenship Act (CCA). In general, to be eligible for citizenship under section 322 of the INA, a child must meet the following requirements: At least one parent is a U.S. citizen or, if deceased, the parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of death; the U.S. citizen parent or his or her U.S. citizen parent has (or at the time of death had) been physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for at least 5 years, at least two of which were after attaining the age of 14; thechild is under the age of 18 years; tte child is residing outside of the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent (or, if the citizen parent is deceased, an individual who does not object to the application); the child is temporarily present in the United States after having entered lawfully and is maintaining lawful status in the United States. An adopted child may be eligible for naturalization under section 322 of the INA if the child satisfies the requirements applicable to adopted children under sections 101(b)(1)(E), (F) or (G) of the INA.N-600-K.
Military (INA 328 & 329)
Naturalization through One Year of Qualifying Service During “Peacetime.” A person who has served honorably in the U.S. armed forces at any time may be eligible to apply for naturalization under section 328 of the INA, known as “peacetime naturalization.” Such applicant must: be age 18 or older; have served honorably in the U.S. armed forces for at least 1 year and, if separated from the U.S. armed forces, have been separated honorably; be a permanent resident at the time of examination on the naturalization application; be able to read, write, and speak basic English; have a knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics); have been a person of good moral character during all relevant periods under the law, have an attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and be well disposed to the good order and happiness of the U.S. during all relevant periods under the law; have continuously resided in the United States for at least five years and have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application, UNLESS the applicant has filed an application while still in the service or within 6 months of separation. In the latter case, the applicant is not required to meet these residence and physical presence requirements.
Naturalization through Qualifying Service during Periods of Hostilities. Members of the U.S. armed forces who serve honorably for any period of time (even 1 day) during specifically designated periods of hostilities (see below) are eligible for naturalization under section 329 of the INA through such military service.
In general, an applicant for naturalization under INA 329 must have served honorably in active-duty status, or as a member of the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, for any amount of time during a designated period of hostilities and, if separated from the U.S. armed forces, have been separated honorably; have been lawfully admitted as a permanent resident at any time after enlistment or induction, OR have been physically present in the United States or certain territories at the time of enlistment or induction (regardless of whether the applicant was admitted as a permanent resident); be able to read, write, and speak basic English; have a knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics); have been a person of good moral character during all relevant periods under the law; have an attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and be well disposed to the good order and happiness of the U.S. during all relevant periods under the law.
There is no minimum age requirement for an applicant under this section. The designated periods of hostilities are:
· April 6, 1917 to November 11, 1918
· September 1, 1939 to December 31, 1946
· June 25, 1950 to July 1, 1955
· February 28, 1961 to October 15, 1978
· August 2, 1990 to April 11, 1991
· September 11, 2001 until the present
· The current designated period of hostilities starting on September 11, 2001, will terminate when the President issues an Executive Order terminating the period. Current members of the U.S. armed forces who qualify for naturalization under sections 328 or 329 of the INA can proceed with their naturalization application either in the United States or overseas.
4. Spouse of a U.S. Citizen Regularly Stationed Abroad and Residing Abroad at the Time of Filing Under INA 319(b)
• You must be a lawful permanent resident at the time of your interview.
• You must meet the applicable naturalization requirements outlined in sections 312 and 316 of the INA and Title 8, Code of Federal Regulations (physical presence is not required).
• You must be married to a U.S. citizen and living together in a valid marital union.
• Your U.S. citizen spouse must be “regularly stationed abroad” as:
- A member of the U.S. Armed Forces;
-An employee or an individual under contract to the U.S. government;
- An employee of an American institution of research recognized as such by the Attorney General;
-An employee of an American-owned firm or corporation engaged in the development of foreign trade and commerce for the United States;
- An employee of a public international organization of which the United States is a member by law or treaty; or
- A person who performs ministerial or priestly functions for a religious denomination or an interdenominational organization with a valid presence in the United States.
• You must show evidence that you will depart to join your U.S. citizen spouse within 45 days of your naturalization.
For problems pertaining to false claims to U.S. Citizenship, click here.