Citizenship & Naturalization

Becoming a Citizen of the United States

Deciding to become a U.S. citizen is likely one of the most important and influential decisions you will make in your lifetime. Making your dream of citizenship a reality, however, may involve complex proceedings that must be followed to the letter. Here, we have included a basic overview of citizenship and naturalization in the United States. If you want to learn more or have specific questions that you would like to ask, we recommend finding a skilled professional using our directory. You can conduct a search for an immigration lawyer who focuses on citizenship proceedings in particular.

Becoming a Citizen at Birth
To become a U.S. citizen at birth, you must meet specific requirements. You must have been born in the United States, or if you were born abroad, your parent or parents must have been U.S. citizens at the time of your birth. There are other requirements that must be met as well as certain exceptions that may apply.

Becoming a Citizen after Birth
You may be able to become a citizen after birth in one of two ways. You can apply for citizenship through your parents or through the process of naturalization. You may apply as a biological or adopted child of a parent or parents who are U.S. citizens whether you are residing inside or outside of the United States, through specific proceedings. If you were not born to or adopted by parents who are U.S. citizens, you may be able to become a citizen through naturalization. There are strict eligibility and registration requirements set forth by the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The Naturalization Process
Through the process of naturalization, a foreign national may be able to become a U.S. citizen. This involves filling out and filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization and must pass the naturalization test as well as an English and Civics test. You must also meet certain requirements to apply in the first place. For example, you must be 18 years or older, must be a lawful permanent resident (green card holder), must have continually resided in the U.S. for at least 5 years and physically present in the U.S. for 30 months and must have lived in the state or district where you claim residence for at least 3 months.

Benefits of Citizenship
Becoming a U.S. citizen has a number of benefits. As a citizen, you will be rewarded with all of the rights and privileges that the United States offers its citizens. You will be protected by the laws of the United States and the U.S. Constitution. You will be able to vote and will be able to run for and hold any political office, except for the President of the United States. You will be entitled to government benefits and assistance programs, such as Social Security and Medicare. You will be allowed to sponsor immediate relatives to become legal permanent residents without waiting for a visa.

Dual Citizenship
Dual citizenship refers to a situation where a person is a citizen of more than one country. The person will have rights and responsibilities associated with both countries, and this can bring about complex issues, such as residency requirements that must be met and taxes that must be paid in both countries. At this time, the U.S. does not formally recognize dual citizenship but has not specifically taken a stand against it. A U.S. citizen may also be a citizen of another country without fear of losing U.S. citizenship, except in particular circumstances (such as committing an act of treason or serving in the armed forces of another country against the United States).

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