NATURALIZATION AND CITIZENSHIP
Citizens of the United States are entitled to live and work permanently in the U.S., vote in U.S. elections, serve on juries and hold a U.S. passport. U.S. citizens can sponsor their spouse, unmarried children under age 21, and parents as immediate relatives. These relatives do not have to wait for a visa number to become current. An individual may acquire U.S. citizenship in a variety of ways:
Birth in the United States
Children born in the U.S. are automatically U.S. citizens, regardless of the immigration status of their parents.
Birth Outside the U.S. to U.S. Citizen Parents
Certain children born abroad to U.S. citizen parents are automatically citizens of the U.S.
Naturalization of a Parent
A child born outside the U.S. may automatically become a U.S. citizen if one parent becomes a U.S. citizen prior to the child’s 18th birthday.
Adoption by U.S. Citizen Parents
Certain children adopted and in the physical custody of their U.S. citizen parents for at least two years may acquire U.S. citizenship. The child must be under the age of 16 at the time of the legal adoption.
Naturalization through Marriage
Individuals can apply after 3 years of marriage with proof candidate has been in-country for 18 of the 36 months.
Doctrine of Constructive Retention
Individuals born and raised outside the U.S., being unaware of having acquired U.S. citizenship through their parents and have therefore failed to fulfill U.S. residency requirements for U.S. citizenship may be eligible to claim citizenship through the Doctrine of Constructive Retention.
The general rule is that anyone over the age of 18 who has been a legal permanent resident alien for at least five (5) years may apply for naturalization. The applicant must have been physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months out of the five years prior to the date of filing of the application and must have resided for at least three months within the state in which the application if filed. The applicant must demonstrate good moral character, be attached to the principles of the U.S. Constitution, be willing to bear arms on behalf of the U.S. or perform other work of national importance, and must not otherwise be barred from naturalizing, e.g., as having committed an aggravated felony.
All naturalization applicants will be fingerprinted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and have their criminal backgrounds reviewed by the FBI. The applicant must demonstrate a basic ability to read, write, speak and understand the English language. The applicant must also pass a short oral or written test on the history and government of the U.S. Finally, the applicant must be interviewed in person by an USCIS officer. If the applicant is approved for naturalization, the applicant will attend a public ceremony and take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. After taking the oath, the applicant will return the green card to the USCIS and receive a certificate of citizenship. This certificate of citizenship can be used to obtain a U.S. passport.