Written by attorney Danielle L C Beach

How Can a Person Become a U.S. Citizen?

There are three ways to become a U.S. citizen. 1. By birth in the U.S. Under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution all persons born ... in the United States ... are citizens regardless of the status of their parents, who may be citizens, green card holders, nonimmigrants present in a temporary status, or undocumented foreign nationals. b. By acquisition at birth A child born outside the U.S. where one or both parents are U.S. citizens may acquire U.S. citizenship at birth. The requirements for this depend upon when the child was born, the marital status of the parents, and whether one (or both) of the parents is a U.S. citizen. iii. By derivation through naturalization of parents A child born outside the U.S. may become a citizen by virtue of the parents' naturalization. Children under 18 years residing in the U.S. as permanent residents become U.S. citizens upon the naturalization of their parent/s with whom they reside. iv. By filing a naturalization application Individuals who satisfy the following criteria: o Must obtain permanent residence before applying for naturalization unless the person served in the U.S. armed forces during a period of hostilities. Must be 18 years or older. Must be a permanent resident for five years. However, if a person is married to an U.S. citizen, the individual may be eligible for naturalization in three years if (a) the couple has been married for three years, (b) if the spouse was a citizen during that entire period, and (c) if the couple is living in marital union. Must have resided for three months in the state where the petition was filed. Must be physically present in the U.S. for at least one half of the five years (or one half of three if spouse is a citizen). This is measured by counting the number of days in the United States. Must have resided continuously within the U.S. from the date the application was filed to the time of admission to citizenship. Departures of six months or more, but less than one year, will be presumed to have broken the continuing of residence. This presumption can be rebutted Must not have been absent from the U.S. for a continuous period of more than one year during the periods for which continuous is required. Exceptions are: military service abroad and employees posted abroad who have approval to preserve residency. Must be a person of good moral character for the five- (or three-) year period. (i.e. no convictions reflecting on moral character, compliance with tax laws and support of spouse / children etc.) Loyalty to the U.S. as opposed to home country. English - An elementary level of understanding, reading, writing. Exceptions are persons over fifty, residing in the U.S. for 20 years as permanent residents; persons over 55, living in the U.S. for 15 years as permanent residents. Certain disability exemptions may apply in appropriate cases. A knowledge of the fundamentals of U.S. government and history. Again, disability exemptions may be available in certain cases.

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