How to Get US Citizenship

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What is U.S.Citizenship?
A citizen of the United States is a native-born, foreign-born, or naturalized person who owes allegiance to the United States and who is entitled to its protection. In addition to the naturalization process, the United States recognizes the U.S. citizenship of individuals according to two fundamental principles: jus soli, or right of birthplace, and jus sanguinis, or right of blood.

The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees citizenship at birth to almost all individuals born in the United States or in U.S. jurisdictions, according to the principle of jus soli. Certain individuals born in the United States, such as children of foreign heads of state or children of foreign diplomats, do not obtain U.S. citizenship under jus soli.

Certain individuals born outside of the United States are born citizens because of their parents, according to the principle of jus sanguinis (which holds that the country of citizenship of a child is the same as that of his / her parents). The U.S. Congress is responsible for enacting laws that determine how citizenship is conveyed by a U.S. citizen parent or parents according to the principle of jus sanguinis. These laws are contained in the Immigration and Nationality Act.

What is Naturalization?
Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is conferred upon a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The general requirements for administrative naturalization include:

  • a period of continuous residence and physical presence in the United States;
  • residence in a particular USCIS District prior to filing;
  • an ability to read, write, and speak English;
  • a knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government;
  • good moral character;
  • attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution; and,
  • favorable disposition toward the United States.

All naturalization applicants must demonstrate good moral character, attachment, and favorable disposition. The other naturalization requirements may be modified or waived for certain applicants, such as spouses of U.S. citizens. Applicants should review the following materials and carefully read the N-400 application instructions before applying.


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Waivers, Exceptions, and Special Cases

Spouses of U.S. Citizens
Generally, certain lawful permanent residents married to a U.S. citizen may file for naturalization after residing continuously in the United States for three years if immediately preceding the filing of the application:

  • the applicant has been married to and living in a valid marital union with the same U.S. citizen spouse for all three years;
  • the U.S. spouse has been a citizen for all three years and meets all physical presence and residence requirements; and
  • the applicant meets all other naturalization requirements.

There are also exceptions for lawful permanent residents married to U.S. citizens stationed or employed abroad. Some lawful permanent residents may not have to comply with the residence or physical presence requirements when the U.S. citizen spouse is employed by one of the following:

  • the U.S. Government (including the U.S. Armed Forces);
  • American research institutes recognized by the Attorney General;
  • recognized U.S. religious organizations;
  • U.S. research institutions;
  • an American firm engaged in the development of foreign trade and
  • commerce of the United States; or
  • certain public international organizations involving the United States.

Oath of Allegiance
To become a citizen, one must take the oath of allegiance. By doing so, an applicant swears to:

  • support the Constitution and obey the laws of the U.S.;
  • renounce any foreign allegiance and/or foreign title; and
  • bear arms for the Armed Forces of the U.S. or perform services for the government of the U.S. when required.

In certain instances, where the applicant establishes that he or she is opposed to any type of service in armed forces based on religious teaching or belief, INS will permit these applicants to take a modified oath.

Children
There are several ways foreign-born children of U.S. citizens may obtain evidence of citizenship:

Generally, U.S. citizen parents of children born abroad may file a N-600 Application for Certificate of Citizenship. This form should be completed in accordance with the instructions provided and should be accompanied by 2 photographs of the child, copies of any documents that verify eligibility, and the required filing fee to be considered complete and ready to process.

Important note: Children born abroad of U.S. citizen parents derive citizenship from their parents. The Certificate of Citizenship is merely a record of citizenship - it does not confer citizenship on an applicant.

Veterans of U.S. Armed Forces
Certain applicants who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces are eligible to file for naturalization based on current or prior U.S. military service. Such applicants should file the N-400 Military Naturalization Packet.

Lawful Permanent Residents with Three Years U.S. Military Service
An applicant who has served for three years in the U.S. military and who is a lawful permanent resident is excused from any specific period of required residence, period of residence in any specific place, or physical presence within the United States if an application for naturalization is filed while the applicant is still serving or within six months of an honorable discharge.

To be eligible for these exemptions, an applicant must:

  • have served honorably or separated under honorable conditions;
  • completed three years or more of military service;
  • be a legal permanent resident at the time of his or her examination on the application; or
  • establish good moral character if service was discontinuous or not honorable.

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