Naturalization is the legal process by which immigrant/permanent resident card holders become U.S. citizens.
To become a naturalized United States citizen, an applicant must:
- Must be a Permanent Resident for at least five (5) years;
- Permanent Resident for at least three (3) years if lawful permanent residence status was obtained by marriage to a United States citizen;
- Resided continuously within the United States from the date of the application up to the time of admission;
- Be a person of good moral character; and
- Meet government requirements for literacy and knowledge of U.S. history.
Applicants are tested in their ability to read, write and speak words in ordinary usage in the English language Applicants are required to pass an oral history and government examination, even if exempt from the requirement of speaking English. Exceptions to this requirement exist. The exceptions are as follows:
- Persons physically unable comply due to permanent disability are exempt from the literacy requirement with an attestation from a licensed medical doctor or licensed clinical psychologist to support their claim of disability.
- Applicants who are more than 50 years of age and who have resided in the U.S. for 20 years as permanent resident aliens as of the date of filing the application may be examined in their native language.
- Applicants who are more than 55 years of age and who have resided in the U.S. for 15 years as permanent resident aliens as of the date of filing the application may be examined in their native language.
Derivative/Acquisition of Citizenship
There are circumstances under which individuals born abroad to at least one United States citizen parent are also citizens. For this reason, many people are United States citizens without knowing it.
Some children born abroad acquire citizenship at birth; this is known as “acquisition” citizenship. If both parents were US citizens at the time of birth (and at least one parent resided in the United States for a required amount of time) the chances are good the child acquired citizenship. If United States citizenship is not acquired at birth, a child born abroad may automatically derive United States citizenship (“derivative citizenship”) if one parent is a citizen and that parent has been present in the US for a total of 5 years, at least 2 of which were after the age of 14.
To determine whether someone has derived/acquired citizenship is not a straightforward analysis. The law on this matter has changed over the years and it depends on various factors which may vary depending on each individual case.
The information contained on this page is for educational and informative purpose only. This response does not constitute legal advice. The readers of this information should not act based solely on information contained herein.
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