You may become a US citizen in one of three ways.
· By Birth in the US
· By Naturalization
· Through Your Parents
What follows is a brief explanation of how one becomes a US citizen by each of the above methods:
By birth in the US
The 14th Amendment to the Constitution provides that anyone born in the US and "subject to US jurisdiction" is a citizen of the US. Therefore, children born in the US are citizens of the US whether their parents are US citizens, permanent residents, temporary visa holders or illegal aliens. The only children born in the US who are not "subject to US jurisdiction" are the children of foreign diplomats.
In general, you must satisfy the five following requirements in order to become a citizen through naturalization.
(1) Residency/Physical Presence
(3) Good Moral Character
(5) History and Government
Most persons must first attain permanent residence before applying for naturalization. The primary exception to this rule is persons who served in the US armed forces during a period of hostilities designated by the President.
You must be a permanent resident for five years before becoming naturalized although the law permits you to apply for naturalization 90 days prior to completing the residency period.
If you are married to a US citizen, you may be eligible for naturalization within three years if you meet each of the following conditions:
(1) You have been married to the citizen for three years;
(2) Your spouse has been a citizen for the entire three-year period;
(3) And you are living in "marital unity".
If you are a member of the US armed forces (even if you have not served during a designated period of hostilities), you may be eligible to naturalize without any specific period of residence if
(1) You are a permanent resident,
(2) You have active duty service for a period of three years or more, and
(3) You are serving honorably, or were given an honorable discharge. If you have been discharged, you must apply for naturalization within six months to take advantage of this rule.
Also, if you are the spouse of a US citizen who is assigned to work abroad by the US government or by certain designated companies or organizations, you may not have to reside in the US for any specified period of time.
A departure from the US for six months creates a rebuttable presumption that you have abandoned your residency. A departure for one year or more creates a conclusive presumption that you have abandoned your residency. Some people who obtain Re-Entry Permits in order to exit the US for more than one year may preserve their residency but may still break their residency for naturalization purposes unless they take further steps to preserve it.
You must demonstrate that you have been physically present in the US during at least half of the required period of residency. That is, you must actually reside in the US for two and one-half out of the five years immediately preceding your interview for naturalization, or one and one-half of the previous three years.
You must renounce your allegiance to your home country and pledge loyalty to the US when you take the oath of allegiance to the US at your naturalization ceremony. Despite this renunciation, some countries continue to consider you as a citizen of your former country of citizenship. It is wise to check with the embassy of your country of citizenship prior to becoming a naturalized US. citizen.
Good moral character:
you must submit a completed fingerprint chart to the government as part of your application for naturalization. The chart is forwarded to the FBI, which notifies INS whether you have a criminal record. Applicants with serious criminal records and those who obtained their green cards through fraud may not be able to establish good moral character. Some may even be susceptible to deportation.
You must be able to speak, read, write and understand simple words and phrases in the English language. Some elderly, longtime permanent residents and those with certain disabilities are exempt from the English requirement.
History and Government:
You are required to pass a short examination regarding the history and government of the US.
Here are a few of the history and government questions that you may be asked:
Can you name the 13 original states?
Who said, "Give me liberty or give me death"?
What is the Bill of Rights?
In what year was the Constitution written?
Who wrote the Star-Spangled Banner?
How many Supreme Court Justices are there? What are the three branches of the government?
Through your parents
You may become a US citizen "by acquisition" at birth if one or both of your parents were US citizens at the time of your birth. If only one of your parents was a citizen at the time of your birth, that parent (or grandparent in some cases) has to have lived a specified period of time in the US prior to your birth in order to transmit citizenship to you. You may also become a US citizen "by derivation" if
(1) You become a permanent resident and
(2) Your parent(s) naturalize while you are below a certain age.
To obtain proof of citizenship, you may apply for a US Passport or for a Certification of Citizenship or Naturalization at any time.
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