There are two general ways that a person can become an American citizen. One of them is by birth in mainland United States or its territorial possessions or to a United States citizen that is living in a foreign country. The United States citizen living in a foreign country should have resided in the United States for at least a year before moving to the foreign country. After December 12, 1952, a person can also be a US citizen if he is under five years old, and nobody knows about her parents and background. If it is, however, found that she was born outside the United States before she is 21 years old, her citizenship right may be revoked.
A person born abroad does not need to undergo a naturalization process to acquire her citizenship right. She automatically acquires the right at birth as if she was born in the United States. To be able to prove that she is a United States citizen, however, she may want to apply for and acquire a United States passport or certificate of citizenship.
Children adopted by United States citizens also acquire the citizenship automatically, and do not need to apply for the right. To prove that they are United States citizens, they also need to apply for a certificate of citizenship or United States passport. To qualify for the automatic citizenship, one of the adoptive parents must be a United States citizen, and the adopted child should be under 18 years old, fully adopted and admitted to the United States as a permanent resident and resident in the country in the legal and physical custody of the citizen parent.
Unlike adopted and biological children, step children do not qualify for automatic United States citizenship.
A person can also be a United States citizen by naturalization. Over the years, many people have become citizens though the process. In 2013 alone, a total of 779,929 persons became United States by naturalization. The new citizens were predominantly from Mexico (12.9%); India (6.4%); Philippines (5.6%); Dominican Republic (5.1%); and China (3.9%). Naturalization, when defined, is a process of becoming a citizen of a country, not by been born there, but by meeting requirements as prescribed by the laws of the country. In the United States, one can be a naturalized citizen if the person proves that she is at least 18 years old; has been a permanent resident in the country for at least three or five years; has good moral character; is physically present in the country and not absent for more than one year in all the years in which he could be a US citizen; and has passed the history, civics and English exam.
In the naturalization process, the good moral character requirement cannot be waived. But if the person has honorably served as a military officer in some military hostilities in which the United States was involved, the permanent resident requirement may be waived, and the person accorded automatic citizenship. The English, civics and history exam may also be waived if the person shows that she is so disabled that she cannot take the exam. Additionally, a person may be exempt from taking the exams if she proves that she is more than fifty years old, and has been a permanent resident in the United States for over twenty years, or she is fifty-five years old, and has been a permanent resident for at least fifteen years.
This article is written by an immigration attorney at Swaray Law Office situated in Brooklyn Center in Minnesota in the United States. It is a summary of the American citizenship process. It is not meant to be a legal advice to the reader. If you want to know more about the American citizenship process, please kindly contact an immigration attorney at Swaray Law Office either via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 763-549-0670.