Citizenship Through Naturalization
US Citizenship at Birth
US citizenship may be acquired through birth or through naturalization. To acquire US citizenship through birth, the child must be born inside the US or born outside the US to US citizen parents. With one exception, any child born inside the US automatically acquires US citizenship regardless of the immigration status of the parents. A child born inside the US of a parent holding diplomatic immunity does not automatically acquire US citizenship. Such children receive US permanent resident status.
US Citizenship through Naturalization
To acquire US citizenship through naturalization, the applicant must possess US permanent resident status and meet certain requirements relating to residency , physical presence, age, good moral character, attachment to the US, and knowledge of the English language, and of US history and government.
US Permanent Resident Status. Permanent resident status is generally required, but may be waived for non-permanent residents who served in US armed forces during time of war, as determined by the President
Residency Period. Generally, the applicant must have resided in the US with US permanent resident status for at least 5 years. The applicant must have resided for at least three months in the state where the application is filed and must continue to reside inside the US while the application for naturalization is pending. The residency period is reduced for those living in marital union with US citizen spouses (3 years), veterans who served in peacetime (3 years), veterans who served in wartime (no specific period of residency is required), and spouses of US citizens if the US citizen spouse is being transferred for employment outside the US. The overseas employer must be the US government or a US employer (no specific period of residency is required).
Physical Presence. The applicant must have been physically present inside the US for at least 50% of the required period of residency. For most applicants, this means they must have been physically present inside the US for 30 out of the previous 60 months. For spouses of US citizens and peacetime veterans, the physical presence requirement is 18 out of the previous 36 months. If no Residency Period is required, then the Physical Presence requirement is reduced to one day. Any absence longer than one year will break the residency requirement. Anyone absent longer than one year will need to wait 4 years and 1 day after returning to the US (or 2 years and 1 day for spouses of US citizens).
Age. The applicant must be at least 18 years old when filing the application.
Good moral character. This means that the applicant must
• not have a serious criminal record
• be current on tax payments and child support payments
• not have given any false testimony
• have registered for selective service (military draft) of male between ages 18 and 26
Attachment to the US. This means the applicant must make an oath of allegiance to the US, renounce allegiance to all other countries, and be willing to bear arms, or perform civilian work, on behalf of the US government.
Knowledge of the English language, US history and government. The applicant will be interviewed in English and must be able to read and write a sample sentence. The applicant will be asked 10 US history and government questions from a list of 100; 7 answers must be correct. The English language requirements do not apply to people who are
• over 50 and have had permanent resident status more than 20 years or
• over 55 and have had permanent resident status more than 15 years.
The English language, US history and government requirements may be waived for those with physical, mental or developmental disabilities.
The application for naturalization is filed with the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Within 2 months the applicant will be scheduled for fingerprinting for a police record check. Within 4 months the USCIS will schedule the applicant for an interview. Usually the USCIS officer will make the decision at the end of the interview. If approved, the USCIS will set up a date for an oath-taking ceremony within a few weeks after the interview. At that ceremony, the applicant will become a US citizen and receive a Certificate of Naturalization. The applicant may apply for a US passport with the Passport Office after receiving the Certificate of Naturalization.
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