Around the world, there are many people who wish to become citizens of the United States—but this goal can be difficult to reach in some circumstances. There are two primary ways to become a US citizen; here’s a quick introduction.
Every single person born within the United States is considered a US citizen, regardless of the circumstances in which they were born. The only exception is children of foreign diplomats who have obtained citizenship within their parents’ country. This means that the simplest way to become a US citizen is to be born within the United States.
Additionally, those who have American parents are also considered American citizens. As long as at least one parent was a US citizen at the time of birth, the child is granted US citizenship. This is true even if the birth took place outside of the United States, or if the parent was living outside of the US at the time.
For most people, however, this is not a viable path to citizenship—controlling when, where, and how you are born is impossible. If you were born outside of the US to non-American parents, however, it’s not too late. There’s another path to citizenship: naturalization.
Naturalization is the process of obtaining American citizenship by legally immigrating to the United States. It is a lengthy and complex process, which begins by obtaining an American visa. Visas may be issued for a variety of reasons, including employment in the US or having family members there. One excellent option is the EB-5 visa, which allows foreign nationals who make investments in the American economy to travel to the US.
After obtaining a visa and taking up residence in America, immigrants must obtain permanent residency. Also called a US green card, this is the authorization to live and work within the United States for an extended period of time. Foreign nationals must live within the US for five years before they can apply for citizenship. There are a few exceptions to this—immigrants may apply within three years if they are married to a US citizen, and immediately if they are a member of the American military.
In order to apply for citizenship, permanent residents must submit a series of forms. They must be able to demonstrate that they can speak, read, and write in English; that they have “good moral character” and have not broken the law; that they arrived in the US legally; and that they are currently residing in the US. They must also often provide biometric and identification data, such as their fingerprints, photograph, and signature, and they must pay a filing fee of several hundred dollars.
After submitting the application, the potential citizen must pass an interview with an immigration officer, as well as pass an English test and a civics test that requires them to demonstrate their knowledge of American society, history, and government. Once they have passed these tests, they swear an Oath of Allegiance and are officially recognized as citizens.
The process of obtaining American citizenship is lengthy, but rewarding. If you’d like professional advice as you start down the path towards naturalization, contact us today.