Immigration Insider articles in this category include information about the many paths to citizenship in the United States and the practical matters when naturalizing as a U.S. citizen with Form N-400 or applying for a certificate of citizenship with Form N-600.
There are fundamentally two ways that a child (under the age of 18) can automatically become a U.S. citizen at birth. It’s common knowledge that a child born on United States soil automatically becomes a U.S. citizen. But a child born outside of the United States can also acquire U.S. citizenship at birth through a U.S. citizen parent. This is known as acquisition of citizenship for children.
A child born outside of the United States generally becomes a U.S. citizenship at birth if that child has at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen, and the U.S. citizen parent meets certain residence or physical presence requirements in the United States prior to the person’s birth. For purposes of this article, the United States includes the 50 states and the territories of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Short of a rejection or outright denial, one of the biggest ways U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) strikes fear into the heart of an applicant is to issue a Request for Evidence. Best known as simply an “RFE,” the USCIS Request for Evidence is a formal request for you to submit more information to support your application. The agency has issued an RFE because they don’t have adequate information to make a favorable decision. Generally, this is because you have failed to include important information on the application or did not support all of the necessary supporting documents.
Take a deep breath. An RFE will generally add a delay to the application processing time and may create some anxiety, but it isn’t an indicator of a pending denial. If you fail to respond, USCIS will likely deny your application. If you respond as directed, you are no more likely to be denied than if you hadn’t gotten the RFE.
Men between the ages of 18 and 26 are expected to register for the Selective Service and provide proof for the purposes of naturalizing as a U.S. citizen. But how does failing to register for selective service affect one’s eligibility for naturalization? Will Form N-400 be denied if the applicant has not registered? There are numerous questions that this article addresses based on a review of the USCIS policy manual. Continue reading →
Contrary to popular belief, children (minors under the age of 18) generally cannot naturalize as U.S. citizens of the United States. By law, applicants for naturalization must be 18 years of age.
But don’t worry. This means that children cannot file the naturalization application or be included on their parents’ application. Instead, children that meet certain criteria automatically gain U.S. citizenship when a parent naturalizes, a provision in the law known as derivative citizenship for children.
The children of naturalized U.S. citizens generally become citizens automatically. In other words, current law extends U.S. citizenship to the permanent resident children of parents that become citizens through naturalization. After filing Form N-400 and being granted U.S. citizenship, the parent can also apply for child citizenship in the form of a Certificate of Citizenship. Even if the parent forgot to file the application for the child, the child may obtain the certificate many years later. If the child is over the age of 18, he or she will have to fill out the form for themselves.
In the vast majority of cases, the path to citizenship in the United States goes through permanent resident status (green card holder). In other words, you generally must become a permanent resident before you can naturalize as a U.S. citizen. Therefore, to discuss the various paths to U.S. citizenship, we must illustrate the different ways to get to green card status.
Most people arrive in the U.S. and become permanent residents through family-based immigration. However, eligibility can also be derived from employment, asylum/refugee status and certain humanitarian reasons. There are even paths to citizenship for certain individuals currently with DACA, TPS or no status (undocumented). After becoming a permanent resident, the majority of citizenship applicants qualify for naturalization based on five years of continuous residence.
Under current law, the vast majority of people born in the United States and its territories are born as U.S. citizens. But that isn’t true for everyone. Today, individuals born in American Samoa and Swains Island are generally U.S. nationals. Over the course of U.S. history (and depending on the law at that time), some individuals born in U.S. possessions were born U.S. nationals that do not have the same rights, duties and benefits as U.S. citizens.
However, U.S. nationals who wish to become U.S. citizens have a fairly straight forward path. After establishing residence in a U.S. state, U.S. nationals may generally file an application to naturalize as a citizen.
The next wave of Trump administration policy designed to reduce immigration is here. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has proposed major increases in the immigration fee structure. The USCIS immigration fee increase would nearly double the cost of some applications.
The Trump administration is simultaneously squeezing immigrants with a new public charge rule and changes to the fee waiver rules that make it more difficult for low-income immigrants and their families. To add insult to injury, some of the new fees would go to pay for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
How to prepare for your test and interview after filing Form N-400
The naturalization interview is the final obstacle for permanent residents that have filed Form N-400 to become U.S. citizens. Near the end of the N-400 processing time line, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will mail you an appointment notice for the naturalization interview. If everything goes well, you will most likely know if USCIS will grant you U.S. citizenship by the end of the appointment.
It is becoming increasingly important to have proof of your
immigration status in the United States. Having immigration papers,
documentation or proof of your legal status is essential if you have contact
with law enforcement or immigration officials. In the current environment, even natural-born U.S. citizens can run into problems with identification. What’s more, immigration paperwork can be necessary to gain access to many government benefits, secure housing, obtaining driving privileges, just to name a few. Continue reading →