Contrary to popular belief, children (minors under the age of 18) generally cannot become naturalized citizens of the United States. By law, applicants for naturalization must be 18 years of age.
But don’t worry. This means that they 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 derivation of U.S. citizenship for children. Continue reading
If you’re a permanent resident in the United States, the process to apply for citizenship is fairly straight forward. After confirming your eligibility, there’s a form to file, fee to pay and a citizenship test with the interview. It may sound challenging. But as an immigrant, you’ve already overcome so much more.
The process of applying for citizenship is known as naturalization. It’s the most common way that foreign nationals become U.S. citizens. An estimated 8.8 million permanent residents in the United States are eligible to naturalize right now. It’s easy to remain a permanent resident, but there are significant advantages to becoming a citizen. In a more contentious immigration environment, it helps insulate you from problems down the road. There are also more job opportunities, scholarships for students, and independence from more immigration fees. Continue reading
U.S. citizenship carries tremendous privileges, rights and benefits. That’s why people will sacrifice so much to immigrate to America and seek citizenship. According to a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, “citizenship is a very, very valuable commodity.” If you’re a permanent resident, our Citizenship Cost Calculator can show you how much you will save over a lifetime by becoming a U.S. citizen.
There are four fundamental ways to obtain U.S. citizenship: citizenship by birth in the U.S., citizenship through derivation, citizenship through acquisition, and citizenship through naturalization. Most immigrants in the United States become citizens through the naturalization process. An average of almost one million permanent residents apply for naturalization each year.
Citizenship through Birth
Under United States law, any person born within the United States (including the territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands) is automatically granted U.S. citizenship. The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
Citizenship through Acquisition
In some circumstances, a child automatically “acquires” citizenship even though that child was born outside the United States. At least one parent needs to be a U.S. citizen at the time of the child’s birth and several other conditions must be met. When this child marries and has children, those children may also acquire U.S. citizenship at birth. The ways a child can become a U.S. citizen through acquisition generally include:
Both parents were U.S. citizens
Both parents were U.S. citizens at the time of the child’s birth and the parents were married at the time of birth, and at least one parent lived in the U.S., or its territories, or both, prior to the child’s birth.
One parent was a U.S. citizen
One parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of the child’s birth; and the child was born on or after November 14, 1986; and the parents were married at the time of birth; and the U.S. citizen parent was physically present in the U.S. or its territories for a period of at least five years at some time in his or her life prior to the birth, of which at least two years were after his or her 14th birthday.
One parent was a U.S. citizen
One parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of the child’s birth; and the birth date is before November 14, 1986, but after October 10, 1952; and the child’s parents were married at the time of the birth; and the U.S. citizen parent was physically present in the U.S. or its territories for a period of at least ten years at some time in his or her life prior to the child’s birth, at least five of which were after his or her 14th birthday.
To obtain official documentation from the U.S. government that a person acquired U.S. citizenship through one of the above methods, the applicant must file Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship. The laws have changed several times over the years. You’ll need to research the law that was in effect on the date of the child’s birth (and the parents’ birth, if grandparents were U.S. citizens). You can also learn more on the USCIS website. It can get complicated. So seek the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney that can guide you through this process. For more information, read Acquisition of U.S. Citizenship for Children.
Citizenship through Derivation
When a parent naturalizes, his or her children (under the age of 18 and living with the parent at the time) may “derive” U.S. citizenship automatically, provided they are also permanent residents. What’s more, a child who gets U.S. citizenship through derivation does not have to participate in a naturalization ceremony. Generally, foreign-born children under 18 automatically acquire U.S. citizenship if three requirements are met:
- The child must have U.S. lawful permanent resident status (“green card” holder); and
- At least one parent must be a U.S. citizen; and
- The child must be residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of a U.S. citizen parent.
The laws on the automatic naturalization of children have varied over the years. Making a determination if the law applies to you is dependent on the law that existed when your parent’s naturalization took place. Therefore, it is recommended that you seek the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney that can guide you through this process. For more information, read Derivation of U.S. Citizenship for Children.
Citizenship through Naturalization
Naturalization refers to the process in which a person not born in the United States voluntarily becomes a U.S. citizen. For foreign-born persons, naturalization is the most common way to become a U.S. citizen. There are several requirements that must be fulfilled before an individual can apply for citizenship. Generally, applicants must be 18 years old and fall into one of the following three basic eligibility categories:
- 5 years as a permanent resident | Learn more
- 3 years as a permanent resident who has lived in marital union with a U.S. citizen spouse for at least 3 years | Learn more
- Qualifying service in the U.S. Armed Forces | Learn more
These are the three most common eligibility categories; the vast majority of naturalized citizens come through one of the above paths. Find a comprehensive list of eligibility categories in Chapter 4 of USCIS Guide to Naturalization. A permanent resident starts the naturalization process by filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
For more information about how to become a US citizen, download Become a U.S. Citizen – a free ebook for permanent residents interested in naturalization.
CitizenPath provides simple, affordable, step-by-step guidance through USCIS immigration applications. Individuals, attorneys and non-profits use the service on desktop or mobile device to prepare immigration forms accurately, avoiding costly delays. CitizenPath allows users to try the service for free and provides a 100% money-back guarantee that USCIS will accept the application or petition. We provide support for Green Card Renewal (Form I-90), the Citizenship Application (Form N-400), and several other immigration services.
Unfortunately, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is no different than any other massive government organization – they are heavily burdened with a large workload and aren’t the most efficient organization. In fact, several agencies make up the overall immigration system. Consular offices, Department of State and the National Visa Center all play a role. Over 6 million forms are filed with USCIS each year alone. Even if you’ve used our tips for preparing USCIS forms, it’s not uncommon for these agencies to lose parts of your application package or even the whole thing. But there are some preventive measures so that you don’t have to call us to say, “USCIS lost my application!” Continue reading
One of the common reasons permanent residents don’t apply for U.S. citizenship – cost. It presently costs $725 to file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. That’s a lot of money. And the cost of citizenship will only get more expensive in the future as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) raises fees.
There are approximately 13 million immigrants in the United States who are lawful permanent residents, otherwise known as green card holders. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, an estimated 8.7 million of those permanent residents are eligible to naturalize (become a U.S. citizens). Yet many are trapped in an expensive cycle of green card renewal.
The best way to escape this cycle is Continue reading
Resources for permanent residents to overcome barriers like money, age, language, and civics knowledge.
If you’ve put off naturalization because you think it’s too difficult or too expensive, think again. Provisions in the law and numerous free resources are making it easier than ever to become a U.S. citizen.
CitizenPath published a free guide for permanent residents that want to become U.S. citizens through the naturalization process. The free guide includes 44 pages of tips and valuable information about the naturalization process. It even includes 100 sample test questions and a necessary vocabulary list. Continue reading
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.
A USCIS officer will conduct your naturalization interview in a private office or cubicle. The officer begins the interview by asking you to raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth during the interview. Continue reading
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) continues to increase the fee on the green card renewal process. Every few years, the fee goes up. Each and every time you need to renew or replace a green card (Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card), you’ll pay $540 in USCIS filing fees.
The permanent resident card, best known as a green card, is your tangible proof that you are a lawful permanent resident in the United States with unique rights and privileges. If you’re stuck without a valid, unexpired green card, you could run into serious problems. But maintaining it incurs a cost. There is a better way. Continue reading
Proponents of U.S. citizenship will often point out the patriotic and emotional benefits of naturalization. These are all valid reasons, but naturalizing as a U.S. citizen is just downright practical for permanent residents. We discuss just three of the practical benefits of U.S. citizenship.
Individuals with lawful permanent resident status (green holders) often weigh the value of becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen. Many are satisfied with the ability to live and work in the United States, but many others want more. The Constitution and laws of the United States give many rights to both citizens and non-citizens living in the United States.
There are several rights and privileges afforded only to U.S. citizens, but consider these three practical benefits of U.S. citizenship: Continue reading
The naturalization process is the path through which a foreign citizen or national can voluntarily become a U.S. citizen. In order to begin the naturalization process, an applicant must first meet several requirements. Then, he or she must file an application for naturalization, attend an interview, and pass an English and a civics test.
Nearly 287,000 permanent residents filed an application to naturalize in the first three months of 2017. According to USCIS – the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services — that’s up almost 15% from the previous year. Continue reading