CITIZENSHIP AND NATURALIZATION
There are a variety of ways that one can become a Citizen of the United States:
- Birth in the United States or in United States' Territories – Children born in the United States or in certain United States' territories including Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico are automatically United States Citizens, regardless of the immigration status of their parents
- Birth outside the United States to a United States Citizen parent – Certain children automatically acquire United States citizenship even if they were born outside the United States if one of their parents has fulfilled the physical presence requirement in the United States. Physical presence requirements are determined by the date of birth of the child.
- Adoption by U.S. Citizen Parents – Children who are legally adopted and in the legal and physical custody of their United States Citizen parents for at least two years may acquire United States Citizenship, but the child must be under the age of 16 at the time of the adoption
- Naturalization – An individual who has been a legal permanent resident for the general rule of five years, or three years if married to a United States citizen, may be able to file 90 days prior to the end of the 5th or 3rd year, respectively.
- Requirements: Most individuals must fulfill the requirements of good moral character, be attached to the principles of the United States Constitution, be willing to bear arms on behalf of the United States, fulfill the physical presence requirement of 1/2 of the 5 or 3 years within the United States, live at least 3 months within the state in which the application is filed, be able to demonstrate a basic ability to read, write, speak, and understand the English language, and pass the oral civics test conducted at an interview with USCIS.
- Exemptions from the English and Civics Test Requirements: Some persons may be exempt from the English requirement if they have been a legal permanent resident for 20 years and are over age 50; if a legal permanent resident for 15 years and are over age 55; or if a legal permanent resident for 20 years and are over age 65. Waivers of all testing requirements are available to persons who can demonstrate a physical or developmental disability or a mental impairment rendering them unable to learn the English language and the civics test.
- Expedited Naturalization: Some legal permanent residents may be eligible for expedited naturalization if they fall into certain categories. If you are married to a United States Citizen working for certain organizations overseas, you may be able to naturalize without having resided at all in the United States. This is sometimes called "expedited" naturalization and is authorized under section 319(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
If you believe you are eligible to become a United States Citizen by virtue of your length of time as a legal permanent resident, through your parents, due to your location of birth, or based on special exceptions such as expedited naturalization, we can help steer you through the complexities of citizenship laws and explore your options.