Citizenship and Naturalization
Naturalization is the process through which an immigrant to the United States can become a U.S. citizen. Only certain immigrants are eligible for this benefit. Eligibility for naturalization generally depends on several factors, including but not limited to:
- How long you’ve had your green card;
- How long you’ve physically lived in the United States;
- Whether you’ve served in the U.S. military (and if so, whether your service was during “peacetime” or “wartime”); and
- Whether you can show you are a person of good moral character.
Most green card holders can apply for U.S. citizenship at least five years after obtaining their green card. However, if the person has been married to a U.S. citizen for at least three years and lived with their spouse that entire time, they can apply for U.S. citizenship three years after obtaining their green card.
There are also several special rules and exceptions that apply only to military members and certain of their family members.
The process to become a U.S. citizen includes submitting an application, paying a filing fee, attending an interview, taking and passing the citizenship test and attending the oath ceremony.
Acquisition and Derivation of Citizenship
Certain individuals who were not born in the United States, may already be U.S. citizens. This can happen by being born overseas to a U.S. citizen parent or parents, or by having held a green card when a person’s parents became naturalized U.S. citizens.
However, making this determination can involve a complex analysis as the laws relating to acquisition and derivation of citizenship have changed through the years. In addition, there are very specific requirements that must be met to prove that a person has either derived or acquired U.S. citizenship. If a person believes he or she may already be a U.S. citizen, it is important to make that determination prior to applying for naturalization.
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