Finding the path to citizenship can be challenging. However, types of U.S. citizenship for persons born outside of the United States generally break down into two broad categories: citizenship through parents (at birth or before age 18) and citizenship through naturalization.
Below is a brief description, but given the complicated nature of the immigration laws in this area, this information is only a very basic outline of the options. In many cases, there are other requirements or qualifications that apply because the law has been changed so many times. In circumstances involving children born out of wedlock, please contact us for more information, because the immigration laws for that are very detailed and specific.
Citizenship Through Parents
Citizenship at birth occurs when a child is born in the U.S., regardless of the status of the parents. If the child is born outside of the United States to at least one U.S. citizen parent, then the child could be a U.S. citizen if specific qualifications are met. For example, the residence of the parents, whether the parent was physically present in the U.S. for a certain number of years, whether they were married at the time of birth, whether the parent was in the military, and what year we are talking about would be closely examined and analyzed to determine whether the child acquired citizenship at birth through their parents.
Before Age 18
Children may become U.S. citizens after birth if at least one parent becomes a U.S. citizen before the child reaches the age of 18, and (1) The child is in the citizen parent’s custody, and (2) The parent and child are residing in the U.S.
In certain special circumstances, citizenship may be conferred to the children of Green Card holders or children who were born outside the U.S. and adopted by US citizens. These qualifications are complicated. Please contact us for more information.
Citizenship Through Naturalization
According to the USCIS Policy Manual, naturalization is “the conferring of U.S. citizenship after birth by any means whatsoever.” Green Card holders may qualify to become naturalized citizens of the United States in a number of ways. The three most common routes are (1) They have been permanent residents in the United States for at least five years, (2) they are the spouse of a U.S. citizen and have been a permanent resident of the U.S. for at least three years, or (3) have performed qualifying service in the U.S. military. Once one of these broad requirements is met, and provided they meet a number of other qualifications, then a person qualifies to take the Naturalization Test (sometimes referred to as a citizenship test). In the Naturalization Test, the applicant must demonstrate knowledge of the English language and American civics. The applicant must pass these tests in order to be granted U.S. citizenship.