USA and the UK
What are the 4 ways to become a U.S citizen?
Immigrants from all over the world dream of living out the American dream and starting a life in the United States. Most commonly, immigrants begin their life in the U.S by getting a Green Card to become a lawful permanent resident. But becoming a U.S citizen will give you many more rights than that of a Green Card holder and comes with many benefits.
Luckily, there are various paths to U.S citizenship that immigrants could be eligible for. The four routes available include; citizenship by Naturalization, Citizenship by Marriage, citizenship through your parents and citizenship through the military. The U.S citizenship application process is complex, with each route having its own set of specific requirements. This guide will help you to understand each of the routes available, and how you can apply to become a U.S citizen using them.
Citizenship by Naturalization
Naturalization is the process of becoming a U.S citizen for those born outside of the United States. For foreign nationals, citizenship through naturalization is the most common route used to become a U.S citizen, although overseas nationals can still be eligible for other routes.
The main requirement to be able to apply for naturalization is to be a green card holder or permanent resident of the U.S. You must have held lawful permanent resident status in the U.S for at least five years to be eligible for this route. As well as this, there are other requirements that you will need to be able to meet when you apply for naturalization. These include:
- Being at least 18 years old
- Proving that you have had continuous residence in the U.S for at least two and a half years during the five-year qualifying period
- Being able to read, write, and speak the English language
- Demonstrating that you are of good moral character
- Demonstrating knowledge of U.S. history and government
- Demonstrating loyalty to the principles of the U.S. Constitution
- Taking the Oath of Allegiance.
You can apply for citizenship through naturalization by filling in form N-400, which can be done online or on paper. When you submit your application form, you will also need to provide a number of supporting documents to prove that you can meet the above requirements. You may also have to attend an interview as part of the naturalization process.
How to get your Green Card to become a permanent resident
Getting a Green Card is an important step in the journey towards U.S citizenship for foreign nationals. Green Cards, also known as permanent resident cards, are ID documents that prove that you are a permanent resident of the United States. There are various ways to obtain a Green Card, just a few different types of Green Cards include:
- Green Card through Family
- Green Card through Employment
- Green Card as a Special Immigrant
- Green Card through Refugee Status
- Green Card for Human Trafficking and Crime Victims
- Green Card for Victims of Abuse
The eligibility requirements vary depending on the route that you are applying for your Green Card under, but you can find out more about them on the USCIS website. To apply for a Green Card you will need to fill in Form I-485, the application for permanent residence.
Citizenship by Marriage
If you are married to a U.S citizen then you could be eligible to apply for a Green Card. To do this, your spouse will need to submit Form I-130 Petition for an Alien Relative. This form establishes a relationship between you and your spouse but to become a Green Card holder you will need to prove that your relationship is genuine and will need to provide documents, such as a marriage certificate, to do this.
After becoming a Green Card holder, you can apply for naturalization as a U.S citizen. However, you will first need to meet the requirements for naturalization. These differ slightly for individuals who are married to a U.S citizen, you will need to:
- Have been a lawful permanent resident of the U.S for at least three years before the date of your application (this is usually a period of five years for applicants who are not married to a U.S citizen)
- Have lived in a marital union with your Spouse in the U.S during the three years before your application
- Have had continuous residence in the U.S for at least three years before your application
You will also need to meet the other naturalization requirements, like being of good moral character, being able to speak the English language and demonstrating a knowledge of U.S history.
Citizenship through parents
U.S citizenship can also be secured through the status of your parents. If both of your parents were born in the U.S and are married, then you are automatically entitled to U.S citizenship by birth, even if you were born outside the U.S.
If you have just one U.S citizen parent, then you may still be able to acquire citizenship. To qualify for this if you have one parent with U.S citizenship and were born on or after November 14, 198 then:
- Your parents must have been married at the time of birth
- The U.S citizen parent must have been physically present in the U.S. or its territories for a period of at least five years at some point in their life prior to the birth
- At least two of these years must have been after their 14th birthday.
To qualify if you have one U.S citizen parent and were born before November 14, 1986, but after October 10, 1952, then:
- Your parents must have been married at the time of your birth birth
- The U.S. citizen parent must have been physically present in the U.S. or its territories for a period of at least ten years at some point in their life
- Five of these years must have been after their 14th birthday
To acquire U.S citizenship this way then you must fill in and submit Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship.
If you have naturalized as a U.S citizen, then your children under the age of 18 can derive U.S citizenship automatically as long as the child has a Green Card and is residing in the United States. They won’t have to go through the naturalization process themselves.
Citizenship through the military
Individuals who have served honorably in the U.S armed forces can also become a U.S citizen through naturalization. The requirements vary depending on whether you have served during a period of peacetime of a period of hostility.
The U.S has been in a period of hostility since September 11th 2001. Those who have served during a period of hostility can apply for naturalization straight away and are not required to become permanent residents before doing so. If you have served during peacetime, then you will need to have served for at least 1 year before you can apply, apply whilst still in service or within 6 months of ending service, and will also need to obtain a green card.
Can I have dual U.S citizenship?
Dual citizenship comes with many benefits are you will be granted citizenship rights in two countries. The U.S government does allow its citizens to hold dual citizenship. This means that you do not have to give up your original nationality to become a U.S citizen. However, it’s worth noting that in order to obtain citizenship from more than one country, both countries must legally allow it.
It’s also worth noting that as a dual citizen, you will still be expected to pay U.S taxes no matter which country you are living in and you must pay income taxes even on income earned outside of the U.S. This means that you could be required to pay taxes on the same income to both the U.S and your other country of citizenship.
Do you need help applying for U.S citizenship?
Although there are many ways to become a U.S citizen, the process is always complex. When you apply for citizenship you will need to prove that you can meet the many strict requirements, failure to do so can result in your application being rejected. This is why it is highly recommended that you seek the assistance of a professional immigration attorney when making an application for U.S citizenship.
Here at IAS, we have offices located across the U.S and our attorneys are here to help you along your journey to U.S citizenship with our variety of immigration services. We can assist you right from the beginning of your immigration journey, starting by helping you to secure your permanent resident card.
If you would like to become a U.S citizen but are unsure about the options available to you, our lawyers will be more than happy to explain the paths to U.S citizenship to you in greater detail and can help you to decide which will be the best option for you by assessing your eligibility for each of the various routes.
Once you have decided which route to take, our lawyers can help you to obtain citizenship and will be there for you throughout the entire application process. They can assist you with filling out any forms and can help you to gather the documents to prove that you can meet the requirements to become a U.S citizen.