How Can U.S. Citizenship Be Acquired?
We serve clients in the Seattle, Bellevue, and Redmond areas seeking to become U.S. citizens. Learn how citizenship can be acquired.
How Can U.S. Citizenship Be Acquired?
Generally, U.S. citizenship can be acquired at birth, by naturalization, or by the naturalization of a parent.
Citizenship at birth is recognized for those who are born in the U.S., except for those whose parents are in the U.S. pursuant to a specific visa including a diplomatic visa at the time of the child’s birth. Those on diplomatic visas are not subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. (as in “diplomatic immunity from prosecution”), and so their children born in the U.S. are not U.S. citizens.
Citizenship is also recognized from birth abroad to a U.S. citizen parent under certain circumstances. The U.S. law on this point has changed a number of times over the years. The law that applies is the law that was in effect at the time of the child’s birth abroad. There are specific requirements pertaining to how long the U.S. citizen parent resided in the U.S. prior to the birth of the child abroad. In certain cases, if the U.S. citizen parent does not meet the residency requirement, it may be possible to count the residency of the grandparent. There are also certain requirements when the child was born out of wedlock (illegitimate) to a U.S. citizen father. If you were born abroad, but had a U.S. citizen parent or grandparent, you will want to meet with us to determine whether you can be shown to be a U.S. citizen.
More recently, the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 also provided automatic acquisition of citizenship for a child who was already granted lawful permanent resident status, and whose parent became a U.S. citizen while the child was under 18 years old. Note that in that situation, even though the child will not apply for naturalization, you should still file an application for a certificate of citizenship to have the official proof that the child is a citizen.
To qualify to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, you must have been granted lawful permanent residence, and satisfy other requirements as well. In most cases, you must have been a lawful permanent resident for five years, before you are eligible to apply to become a citizen. There are two exceptions. If you were granted asylum, you can count one year of asylum toward the five years, that year is usually reflected in the date you became a permanent resident that appears on your green card. If you obtained lawful permanent residence, and have resided “in marital union” with your citizen spouse for three years, you can apply for citizenship after three years instead of five.
In addition, in all cases you must have been physically present in the U.S. for at least one-half of the five (or three) years prior to applying for naturalization. Also, you cannot have abandoned your permanent residence. (See our page on permanent residence for more information on abandonment).
Additional requirements for naturalization are many, including properly filing all required tax returns, registering for Selective Service if required, and more. As always, you will want to sit down with us to review your case in detail to determine if your case has any potential issues.
This is general information and does not constitute legal advice; each case must be analyzed independently. Nothing here creates an attorney/client relationship; each potential client must set up an appointment for proper analysis, and written agreement if after a full analysis we both agree in writing that we accept to represent the case and you also agree that you want us to represent your case as detailed specifically in the written contract.
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