U.S. Citizenship & Naturalization

U.S. Citizenship & Naturalization

by SCwpadmin

U.S. Citizenship & Naturalization

U.S. citizenship gives a person all the rights that the U.S. has to offer. These include the right to vote, to petition for family members to immigrate, and to live abroad without losing the right to return.  For these reasons, citizenship is not easily obtained.


A person may become a U.S. citizen by birth or through naturalization.


Generally, individuals are born U.S. citizens if they are born in the U.S. or if they are children of U.S. citizens:

  • Through birth in the U.S.
    • If you were born in the U.S., you are an American citizen at birth unless you were born to a foreign diplomat.
    • Your birth certificate is proof of your citizenship.
  • Through birth abroad to TWO U.S. citizens
    • You may be a U.S. citizen if ALL of the following are true:
      • Both your parents were U.S. citizens when you were born
      • At least one of your parents lived in the United States at some point in time.
    • Your record of birth abroad, if registered with a U.S. consulate or embassy, is proof of your citizenship.  You may also apply for a passport to have your citizenship recognized.
  • Through birth abroad to ONE U.S. citizen
    • You may be a U.S. citizen if ALL of the following are true:
      • One of your parents was a U.S. citizen when you were born
      • Your citizen parent lived in the U.S. at least 5 years before you were born
      • Your citizen parent was at least 18 years of age at your birth
    • Your record of birth abroad, if registered with a U.S. consulate or embassy, is proof of your citizenship.  You may also apply for a passport to have your citizenship recognized.


To become a U.S. citizen, you must first  become a lawful permanent resident (have a “Green Card”) and then meet other requirements, listed below. There are a few rare exceptions in which a person can apply to naturalize without first becoming a lawful permanent resident .



To be eligible for U.S. citizenship, you must:

  • have lived in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least five years
    • spouses of U.S. citizens qualify after only three years,
    • there is also an exception for U.S. military personnel
  •  have been physically present in the U.S. for at least half of the required time of permanent residence
  •  be at least 18 years of age
  •  be a person of good moral character
  •  be able to proficiently speak, read, and write in English
    • There are some limited exceptions to this requirement
  •  be able to pass a test covering U.S. history and government
    • There are some limited some exceptions to this requirement
  •  be willing to take the oath of citizenship


To naturalize, you must submit an Application for Naturalization, or N-400.  After submitting the application, you will be scheduled for an in-person interview with an immigration officer.  At this interview, the officer will review the application and administer English and Civics tests (unless an exception to the normal testing obligations applies).  At the conclusion of the interview, a successful applicant will be instructed about upcoming naturalization ceremonies and the swearing-in process.  An applicant is not a U.S. citizen until being officially sworn in as a citizen and receiving a Certificate of Naturalization.  Please contact our office if you would like help with your application or interview.



The time for the USCIS to adjudicate a properly submitted application varies greatly. At times it has taken only  a fewmonths, at other times it has taken over a year.  The USCIS is not required to adjudicate a naturalization application within a certain time after it is filed.  However, by law it must  adjudicate a naturalization application within 120 days of the date of the interview. Lawsuits can compel the government to make decisions on long-delayed naturalization applications. Please contact our office if you have any questions or concerns regarding naturalization delays.


You may waive one or more of the testing requirements if:

  • You are unable to comply with the requirements due to a disability, or
  • You are over 50 and have been a permanent resident for 20 years or more, or
  • You are over 55 and have been a permanent resident for 15 years or more.


Naturalized citizens have all the protections, rights and responsibilities of citizens born in the U.S., except they are not eligible to be President of the United States.


Derivative citizenship refers to an individual automatically becoming a citizen based on one or both parents becoming citizens while the individual is still a minor. Other requirements also have to be met to be eligible for derivative citizenship. There are also other situations in which an individual might have a U.S. citizen parent or grandparent and be able to obtain derivative citizenship. The law surrounding derivative citizenship is very complicated. If one of your parents became a U.S. citizen while you were still a minor and living in the U.S., you should consult an attorney to inquire about derivative citizenship.


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