U.S. Citizenship: Naturalization

You can obtain citizenship in the United States through birth in the U.S., birth to U.S. Citizen parents, naturalization, or through the naturalization of parents. We are specifically concerned here with issues of naturalization. In order to obtain citizenship in the United States through naturalization, it is first necessary to obtain permanent residency. Permanent residents are not required to become U.S. Citizens, but may choose to become naturalized U.S. citizens if they meet certain requirements.

The requirements for naturalization (citizenship) include the following: Individuals must maintain Permanent Residency for five years (three years for the spouses of U.S. citizens) and continuous residence to the date of naturalization and intent to reside permanently in the U.S.; Maintain physical presence in the U.S. for a minimum of thirty (30) months during the five years prior to the submission of the application for naturalization (eighteen months for spouses of U.S. citizens) without a continuous absence of one year or more (unless a Reentry Permit is applied for and approved by INS); Must have a basic knowledge and understanding of the history and government of the United States; Establish Good Moral Character, and support of the principles of the U.S. constitution. The individual must also be willing to take the full oath of allegiance to the United States. There are exceptions to the above listed requirements, including the following: The ability to read, speak and write English is not required of four classes of applicants:

  1. Individuals who are physically unable to comply because of a disability;
  2. Individuals who are unable to comply because of a developmental disability or mental impairment;
  3. Individuals over fifty years of age who have lived in the United States for twenty years as Permanent Residents; and
  4. Individuals over fifty-five years of age who have lived in the United States for fifteen years since becoming Permanent Residents.

In some situations the minor children of naturalized citizens derive U.S. citizenship through the naturalization of their parent or parents, and it is possible for a U.S. citizen to file a naturalization application for a minor child (under 18 years - this benefits adopted children and children born outside the U.S. who did not acquire U.S. citizenship at birth) and some children who have U.S. citizen grandparent(s) may be eligible for naturalization (parents cannot transmit citizenship). The naturalization process has become very lengthy with current backlogs of up to two years in some regio

How can I become a United States citizen?

A person may become a U.S. citizen (1) by birth or (2) through naturalization.

Who is born a United States citizen?

Generally, people are born U.S. citizens if they are born in the United States or if they are born to U.S. citizens:

(1) By being born in the United States. If you were born in the United States (including, in most cases, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands), you are an American citizen at birth (unless you were born to a foreign diplomat). Your birth certificate is proof of your citizenship.

(2) Through birth abroad to TWO United States citizens. In most cases, you are a U.S. citizen if ALL of the following are true: Both your parents were U.S. citizens when you were born; and At least one of your parents lived in the United States at some point in their life. 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. If you need additional proof of your citizenship, you may file an "Application for Certificate of Citizenship" (Form N-600) with INS to get a Certificate of Citizenship. Call the INS Forms Line at 1-800-870-3676 to request a Form N-600.

(3) Through birth abroad to ONE United States citizen. In most cases, you are 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 at least 5 years in the United States before you were born; and At least 2 of these 5 years in the United States were after your citizen parent's 14th birthday. 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. If you need additional proof of your citizenship, you may file an "Application for Certificate of Citizenship" (Form N-600)with INS to get a Certificate of Citizenship.If you were born before November 14, 1986, you are a citizen if your U.S. citizen parent lived in the United States for at least 10 years and 5 of those years in the United States were after your citizen parent's 14th birthday.

How do I become a naturalized citizen?

If you are not a U.S. citizen by birth, you may be eligible to become a citizen through naturalization. People who are 18 years and older use the "Application for Naturalization" (Form N-400) to become naturalized. Children who are deriving citizenship from naturalized parents use the "Application for a Certificate of Citizenship" (Form N-600) to become naturalized. Call the INS Forms Line at 1-800-870-3676 to request a Form N-600.

When does my time as a Permanent Resident begin?

Your time as a Permanent Resident begins on the date you were granted permanent resident status. This date is on your Permanent Resident Card (formerly known as Alien Registration Card).

If I have been convicted of a crime but my record has been expunged, do I need to indicate that on my application or tell an INS officer?

Yes. You should always be honest with INS regarding all: arrests; convictions (even if they have been expunged); and crimes you have committed for which you were not arrested or convicted. Even if you have committed a minor crime, INS may deny your application if you do not tell the INS officer about the incident.

What is Good Moral Character? (click on link) An applicant for naturalization must establish that he or she is a person of good moral character (GMC). Although good moral character is not specifically defined, it has been interpreted to mean a person's adherence to the moral standards of the average citizen in the community in which the applicant resides.

What do I do if I have lost my Certificate of Naturalization? What do I use as proof of citizenship if I do not have my certificate?

You may get a new Certificate of Naturalization by submitting an "Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document" (Form N-565) to INS. You may obtain an N-565 by calling the INS Forms Line (1-800-870-3676). Submit this form with the fee to your local INS office. It may take up to 1 year for you to receive a new certificate. If you have one, you may use your passport as evidence of citizenship while you wait for a replacement certificate.

Do I need to obtain a new Permanent Resident Card (formerly known as an Alien Registration Card) when INS issues a new version of the card?

No, you only need to renew your Permanent Resident Card when it expires.

If I am naturalized, is my child a citizen?

Usually if children are Permanent Residents, they can derive citizenship from their naturalized parents. This is true whether the child is a child by birth or adoption.* In most cases, your child is a citizen if ALL of the following are true: The other parent is also naturalized OR You are the only surviving parent (if the other parent is dead) OR You have legal custody (if you and the other parent are legally separated or divorced); The child was under 18 when the parent(s) naturalized; The child was not married when the parent(s) naturalized; and The child was a Permanent Resident before his or her 18th birthday. If you and your child meet all of these requirements, you may obtain a passport for the child as evidence of citizenship. If the child needs further evidence of citizenship, you may submit an "Application for Certificate of Citizenship" (Form N-600) to INS to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship. (Note: the child may obtain a passport or Certificate of Citizenship at any time, even after he or she turns 18.) All adoptions must be completed by the child's 16th birthday in order for the child to be eligible for any immigration benefit, including naturalization.

If I am naturalized but the above situation does not apply to me or my child, how can I apply for citizenship for my child?

In many cases, citizens may apply for citizenship for their children: (1) Children by birth or adoption who are Permanent Residents If both parents are alive and still married to each other, but only one parent is a citizen, you may apply for citizenship for your child using an "Application for Certificate of Citizenship" (Form N-600). The child must meet ALL of the following requirements at the time he or she takes the Oath of Allegiance (Note: the Oath may be waived if the child is too young to understand it): The child is under 18; AND The child is not married; AND The Child is a Permanent Resident; AND The child is in legal custody of the parent who is a citizen. (2) Children by birth or adoption who are NOT Permanent Residents If at least one of the child's parents is a citizen, the parent may apply for citizenship for the child using an "Application for Certificate of Citizenship" (Form N-600). The child must meet ALL of the following requirements at the time he or she takes the Oath of Allegiance.

Note: the Oath may be waived if the child is too young to understand it): The child is under 18; and The child is not married; and The child is lawfully present in the United States in a non-resident status (e.g., with a B-2 or F-1 visa); and The child is in legal custody of the parent who is a citizen; The citizen parent has lived at least 5 years in the United States and at least 2 of these 5 years in the United States were after the citizen parent's 14th birthday. In some cases, a child may have a parent who is a U.S. citizen but who has not lived in the United States for at least 5 years, 2 of which were after the citizen parent's 14th birthday.

In these cases, the U.S. citizen parent may apply for citizenship for the child using an "Application for Certificate of Citizenship" (Form N-600). The child must meet ALL of the following requirements at the time he or she takes the Oath of Allegiance (Note: the Oath may be waived if the child is too young to understand it): The child is under 18; The child is not married; The child is lawfully present in the United States in a non-resident status (e.g., with a B-2 or F-1 visa); A U.S. citizen parent has a parent (the child's grandparent) who is also a U.S. citizen; The child is in legal custody of the U.S. citizen parent whose parent is also a U.S. citizen; The U.S. citizen grandparent lived at least 5 years in the United States; and At least two of these years in the United States were after the citizen grandparent's 14th birthday.

How do I register register with selective services?

Selective Service registration allows the United States Government to maintain a list of names of men who may be called into military service in case of a national emergency requiring rapid expansion of the U.S. Armed Forces. By registering all young men, the Selective Service can ensure that any future draft will be fair and equitable. Federal law requires that men who are at least 18 years old, but not yet 26 years old, must be registered with Selective Service. This includes all male non-citizens within these age limits who permanently reside in the United States. Men with "green cards" (lawful permanent residents) must register. Men living in the United States without INS documentation (undocumented aliens) must also register. But men cannot register after reaching age 26.

Why Do I Need to Register with the Selective Service?

Failure to register for the Selective Service may (in certain instances) make you ineligible for certain immigration benefits, such as citizenship. For instructions on registering with Selective Service as an immigrant, please see the Selective Service System's "Registration Information."

If you would like to confirm that you or someone else are registered with Selective Service, please see the Selective Service System's "Check a Registration" Webpage.


Home | Welcome | What's New

Revised: 02/10/2002
Copyright 1999 Perry & Baker
All rights reserved

www.callyourlawyers.com