Birth and naturalization are 2 ways to become a US citizen.

There are two ways to become a US citizen: by birth or through naturalization.

If you were born in the US (including, in most cases, Puerto Rico, Guam, or the US Virgin Islands) or born to a US citizen, you are a US citizen. Your birth certificate is usually proof of your citizenship. If you have a valid birth certificate, you are well on your way to enjoying the lifelong rights and obligations of being a US citizen.

The other way to become a US citizen is through naturalization. People who are 18 years and older can use the “Application for Naturalization” (Form N-400) to become naturalized.\Check the law. You must meet several qualifying criteria before applying for naturalization depending on the number of years you have been a permanent resident.

You May Apply for US Naturalization If:

  • You have been a lawful permanent resident for five years.
  • You have been a lawful permanent resident for three years, have been married to a US citizen for those three years, and continue to be married to that US citizen.
  • You are a lawful permanent resident child of US citizen parents.
  • You have qualifying military service.

US Naturalization of Children

Children younger than 18 may automatically become citizens when their parents naturalize. Usually, if children are permanent residents, they derive citizenship from their naturalized parents by law.

Children who are getting citizenship from their naturalized parents may use the “Application for Certificate of Citizenship” (Form N-600).

In most cases, if you are a naturalized citizen, your children are probably automatic citizens if any of the following are true:

  • The other parent is also naturalized.
  • You are the only surviving parent (if the other parent is dead).
  • You have legal custody (if you and the other parent are legally separated or divorced).
  • The child was younger than 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.

US Naturalization: A Long Process

The naturalization process is long and in most cases takes at least two years to complete. You need to be proactive in pursuing your application for naturalization.

Time requirements for the process are deceptive. Everything takes much, much longer than you might expect. This has more to do with complex paperwork flowing through understaffed government offices than any conscious government policy. In either case, the result is the same.

The best advice is to be diligent. If you feel the process isn’t moving fast enough, speak to the appropriate person (whether that is your attorney or an immigration official). Otherwise, an error can take months to catch and correct, and meanwhile time is running out for your application.

For more visa and immigration information, please visit Legal Language Services.

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