Citizenship

For those born outside the U.S., there are two ways to become a U.S. citizen:

1) Naturalization, or 2) Through parent(s) at birth or after birth.

Citizenship through Naturalization

Some of the ways you may be eligible for naturalization:

  • You have been a lawful permanent resident (LPR or “green card” holder) for at least 5 years;
  • You have been an LPR for 3 years or more and meet all eligibility requirements to file as a spouse of a U.S. citizen;
  • You have qualifying service in the U.S. armed forces (see Military page)

LPR for at least 5 years

To apply for naturalization as one who has been an LPR (“green card” holder) for 5 years, you must:

  • Be 18 or older at the time of filing
  • Have been a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of applying
  • Have lived within the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence, for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing the application
  • Have continuous residence in the U.S. as a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
  • Have been physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
  • Reside continuously within the U.S. from the date of application for naturalization up to the time of naturalization
  • Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).
  • Be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the U.S., and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the U.S. during all relevant periods under the law

LPR as spouse of a U.S. citizen

To apply for naturalization as one who became an LPR (“green card” holder) though marriage to a U.S. citizen, you must:

  • Be 18 or older
  • Have been a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 3 years immediately preceding the date of applying
  • Have been living in marital union with the U.S. citizen spouse, who has been a U.S. citizen during all of such period, during the 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application and up until examination on the application
  • Have lived within the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence, for at least 3 months prior to the date of  filing the application
  • Have continuous residence in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident for at least 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
  • Reside continuously within the U.S. from the date of application for naturalization until the time of naturalization
  • Be physically present in the U.S. for at least 18 months out of the 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
  • Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (also known as civics)
  • Be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the U.S., and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the U.S. during  all relevant periods under the law

Citizenship through U.S. Parent(s) at Birth of After Birth (Before age 18)

At Birth

A child born outside the U.S. is a citizen at birth if:

1) Both parents were U.S. citizens at the time of birth and were married at the time of birth and at least one parent lived in the U.S. or its territories prior to the birth.

2) One parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of birth, the birthdate was on or after November 14, 1986, the parents were married at the time of birth, and the U.S. citizen parent had been physically present in the U.S. or its territories for a period of at least five years at some time in his or her life prior to the birth, of which at least two years were after his or her 14th birthday.   The time the U.S. citizen was abroad serving in the military or employed by the U.S. government or certain international organizations (or was the unmarried son or daughter and living in the household of such a person) can be counted toward the physical presence requirement.

3) One parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of birth and the birthdate is before November 14, 1986 but after October 10, 1952, the parents were married at the time of birth, and the U.S. citizen parent was physically present in the U.S. or its territories for a period of at least ten years at some time in his or her life prior to the birth, at least five of which were after his or her 14th birthday.  The time the U.S. citizen was abroad serving in the military or employed by the U.S. government or certain international organizations (or was the unmarried son or daughter and living in the household of such a person) can be counted toward the physical presence requirement.

The requirements are different for those born before October 10, 1952.

For all the above options, if the child was born out of wedlock, there are different criteria depending on whether the child is claiming citizenship through the father or mother and when the child was born.

 

After Birth

A child born outside the U.S. acquires citizenship after birth if:

1) The child was under 18 or not yet born on February 27, 2001, at least one parent is a U.S. citizen, the child is currently under 18 and residing in the U.S. in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent pursuant to lawful admission for permanent residence.

The child automatically becomes a U.S. citizen when all the criteria is met prior to the child’s 18th birthday.  The child can apply for a U.S. passport and/or apply for a Certificate of Citizenship even if the child is already over 18 as long as the criteria was met prior to turning 18.

This also applies to an adopted child if the adopted child meets the requirement for children under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

2) The child was under 18 or not yet born on February 27, 2001, at least one parent is a U.S. citizen at the time of filing who was physically present in the U.S. for a period or periods totaling at least 5 years (at least 2 of which were after age 14), the child is currently under 18 and residing outside the U.S. in the legal and physical custody of the citizen parent, and child is temporarily in the U.S. pursuant to a lawful admission and maintaining lawful status.

The child must meet the criteria, apply for citizenship and take the Oath of Allegiance prior to turning 18.

If the U.S. citizen parent does not meet the physical presence requirement, that parent’s own U.S. citizen parent met the physical presence test.

This also applies to an adopted child if the adopted child meets the requirement for children under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

3) The child was under 18 from December 24, 1952 to February 26, 2001, the child was residing as a lawful permanent resident (“green card” holder) in the U.S. and both parents naturalized before the child’s 18th birthday; OR:

  • If one parent died, that the surviving parent naturalized before the child turned 18.
  • If the parents legally separated, that the parent maintaining legal and physical custody naturalized before the child turned 18.
  • If the child was born out of wedlock and paternity has not been established by legitimation, the mother naturalized before the child turned 18.

The requirements are different for those born before December 24, 1952.

 

Source: USCIS.gov