Becoming a U.S. Citizen
Individuals born in the United States automatically are granted U.S. citizenship (as specified by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution), while those born abroad to at least one U.S. citizen often qualify. Additionally, non-citizens serving in the U.S. military are granted an expedited path to citizenship.
Legal permanent residents ("green card" holders) also may become U.S. citizens through the process of naturalization. Those seeking citizenship through naturalization must meet certain criteria, such as English literacy and good moral character, while proving a general understanding U.S. history, laws, and government.
Below is a general overview of the process of becoming a U.S. citizen, with links to FindLaw articles and government resources. For more in-depth information, visit the "Citizenship" portion of FindLaw's Immigration Law section.
- Eligibility for Naturalization - Non-citizens who have had a valid green card for at least five years (three years for spouses of U.S. citizens), non-citizens who served in the U.S. military, and children of U.S. citizens typically qualify for U.S. citizenship if they meet all other requirements.
- Naturalization Process - The process of becoming a U.S. citizen through naturalization includes paperwork, background checks, an interview, testing, and an oath of allegiance. Applicants for naturalization often complete the process without legal help, but some cases require the assistance of an immigration attorney.
- Citizenship Test - The naturalization examination is composed of four parts. The speaking test, reading test and writing test all determine English language capabilities. The civics portion tests the applicant's understanding of U.S. history, government and the legal system.
- Benefits & Responsibilities of Citizenship - Naturalized U.S. citizens enjoy all of the same rights and privileges available to natural born citizens (with some exceptions, including the ability to run for President). In return, citizens must uphold the U.S. Constitution and submit to other obligations of citizenship.
Becoming a U.S. citizen is no small task. Consider meeting with an immigration attorney if you need legal assistance.