Becoming a U.S. Citizen/Naturalization

U.S. CITIZENSHIP

1.    How do I become a United States citizen?

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

  • 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.

  • 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 a Form N-600, "Application for Certificate of Citizenship". You may call the USCIS 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 USCIS 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.

4. How do I become a naturalized citizen?

If you are not a U.S. citizen by birth or did not acquire U.S. citizenship automatically after birth, you may still be eligible to become a citizen through; the normal naturalization process. People who are 18 years and older use the "Application for Naturalization" (Form N-400) to become naturalized. Persons who acquired citizenship from parent(s) while under 18 years of age use the "Application for a Certificate of Citizenship" (Form N-600) to document their naturalization. Adopted children who acquired citizenship from parent(s) use the "Application for a Certificate of Citizenship on Behalf of an Adopted Child" (Form N-643) to document their naturalization.

5. What are the requirements for naturalization?

For more details on the eligibility requirements for naturalization, please see the section of this website entitled Am I Eligible? and complete the Eligibility Worksheet or see Section 4 "Who is Eligible For Naturalization" in the Guide to Naturalization.

6. 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).

7. 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   Immigration officer?

Yes. You should always be honest with Immigration regarding all:

  • Arrests (including those by police, Immigration Officers, and other Federal Agents);
  • 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, Immigration may deny your application if you do not tell the Immigration officer about the incident. It is extremely important that you tell Immigration about any arrest even if someone else has advised you that you are not required to do so.

8. How long will it take to become naturalized?

The time it takes to be naturalized varies from one local office to another. In 1997, in many places, it took over 2 years to process an application. USCIS continues to improve the naturalization process. As of October 2001, USCIS reported that it takes, on average, between 6 and 9 months to become naturalized.

9. How do I 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 Immigration documentation (undocumented aliens) must also register. But men cannot register after reaching age 26.

10. 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. Please visit Selective Service System for more information.

Source:U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Read more about Naturalization and how to file for an application for Naturalization.