Different Ways to Become a U.S. Citizen

United States citizenship can bring many benefits to the beholder. Once you have obtained citizenship, you can not lose your status unless you procured your citizenship through fraud. While permanent residents in the United States do enjoy many benefits, they are still barred from some rights, and their right to stay can be revoked for myriad reasons.

There are four different paths to U.S. citizenship, with the most common option open to immigrants being naturalization. If you are interested in obtaining citizenship, learn more about your options and then contact an immigration services company to get the process started.

What Are the Different Ways to Become a U.S. Citizen?

There are four different ways that people can become U.S. citizens. However, the options available to you for obtaining citizenship will likely be far fewer. The potential paths to U.S. citizenship include obtaining citizenship through:

  • Birth
  • Acquisition
  • Derivation
  • Naturalization

Citizenship Through Birth & Its Eligibility

United States law automatically grants citizenship to almost every person born within the United States, including the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Those who are the children of foreign diplomats or members of sovereign Native American tribes are exempt from automatic citizenship under this category.

Being born on U.S. soil is by far the most common way of obtaining citizenship. If you did not achieve citizenship through birth, there are other potential pathways to citizenship.

Citizenship Through Acquisition & Its Eligibility

You may gain the right to U.S. citizenship at birth, even if you were not born on U.S. soil. To obtain U.S. citizenship through acquisition, at least one of your parents must be a U.S. citizen.

There are additional requirements that must also be met to secure citizenship through acquisition. If eligible, the applicant must file Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship.

The requirements for citizenship through acquisition have changed over the years and differ depending on whether one or both of your parents are U.S. citizens. You can discuss your situation with an immigration lawyer to find out whether or not you are eligible for citizenship.

Generally, you will be eligible for citizenship through acquisition if:

  • Both parents were U.S. citizens: To qualify, both of your parents must have been U.S. citizens at the time of your birth, married when you were born, and at least one of them must have lived in the U.S. or its territories at some point before your birth.
  • One parent was a U.S. citizen: To qualify, one of your parents must have been a U.S. citizen at the time of your birth, your parents must have been married when you were born, and the U.S. citizen parent must have lived in the U.S. or its territories prior to your birth.

If obtaining citizenship through a single parent U.S. citizen, the amount of time that your parent lived in the United States comes into play.

If you were born on or after November 14, 1986, your U.S. citizen parent must have lived in the U.S. or its territories for at least five years prior to your birth, with at least two of those years coming after their 14th birthday.

If you were born before November 14, 1986, but after October 10, 1952, the amount of time your U.S. citizen parent must have lived in the U.S. is higher. They must have lived in the country or its territories for at least 10 years, with at least five of those coming after their 14th birthday.

Citizenship Through Derivation & Its Eligibility

There is a third way to obtain citizenship through a parent. This process is known as derivation. When a parent goes through the naturalization process to become a U.S. citizen, their children will obtain citizenship automatically through derivation as long as they meet the following requirements:

  • The child must be under the age of 18
  • The child must be a lawful U.S. green card holder
  • At least one parent must have obtained citizenship
  • The child must be living in the U.S. in legal custody of a U.S. citizen parent

Citizenship Through Naturalization & Its Eligibility

The most common way for a foreign-born person to become a U.S. citizen is through naturalization. Naturalization is the process of voluntarily becoming a U.S. citizen. Several conditions must be met before a foreign-born person can obtain citizenship through naturalization.

To be eligible for naturalization, applicants must generally be at least 18 years of age and meet one of the following conditions:

  • Five years spent as a permanent resident
  • Three years spent as a permanent resident if married to a U.S. citizen spouse for at least three years
  • Qualifying military service performed in the U.S. Armed Forces

In addition to the above commonly met conditions for naturalization, there are some other options that can potentially be met to qualify for naturalization. Discuss your situation with an immigration lawyer to learn more about your options for achieving citizenship through naturalization. An experienced immigration lawyer can help you determine your eligibility.

If you qualify for naturalization, you can begin the process by filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.

Get Help Preparing Your Citizenship Application Today

If you have more questions about the types of U.S. citizenship or the options available for obtaining citizenship an immigration services company can help.

At ImmigrationDirect, we have helped countless foreign-born people become United State citizens through naturalization. We can help ensure that your Form N-400 gets filed correctly and that all deadlines are met.

The path to citizenship can be long and confusing. We aim to simplify the process. And people who use our services get their citizenship applications approved at a far higher rate than those who attempt to file alone.

Don’t risk delays and potential denial of your naturalization application. Contact us today to get started.

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