Deciding to become a U.S. citizen is one of the most important decisions in an individual’s life. If you decide to apply to become a U.S. citizen, you will be showing your commitment to the United States and your loyalty to its Constitution. In return, you are rewarded with all the rights and privileges that are part of U.S. citizenship.
Citizenship Through Naturalization
Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
You may qualify if:
- You have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years and meet all other eligibility requirements;
- You have been a permanent resident 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 and meet all other eligibility requirements.
- Your child may qualify for naturalization if you are a U.S. citizen, the child was born outside the U.S., the child is currently residing outside the U.S., and all other eligibility requirements are met
Citizenship Through Parents
There are two general ways to obtain citizenship through U.S. citizen parents, one at birth and one after birth but before the age of 18. The term “parents” includes: the genetic father, the genetic mother, and the non-genetic gestational mother, if she is the legal parent at the time of birth under the law of the relevant jurisdiction.
Biological or adoptive children residing in the United States
A child is automatically a US citizen if the following conditions have been met under section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) as amended by the Child Citizenship Act (PDF, 1.88 MB) (CCA):
- If at least one parent is a US citizen, whether by birth or naturalization.
- If the child (or daughter) is under 18 years of age.
- If the child resides in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the US citizen parent and has legal permanent residence.
- The adoptive child may obtain citizenship automatically under section 320 of the INA if he meets the requirements under sections 101 (b) (1) (E), (F) or (G) of the INA .
Biological or adoptive children residing outside the United States
Biological or adoptive children who normally reside outside the United States may be eligible for naturalization under section 322 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended by the Children's Citizens Act (PDF, 1.88 MB) (CCA, for its acronym in English). In general, to be eligible for citizenship under section 322 of the INA, the child must meet these requirements:
- At least one parent is a US citizen or, if deceased, a US citizen at the time of death.
- The US citizen parent has (or, at the time of his death, been) physically present in the United States (or one of its unincorporated territories) for at least 5 years and that 2 of those 5 years were after Of having reached the age of 14 years.
- The son (or daughter) has not yet turned 18 years old.
- The child resides outside the United States in the legal and physical custody of the US citizen parent (or, if the citizen parent is deceased, of a person who does not object to the request).
- The child is temporarily present in the United States after having been legally admitted and maintains legal status in the United States.
- An adopted child may be eligible for naturalization under section 322 of the INA if he/she meets the requirements applicable to adopted children under sections 101 (b) (1) (E), (F) or (G) Of the INA.
Other Paths to Citizenship
Green card holders married to U.S. citizen
- Have been a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 3 years
- Have been living in marital union with the same U.S. citizen spouse during such time
- Meet all other eligibility requirements under this section
In certain cases, spouses of U.S. citizens employed abroad may qualify for naturalization regardless of their time as permanent residents. These spouses may qualify under Section 319(b) of the INA.
Green card holders in the military and their family
USCIS recognizes the important sacrifices made by non-U.S. citizen members of the U.S. armed forces and their families. USCIS is committed to processing their naturalization applications in a timely and efficient manner while providing exemplary customer service, maintaining the integrity of the immigration system, and maintaining the security of the process.
Members of the U.S. armed forces and their dependents (spouses and children) may be eligible for citizenship, to include expedited and overseas processing, under special provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
Citizenship for Military Members
Members of the U.S. armed forces may be eligible for citizenship by qualifying for naturalization through military service under Section 328 or 329 of the INA.
Citizenship for Spouses & Children of Military Members
Spouses of U.S. citizen members of the U.S. armed forces who are (or will be) deployed may be eligible for expedited naturalization or for overseas processing. Children of U.S. citizen military members deployed abroad may be eligible for overseas processing.