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How to Become a U.S. Citizen


Would you like to participate in elections by voting or even running for office? Are you exhausted by the looming threat of deportation that lawful permanent residence does not protect you from? Would you like to bring certain family members to the United States, but you currently cannot sponsor them as a permanent resident?

U.S. citizenship will allow you to experience all the above benefits and much more. The path to citizenship isn’t easy, but it is certainly possible with the right amount of preparation and qualified support. Let’s take a look at the different ways you may be able to obtain citizenship.

Through Birthright

Were you born in the United States or a U.S. territory? No matter the status of your parents, you are automatically a U.S. citizen, and you should have received a birth certificate from the state or U.S. territory where you were born.

You might also have birthright citizenship if you were born abroad, but at least one of your parents must have been a U.S. citizen. If your parent(s) recorded your birth with the appropriate U.S. Consulate or Embassy before you turned 18, the Consulate or Embassy would have issued you a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, which proves your U.S. citizenship.

If your parent(s) did not report your birth before you turned 18, you can apply for a Certificate of Citizenship.

Through Acquisition

A child is not a U.S. citizen if they were born outside of the U.S. to parents who were not U.S. citizens at the time of the child’s birth. However, the child may become a citizen through acquisition if at least one parent becomes a citizen through naturalization (see below) before the child turns 18. The child must first be a lawful permanent resident, and they must be living in the U.S. under the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent.

Through Naturalization

If you were not born in the U.S. or a U.S. territory, born abroad to at least one U.S. citizen parent, or under 18 when one or both of your parents naturalized, your only option for citizenship is an extensive process called naturalization.

To qualify for citizenship through naturalization, you must meet all the following requirements:

  • You are 18 or older;
  • You have been living continuously in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident for at least the last 5 years (or 3 years if you obtained your green card through your U.S. citizen spouse, and you are still married to and living with them);
  • You have been physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months out of the last 5 years (or 18 months out of the last 3 years if you obtained your green card through your U.S. citizen spouse, and you are still married to and living with them);
  • You have lived for at least 3 months in the state or district where you are applying for citizenship; and
  • You are a person of good moral character (i.e. you have not committed crimes, you have paid all your taxes, etc.).

If you meet all the above qualifications, you can move forward with the naturalization process, which includes the following steps:

  1. Submitting an application with all requisite evidence, documentation, and fees;
  2. Attending a biometrics appointment, if necessary;
  3. Obtaining preliminary application approval;
  4. Attending (and passing) an interview, which will include U.S. civics/history and English language tests; and
  5. Swearing an Oath of Allegiance to the United States during your naturalization ceremony.

Once you complete these steps, you will receive your Certificate of Naturalization and access all the benefits of U.S. citizenship. For many immigrants, citizenship is the final step of their journey, and the benefits far outweigh the effort, time, and costs of the naturalization process.

Let Us Accompany You on Your Journey

Are you considering becoming a U.S. citizen? Alternatively, did you try to become a citizen but received a denial at some point in the process? Kanu & Associates, P.C. is here to help. We have more than 15 years of experience practicing immigration law, which we use every day to help individuals and families accomplish their goals. Navigating the U.S. immigration system is a tremendous undertaking, but our attorneys can reduce the stress by providing insight and guidance every step of the way.

Contact us online or call (602) 353-7795 to schedule your consultation today.