Over 250,000 people apply for citizenship every year mostly through Naturalization, the primary method of acquiring U.S. citizenship.
Citizenship gained through Naturalization is in almost all respects the same as citizenship gained through other means. There are some restrictions, however, the presidency is limited to "natural born" citizens, and naturalized persons must have been citizens for a proscribed number of years before they may serve as federal senators or representatives. Citizenship obtained by naturalization may be revoked through denaturalization proceedings of the naturalization was improperly obtained. In all other respects, however, the rights of citizens "are the same dignity and coextensive" with those of other citizens. Some people are able to apply for derivative citizenship.
There are 5 basic requirements
In order to successfully apply for US Citizenship you must comply with the following requirements.
There are different rules for the residency period. It depends on whether you received you Green Card though marriage to a US citizen or whether you received it though some other means. If you received you Green Card though marriage to a US citizen then you will need to have been a lawful permanent resident for three (3) years. For all other applicants you will need to have been a lawful permanent resident for a period of five (5) years.
Absences out of the Unites States
Count the exact days you were out before you file. You may save time and money. If you apply under the 3-year rule, then you will have to have physically resided in the U.S. for a period of 18 months, and during this time never remained out of the U.S. for a period of greater than 6 month. . If you apply under the 5-year rule, then you will have to have physically resided in the U.S. for a period of 30 months, and during this time never remained out of the U.S. for a period of greater than 6 month.
Reading and Writing simple English
Some people may take the test in their own language. Some people may not have to take the test
Good Moral Character
Even the smallest infraction should be disclosed.
Knowledge of US History and Government
During your naturalization interview, a USCIS Officer will ask you questions about your application and background. You will also take an English and
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civics test unless you qualify for an exemption or waiver. The English test has three components: reading, writing, and speaking. The civics test covers important U.S. history and government topics. See below to learn more about the test and the free study tools available to help you prepare.
Your ability to speak English will be determined by a USCIS Officer during your eligibility interview on Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
You must read one out of three sentences correctly to demonstrate an ability to read in English.
You must write one out of three sentences correctly to demonstrate an ability to write in English.
There are 100 civics questions on the naturalization test. During your naturalization interview, you will be asked up to 10 questions from the list of 100 questions. You must answer correctly at least six (6) of the 10 questions to pass the civics test.
You have two opportunities to take the English and civics tests per application. If you fail any portion of the test during your first interview, you will be retested on the portion of the test that you failed within 90 days.
To help you prepare, USCIS offers free study resources for both the English and civics tests.
Reading Vocabulary Flash Cards
Easy-to-use flash cards containing vocabulary words to help study for the English reading portion of the naturalization test. DOWNLOAD
Easy-to-use flash cards containing vocabulary words to help study for the English writing portion of the naturalization test. DOWNLOAD
Bring the applicable items listed below to your naturalization (citizenship) interview. All document should be in the original or a certified copy. Any documents in a foreign language must be accompanied by a translation in English. The translator must certify that he/she is competent to translate and that the translation is accurate. Failure to do so will postpone you citizenship application.
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR ALL CITIZENSHIP INTERVIEWS:
* Your alien registration card
* Photo identification (state driver's license or state identification card).
* Your passport(s) and any travel documents issued by the I.N.S.
* If you have ever been arrested, you must bring complete arrest report(s), certified court disposition(s), probation report(s) (if applicable), including records that may have been sealed or expunged. If a record or document is no longer available, you must submit documentation from the appropriate agency as to its unavailability.
* Copies of recent years tax returns. Please bring copies of any correspondence relating to payment arrangements, and copies of any returns for which you claimed to be a non-resident.
* If you are a male and between the ages of 18 and 31, please bring proof you registered with the Selective Service System between the ages of 18 and 26. (Selective Service System telephone number: 1-847-688-6888 or 1-847-688-2576). Note: If you failed to register with the Selective Service System before you reached age 26, you must do the following: 1. Request and complete the Selective Service System's QUESTIONNAIRE form. Answer the questions fully, MAKE A COPY, and return the form to the Selective Service System. 2. You will then receive an ADVISORY LETTER from the Selective Service. 3. Bring the copy of the QUESTIONNAIRE and the ADVISORY LETTER to your interview.
* If you are unable to take the full oath of allegiance, please bring a letter from your church explaining how your religious beliefs prevent you from taking the full oath.
* If you have minor children residing outside of your home, please bring evidence of your payment of financial support, such as canceled checks, money order receipts and bank drafts showing your payment record, along with copies of any court or government orders relating to the required payment.
Citizenship Based on Marriage to a U.S. Citizen
THE FOLLOWING ADDITIONAL ITEMS MUST BE PRESENTED IF YOU ARE APPLYING AS A SPOUSE OF A U.S. CITIZEN.
* Proof that your spouse has been a U.S. citizen for more than three years, such as birth certificate, naturalization certificate, certificate of citizenship, or U.S. passport.
* Your marriage certificate.
* Proof of termination of ALL prior marriages of both you and your spouse (if any).
* Evidence of bona fide marriage - bring any documents which would assist in establishing the validity of your marriage such as (but not limited to) joint tax returns, deed , lease agreements or home ownership documents, credit accounts, joint tax returns, proof of joint ownership of other property such as investments, stocks, bonds, automobiles, life insurance, health insurance.
* Birth certificates of your children.
What happens on the day you are scheduled?
After the application is filed you will first receive a receipt, followed by a notification telling you about an appointment for an interview at the Immigration Service. The waiting period after filing varies among the Immigration offices. Many are extremely backlog and the waiting period can be several months.
At the interview the examiner will review the application in detail, checking it for accuracy and completeness. He may request certain documents such as divorce decrees and documents regarding any criminal records.
You will then be tested on your ability to read and write English. You will have to have at least a rudimentary knowledge of conversational English as well as be able to write simple sentences. Such as: My house is beautiful or I like living in New York.
The examiner will then test your knowledge of U.S. history and government. There are approximately 100 questions the examiner can choose from. Usually he will ask only a few, however at times an examiner has been known to twenty or more questions. The questions range from the name of the president to the division of the democratic form of government, the number of senators, to why we celebrate the Fourth of July.
If you had a problem with either the English of the history or government parts of the interview, the case can be rescheduled one more time. If there are problems regarding residency or Good Moral Character you will be able to submit additional documents in order to satisfy the examiner. However if the problem is not a simple one you should contact an attorney.
Assuming everything is approved you will be advised of the date of swearing in and on that day you will receive your naturalization certificate.
Rights of US Citizens
Resident aliens (Green Card Holders) in most instances are granted equal rights to those enjoyed by United States citizens. However, there are some basic differences between these two statuses.
When your application for U.S. citizenship has been approved and you have been sworn in, you will be able to sponsor your mother, father, sister, brother and married children. Becoming a U.S. citizen permits you to qualify for government jobs and receive government financial assistance, if necessary. U.S. citizenship allows you to retire, move back to your home country and receive US retirement benefits without having to return to the US. You will be able to enter the US without any difficulties and will have diplomatic protection through out the world. And most importantly you can vote. In the American democracy your vote is your voice. It is the way the government can hear what you have to say. With your vote comes the political power that green card holders don't have. Citizens have a voice and basically that's what democracy is all about. In addition the following rights:
1. RIGHT TO TRAVEL AND LIVE OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES
An American citizen is free to live in a foreign country for as long a period as he or she wishes and for any purpose without jeopardizing his/her status as a citizen. Freedom of movement and travel is protected by the United States constitution. A green card holder may not remain outside the United States for a period of over one year without risking loss of his green card.
2. RIGHT TO ENTER AND LIVE IN THE UNITED STATES
An alien, even a green card holder can be denied entry into the United States on any ground specified by congress. Similarly, an alien can be deported and expelled. A citizen, on the other hand, cannot be barred from entering the United States. For example, a Green Card holder, if convicted, let's say for sale of cocaine will most likely be deported and not permitted to return to the United States. But a citizen will not be deported and will be able to travel in and out of the country without any problem.
3. DIPLOMATIC PROTECTION
A citizen may obtain a United States passport. With this passport comes diplomatic protection. As the citizen owes allegiance to the United States so to is he entitled to the protection of the nation.
Like many other countries the United States maintains diplomatic posts throughout the world. Should a United States citizen encounter difficulties in his travels he can contact the United States consulate. The assistance provided by the United States to it's citizen is that it will assure that the United States citizen will receive fair and proper treatment by the foreign country, that its laws and procedure are observed, and that the foreign country conforms to the criteria of reasonableness and fairness as is customary in the international community.
4. RIGHT OF TRANSMISSION OF CITIZENSHIP TO CHILDREN ABROAD.
5. RIGHT OF TRANSMISSION OF LEGAL RESIDENCY to your spouse and unmarried children and married children. You can also sponsor you parents. As a citizen the process moves much faster.
6. GREEN CARDS ARE NOT FOREVER: Stay out of the U.S. longer than one year and you can lose it. Get in trouble with the law you and you can find yourself back home in the old country for good.
7. POLITICAL RIGHTS â€‘â€‘ such as voting, running for high political offices, and right to work in certain public employment.
1. TAXES â€‘â€‘ generally a United States citizen may be subjected to income tax on all income both in the United States and throughout the world. Nonâ€‘resident aliens generally are required to pay taxes on income earned in the United States only.
2. MILITARY SERVICE â€‘â€‘ American citizens must register for military service and serve if called and qualified no matter where they reside, even if their residence is outside the United States.
3. AMENABILITY TO AMERICAN LAWS Under certain circumstances American laws may apply to United States citizens living abroad and may have to appear in a United States court to respond to a subpoena and may be held liable to punishment for contempt for failure to respond to such subpoena. These cases are generally limited to criminal activities in the high seas or in a foreign country.
The Department of State is responsible for determining the citizenship status of a person located outside the United States or in connection with the application for a U.S. passport while in the United States. The following information explains about dual nationality and U.S. citizenship, including circumstances where U.S. citizenship may be lost.
Dual nationality is the simultaneous possession of two citizenships. The Supreme Court of the United States has stated that dual nationality is "a status long recognized in the law" and that "a person may have and exercise rights of nationality in two countries and be subject to the responsibilities of both. The mere fact that he asserts the rights of one citizenship does not without more mean that he renounces the other", Kawakita v. U.S., 343 U.S. 717 (1952). (The Consulate General does not have Supreme Court cases on file; interested parties may wish to consult with local law school libraries.) The concepts discussed in this leaflet apply also to persons who have more than two nationalities.
Dual nationality results from the fact that there is no uniform rule of international law relating to the acquisition of nationality. Each country has its own laws on the subject, and its nationality is conferred upon individuals on the basis of its own independent domestic policy. Individuals may have dual nationality not by choice but by automatic operation of these different and sometimes conflicting laws.
The laws of the United States, no less than those of other countries, contribute to the situation because they provide for acquisition of U.S. citizenship by birth in the United States and also by birth abroad to an American, regardless of the other nationalities which a person might acquire at birth. For example, a child born abroad to U.S. citizens may acquire at birth not only American citizenship but also the nationality of the country in which it was born. Similarly, a child born in the United States to foreigners may acquire at birth both U.S. citizenship and a foreign nationality.
The laws of some countries provide for automatic acquisition of citizenship after birth -- for example, by marriage. In addition, some countries do not recognize naturalization in a foreign state as grounds for loss of citizenship. A person from one of those countries who is naturalized in the United States keeps the nationality of the country of origin despite the fact that one of the requirements for U.S. naturalization is a renunciation of other nationalities.
Current law and policy
The current nationality laws of the United States do not specifically refer to dual nationality. The automatic acquisition or retention of a foreign nationality does not affect U.S. citizenship; however, under limited circumstances, the acquisition of a foreign nationality upon one's own application or the application of a duly authorized agent may cause loss of U.S. citizenship under Section 349 (a)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act [8 U.S.C. 1481 (a)(1)].
In order for loss of nationality to occur under Section 349 (a)(1), it must be established that the naturalization was obtained voluntarily by a person eighteen years of age or older with the intention of relinquishing U.S. citizenship. Such an intention may be shown by the person's statements or conduct, Vance v. Terrazas, 444 U.S. 252 (1980), but as discussed below in most cases it is assumed that Americans who are naturalized in other countries intend to keep their U.S. citizenship. As a result, they have both nationalities.
United States law does not contain any provisions requiring U.S. citizens who are born with dual nationality to choose one nationality or the other when they become adults, Mandoli v. Acheson, 344 U.S. 133 (1952).
While recognizing the existence of dual nationality and permitting Americans to have other nationalities, the U.S. Government does not endorse dual nationality as a matter of policy because of the problems which it may cause. Claims of other countries upon dual-national U.S. citizens often place them in situations where their obligations to one country are in conflict with the laws of the other. In addition, their dual nationality may hamper efforts to provide diplomatic and consular protections to them when they are abroad.
Allegiance to which country
It generally is considered that while dual nationals are in the country of which they are citizens that country has a predominant claim on them.
As with Americans who possess only U.S. citizenship, dual national U.S. citizens owe allegiance to the United States and are obliged to obey its laws and regulations. Such persons usually have certain obligations to the other country as well. Although failure to fulfill such obligations may have no adverse effect on dual nationals while in the United States because the other country would have few means to force compliance under those circumstances, dual nationals might be forced to comply with those obligations or pay a penalty if they go to the country of their other citizenship. In cases where dual nationals encounter difficulty in a foreign country of which they are citizens, the ability of U.S. Foreign Service posts to provide assistance may be quite limited since many foreign countries may not recognize a dual national's claim to U.S. citizenship.
Which passport to use?
Section 215 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1185) requires U.S. citizens to use U.S. passports when entering or leaving the United States unless one of the exceptions listed in Section 53.2 of Title 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations applies. (One of these exceptions permits a child under the age of 12, who is included in the foreign passport of a parent who has no claim to U.S. citizenship, to enter the United States without a U.S. passport, provided the child presents evidence of his/her U.S. citizenship when entering the United States.) Dual nationals may be required by the other country of which they are citizens to enter or leave that country using its passport, but do not endanger their U.S. citizenship by complying with such a requirement.
Most countries have laws which specify how a citizen may lose or divest citizenship. Generally, persons who do not wish to maintain dual nationality may renounce the citizenship which they do not want. Information on renouncing a foreign nationality may be obtained from the foreign country's Embassies and Consulates or from the appropriate governmental agency in that country.
Americans may renounce their U.S. citizenship abroad pursuant to Section 349 (a)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act [8 U.S.C. 1481 (a)(5)]. Information on renouncing U.S. citizenship may be obtained from U.S. Embassies and Consulates and the office of Citizens Consular Services, Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20520.
Furthermore, an American citizen who is naturalized as a citizen of another country voluntarily and with intent to abandon his/her allegiance to the United States may so indicate their intent and thereby lose U.S. citizenship. See below for further information.
For further information on dual nationality, see Marjorie M. Whiteman's Digest of International Law (Department of State Publication 8290, released September 1967), Volume 8, pages 64-84.
Potentially expatriating statutes
Section 349 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended, states that U.S. citizens are subject to loss of citizenship if they perform certain acts voluntarily. Briefly stated, these acts include:
(a) obtaining naturalization in a foreign state (Sec. 349(a)(1), INA);
(b) taking an oath, affirmation or other formal declaration of allegiance to a foreign state or its political subdivisions (Sec. 349(a)(2), INA);
(c) entering or serving in the armed forces of a foreign state engaged in hostilities against the U.S. or serving as a commissioned or non-commissioned officer in the armed forces of a foreign state (Sec. 349(a)(3), INA);
(d) accepting employment with a foreign government if:
(i) one has or acquires the nationality of that foreign state;
or (ii) a declaration of allegiance is required in accepting the position (Sec. 349(a)(4), INA);
(e) formally renouncing U.S. citizenship before a U.S. consular officer outside the United States (Sec. 349(a)(5), INA);
(f) formally renouncing U.S. citizenship within the U.S. (but only in time of war) (Sec. 349(a)(6), INA);
(g) conviction for an act of treason (Sec. 349(a)(7), INA).
Administrative standard of evidence
The actions listed above can cause loss of U.S. citizenship only if performed voluntarily and with the intention of relinquishing U.S. citizenship. The Department has a uniform administrative standard of evidence based on the premise that U.S. citizens intend to retain United States citizenship when they obtain naturalization in a foreign state, subscribe to routine declarations of allegiance to a foreign state, or accept non-policy level employment with a foreign government. (See note on policy-level employment, below.)
Disposition of cases when administrative premise is applicable
In light of the administrative premise discussed above, a person who:
(1) is naturalized in a foreign country;
or (2) takes a routine oath of allegiance;
or (3) accepts non-policy level employment with a foreign government
and in so doing wishes to retain U.S. citizenship need not submit prior to the commission of a potentially expatriating act a statement or evidence of his or her intent to retain U.S. citizenship since such an intent will be presumed.
When such cases come to the attention of a U.S. consular officer, for example, the person concerned applies for a new passport, he/she is required to submit with the application a supplementary explanatory signed statement to ascertain his/her intent towards U.S. citizenship. Accordingly, the consular officer will certify that it was not the person's intent to relinquish U.S. citizenship and, consequently, find that the person has retained U.S. citizenship. Evidence of how and when the foreign nationality was acquired should be presented with the statement.
Disposition of cases when administrative premise is inapplicable
The premise that a person intends to retain U.S. citizenship is not applicable when the individual:
(1) formally renounces U.S. citizenship before a consular officer;
or (2) takes a policy level position in a foreign state;
or (3) is convicted of treason;
or (4) performs an act made potentially expatriating by statute accompanied by conduct which is so inconsistent with retention of U.S. citizenship that it compels a conclusion that the individual intended to relinquish U.S. citizenship. (Such cases are very rare.)
Cases in categories 2, 3 and 4 will be developed carefully by U.S. consular officers to ascertain the individual’s intent towards U.S. citizenship.
What is policy level employment?
As a general rule, policy level employment would include, but not be limited to, the following high government positions: head of state or government, member of a national legislature, top positions in executive agencies, and diplomatic representatives down to even relatively low positions.
Persons who wish to relinquish U.S. citizenship
An individual who has performed any of the acts made potentially expatriating by statute who wishes to lose U.S. citizenship may do so by affirming in writing to a U.S. consular officer that the act was performed with an intent to relinquish U.S. citizenship.
This can be done by signing a "Statement of Voluntary Relinquishment of U.S. Nationality" in the presence of a U.S. consular officer, or by submitting a signed statement executed before a Notary Public or a Court Magistrate. In any case, evidence of foreign citizenship (original copy) and U.S. citizenship must be presented to a U.S. consular officer as outlined above.
A person always has the option of seeking to formally renounce U.S. citizenship in accordance with Section 349(a)(5), INA. Please consult the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General in your consular district for details.
We strongly recommend that a person who wishes to sign the "Statement of Voluntary Relinquishment of U.S. Nationality" do so before a consular officer, to ensure that the statement is clear and unequivocal as to the person's intent. With respect to renunciation, in every case the renunciation must be done in person before a consular officer.
Applicability of administrative premise to past cases
The premise established by the administrative standard of evidence is applicable to cases previously adjudicated by the Department. Persons who previously lost U.S. citizenship may wish to have their cases reconsidered in light of this policy. A person may initiate such a reconsideration by submitting a request to the nearest U.S. consular office or by writing directly to:
Chief, East Asia and Pacific Division
Office of American Citizens Services
(CA/OCS/ACS/EAP), Room 4811
Department of State
Washington D.C. 20520-4818
Each case will be reviewed on its own merits taking into consideration, for example, statements made by the person at the time of the potentially expatriating act. (See “Review of Loss of U.S. Nationality”.)
When a person is naturalized in a foreign state (or otherwise possesses another nationality) and is thereafter found not to have lost U.S. citizenship, the individual consequently may possess dual nationality. It is prudent, however, to check with authorities of the other country to see if dual nationality is permissible under local law. The United States does not favor dual nationality as a matter of policy, but does recognize its existence in individual cases.
(1) 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.
(2) Through birth abroad to TWO US citizens
In most cases, you are a U.S. citizen if ALL of the following are true:
bullet 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 an "Application for Certificate of Citizenship" (Form N-600) with INS to get a Certificate of Citizenship. Call the INS 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:
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 INS 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) By Qualifying under the Child Citizenship Act 2000
On October 30, 2000, President Clinton signed into law H.R. 2883, the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. Read more about this.