How Do You Become a U.S. Citizen?
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There are four ways to become a U.S. Citizen
1. To be born in the United States.
Since the passage of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1868, the United States has maintained a policy of “birthright citizenship,” meaning that every child born on U.S. soil (including U.S. territories) is automatically a U.S. citizen. This is true regardless of the parents’ immigration status and regardless of how much time the child spends in the U.S.
If you are a parent who has a child born in the United States, that child is and will always be a U.S. citizen. Be sure to obtain a birth certificate and social security card for your child, which can be done at the hospital as soon as they are born.
If anyone attempts to prevent your U.S.-born child from obtaining a birth certificate or social security card, or if anyone attempts to charge fees for applying for or obtaining a birth certificate or social security card, or if your U.S.-born child is denied a birth certificate or social security card for any reason, it is recommended that you speak with an attorney as soon as possible.
2. To be born to a U.S. citizen parent while outside of the United States.
In most but not all cases, if a U.S. citizen gives birth to a child while outside of the United States, that child is still a U.S. citizen.
3. To have a Green Card and then apply to naturalize as a U.S. Citizen.
If you were not born as a U.S. citizen and wish to become one, you must first obtain a Green Card, meaning that you are a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). In U.S. immigration law, for non-citizens, almost all paths to U.S. citizenship require first obtaining a Green Card.
Anyone who has had their Green Card for at least 4 years and 9 months should be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship; some people are eligible to apply earlier, based on marital status or U.S. military service. Eligibility to apply for citizenship does not guarantee that you will be granted citizenship. Citizenship applications can be denied for various reasons, including past violations of criminal or civil law. Most applicants are also required to pass an English language test and a U.S. civics test.
If you are a Green Card holder interested in becoming a U.S. citizen, use Immigrant Dignity’s Become a U.S. Citizen questionnaire to see if you might be eligible. If you are interested in obtaining a Green Card, use Immigrant Dignity’s Obtain a Green Card questionnaire to see if you might be eligible.
4. To join the U.S. military.
Enlisting in the United States military is the only way that an immigrant can become a U.S. citizen without first obtaining a Green Card. For more information, read this article.