Becoming a U.S. Citizen
A person can be or become a U.S. citizen in several ways:
- You are born in one of the United States or it's territories
- Your parents are both U.S. citizens at the time of your birth
- You are naturalized apply and become a U.S. citizen
- Both of your parents are naturalized when you are a minor
Applying for U.S. Citizenship
To apply for citizenship, a person must meet many factors, such as:
- You lived in the U.S. as a legal permanent resident for at least five years
- You were present in the U.S. for half of those years
- You are 18 years or older
- You did not make any other country your permanent home during the time you resided in the United States
- You have good character
Forms for U.S. Citizenship
You must fill out the immigration form appropriate to your situation, and submit it along with a copy of your green card, required photographs, and a fee. There are many forms for citizenship applications including N-600, N-600K, N-643, etc. See an immigration lawyer to determine which form is right for you.
U.S. Citizenship Interview
After applying for citizenship, the applicant is scheduled for an interview with the BCIS (formerly known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Because of the great backlog of cases in the BCIS, the applicant will most likely receive an interview after at least 90 days has passed since the application was filed. Most applicants do not receive an interview for many months after they apply. The interview will be conducted in English unless you qualify for a few very specific exceptions.
The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS)
Before September 2002, the agency that was charged with overseeing immigration issues was the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). In September 2002, Congress passed and President Bush signed the Homeland Security Act, transferring the powers of the INS to the Department of Homeland Security. The immigration and citizenship service functions of the INS are now placed under the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS).
When an individual takes actions to become a legal U.S citizen, this is called naturalization. In most circumstances, the person seeking to be naturalized has held a green card / permanent visa for a long period of time before she or he takes the steps towards naturalization.
What if Only One Parent was a U.S. Citizen at the Time of Birth?
Depending on when you were born, and which of your parents was the U.S. citizen, you may have had U.S. citizenship passed to you. The United States Congress and the United States Supreme Court have changed the citizenship laws many times throughout the last century. Thus, if you were born one year to one U.S. citizen parent and one non-citizen parent, the laws determining whether you are or are not a citizen can be different than if you were born the year prior. Check with an immigration lawyer for more information.
Should I see an Immigration Attorney if I Want to Apply for U.S. Citizenship?
The application and interview process for U.S. citizenship is lengthy and time consuming. Additionally the procedural rules of the BCIS are extremely strict. An immigration attorney can help you sift through the very detailed requirements and make your application process move smoothly. An immigration attorney can also help you prepare for the interview and collect all the proper documentation for the application. For people who are uncertain if they already are U.S. citizens, an immigration attorney can help determine which citizenship law applies to your situation.
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Last Modified: 01-16-2013 03:20 PM PST
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