United States citizenship is what gives an individual as many rights as the country has to offer under its laws. A United States citizen has several privileges, such as:

  • The right to vote;
  • The right to petition for other family members to immigrate to the United States to become citizens as well; and
  • The right to live in different countries without losing the right to return back to the States.

Becoming a citizen also grants many freedoms and privileges under the United States Constitution and applicable federal and state laws. Nevertheless, it is essential to mention that citizenship also imposes many obligations, such as serving on a jury when ordered and paying taxes.

How Do I Become A United States Citizen?

Naturalization is the immigration process in which an individual becomes a United States citizen. It is the only way an individual can become a United States Citizen if they were not born a U.S. citizen or did not obtain citizenship immediately after they were born.

Only a person with a permanent visa, more commonly known as a green card, may apply for naturalization. Naturalization can be a lengthy and complicated process, as the applicant must submit various forms and documents to prove their eligibility.

A person is considered to be a United States citizen by birth if they were born within the borders of the United States, including U.S. territories such as:

  1. Guam;
  2. Puerto Rico; and
  3. The Virgin Islands.

Further, those born abroad may be United States citizens at birth if both of their parents are U.S. citizens at the time of their birth. The same applies if at least one of their parents lived in the States during their lifetime. Additionally, a person may be a United States citizen at birth if one of their parents is a U.S. citizen, although this is subject to additional requirements.

There are several requirements to become a naturalized citizen of the United States. Examples include, but may not be limited to:

  • The ability to read, write, and speak English;
  • Knowledge and understanding of United States history and government;
  • Good moral character;
  • An attachment to the ideals of the United States Constitution;
  • A generally favorable disposition towards the United States; and
  • A continued physical presence or residence in the United States for a specified period, which may differ according to visa specifics.

What Else Should I Know About United States Citizenship?

Depending on when you were born and which of your parents was a United States citizen, you may have had U.S. citizenship passed to you. The United States Congress and the United States Supreme Court have altered citizenship laws many times. If you were born during a specific year to one U.S. citizen parent and one non-citizen parent, the laws determining whether you are a citizen could differ from those born the year earlier.

To reiterate, the naturalization application process may take up to 6 months to complete from the time of application. To ensure that your application is not returned to you before it is thoroughly evaluated, it is vital to ensure that all requested information is included, such as:

  • The naturalization application;
  • Having current photographs and fingerprints taken;
  • Being interviewed, after which you will know whether your application has been approved; and
  • Taking the Oath of Allegiance.

Honesty is an integral part of the naturalization process. If you have been convicted of a crime, even if that conviction has been expunged, the details of such a charge must be revealed to the USCIS. If you conceal or falsify information, the USCIS may deny your application.

Your time as a lawful permanent resident (“LPR”) begins on the date that you were granted LPS status. This status is indicated on your Permanent Resident Card, previously known as the Alien Registration Card.

The amount of time it takes to become a naturalized citizen differs for each individual applicant but is typically between 5 to 7 years. This is because each applicant must wait five years from the date they obtained their LPR status before they may file for the naturalization process. Once their application has been filed, it can take up to 2 years to finish the naturalization filing process, including the required interviews and tests.

A person becomes a United States citizen on the date they take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. This Oath is typically administered in a formal ceremony, and the date will be recorded on the citizen’s Certificate of Naturalization.

What Is “Aging Out”?

“Aging out” refers to immigration cases where a person turns 21 while applying to become a lawful permanent resident as a “child.” Under federal law, a person can become a legal permanent resident if they are the child of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Usually, this individual is unmarried and under 21.

What Is the Child Status Protection Act?

The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) of 2002 stops your child from “aging out.” If you are a U.S. Citizen, your child will not “age out.” Nevertheless, if you are a legal permanent resident, you should check with your local immigration office to determine if and when your child will “age out.” The CSPA changed the determination of who could be considered a “child” for visa purposes. The CSPA took effect on August 6, 2002.

Before that, any beneficiary who reached the age of 21 before obtaining permanent residency could not be considered legally a “child.” Because there are often lengthy backlogs in the time it takes for residency to be processed, the United States Congress changed the legal age of a child to account for these factors.

According to the CSPA, the age of the beneficiary who is applying based on parental status now freezes at the time of filing. Applicants can be considered under the “child” classification even if they have turned 21 while waiting for the application to be processed.

I Am a U.S. Citizen. What Do I Do to Prevent My Child From “Aging Out”?

If you are a U. S. citizen, you should file Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) for your child before they turn 21. Once you have done that, they will be deemed a child for immigration purposes even if the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not take action on the petition before your child turns 21.

I Am a Lawful Permanent Resident. What Do I Do to Prevent My Child From “Aging Out”?

If you are a legal permanent resident, you should also file Form I-130 before your child turns 21. Under the CSPA, your child’s age will be calculated by using the date that the priority date of Form I-130 becomes current and subtracting the number of days that the I-130 is pending. Also, your child must try to get lawful permanent resident status within a year of visa availability.

Do I Need an Experienced Immigration Law Attorney?

An immigration lawyer would be able to go over and discuss the applicable laws with you. A lawyer would be able to determine if your child has or has not aged out based on the CSPA. Also, a lawyer would be able to help you deal with any immigration officials or government agencies that you may encounter.