Becoming a citizen of the United States is a privilege and an honor. It carries both rights and responsibilities. There is more than one way to gain United States citizenship.
Citizenship through Birth
To become a citizen at birth one must have been born in the United States or one of its territories or possessions. Citizenship may also be acquired if someone was born abroad, depending upon the citizenship of the parents, in addition to meeting other requirements.
Citizenship through Naturalization
Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). These include being able to read, write, and speak English, as well as having knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government. Additional standards require that a naturalized citizen be of good moral character and personal history. The naturalized citizen must also take an oath of allegiance to the U.S. and its constitution.
Lawful permanent residents can apply for citizenship after having maintained permanent resident status for a minimum of 5 years. This is providing they meet the physical presence requirements, as well as the aforementioned requirements.
Citizenship through Marriage
If a permanent resident is married to and been living with the same U.S. citizen spouse for at least 3 years, the permanent resident can apply for naturalization. The application can be made after only 3 years of permanent resident status, as long as all other eligibility requirements are met.
Citizenship through Military Service
Foreign nationals or permanent residents who have or are serving in the U.S. armed forces may be eligible for citizenship through their military service. The time period one has to serve before being eligible is generally less than for non-military applicants. This can potentially range from a minimum of 1 day to 1 year, as long as service was deemed honorable. However, there are other requirements that must be met.
Spouses and/or children of U.S. citizen military members or veterans may also be eligible to apply for naturalization.
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