Under U.S. immigration law, there are three ways to obtain citizenship
Generally, people born in the United States are considered to be U.S. citizens. In addition, under certain circumstances, persons can acquire or derive U.S. citizenship through their parents, and sometimes, even through their grandparents. Persons who satisfy the requirements of naturalization are eligible for citizenship. Naturalized citizens receive all of the rights, privileges and responsibilities that citizenship entails.Although there are exceptions, most applicants for naturalization must fulfill age, residence, physical presence, and good moral character requirements. Specifically, most naturalization applicants must have been a permanent resident and have maintained a residence in the United States continuously for five years since obtaining permanent resident status. Persons with permanent resident status living in marital union for three years with a U.S. citizen spouse are eligible for citizenship. Although overseas travel is permitted after applying for citizenship, a U.S. residence must be maintained between filing for naturalization and obtaining citizenship. There are special procedures which apply to military veterans and individuals currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces and they may be exempt from some of the general requirements.
Most applicants must reside for three months in the state of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) district of filing
Additionally, most applicants must have been physically present in the United States at least half of the required time period prior to filing, i.e., either half of five or three years. Absences from the United States of over six months, but less than one year, during either the five or three year periods break the continuity of residence, unless the applicant can prove that residence was not abandoned. Absences of over one year break the period of required residence where the applicant does not obtain the USCIS’ approval of an application to preserve residence. Applications may be filed no more than 90 days before the applicant’s fifth or third anniversary date as a permanent resident.
All naturalization applicants must demonstrate good moral character.
Good moral character is determined not only by an examination of the applicant’s police records but also general conduct. Some behavior, such as failure to pay child support or taxes, certain driving offenses, and criminal convictions can result in a finding that an applicant lacks the required good moral character for American citizenship. Literacy, civics and the oath requirements.
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