There are various ways a person can become a United States citizen. Typically, they are covered in the following areas:
- Birth in the United States, including certain territories or outlying possessions of the United States
- Birth abroad acquired through the citizenship of either one or both parent
- Military involvement
Generally speaking, in order to apply for naturalization, you must have obtained lawful permanent resident status for either 3 years (if LPR status is based upon marriage), or 5 years if LPR status acquired in another manner. You are permitted to apply for naturalization three months prior to the 3 or 5 year point in your lawful permanent status. The naturalization process requires that you have resided in the U.S. for more than one-half of the requisite time period and that you have no continuous absences of six months or more. You also must satisfy the officer that you have good moral character. An interview is required for this process and you must prove that you have a good understanding of the English language and U.S. civics as evidenced by passing a test administered by an immigration officer. There are variables involved depending on your circumstances and exceptions may apply to either the civics or English requirements
A United States citizen has various benefits including an unlimited ability to travel; estate planning benefits and the opportunity to vote. Some citizens can even maintain their own citizenship in their home country after becoming a United States citizenship.
Processing timelines vary, though usually the entire process doesn’t take more than six months from start to finish. An experienced attorney can guide you through the process and explain the details of the law to determine which method is proper under your circumstances.