US Immigration News

Paths to Becoming a US Citizen

2.75 minute read
"As an immigrant in the United States, US citizenship is the presumed end goal of your immigration journey. There are tremendous benefits to becoming a citizen of the United States. While being born on American soil automatically grants you US citizenship, there are other ways too to obtain citizenship for foreign nationals."
Written by My Visa Source Team
Published on:  Jun 25, 2021
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As an immigrant in the United States, US citizenship is the presumed end goal of your immigration journey. There are tremendous benefits to becoming a citizen of the United States. While being born on American soil automatically grants you US citizenship, there are other ways too to obtain citizenship for foreign nationals.

What Are the Different Ways to Obtain US Citizenship?

There are 4 main ways to obtain US citizenship:

  • Citizenship by Birth in the US
  • Citizenship through Acquisition 
  • Citizenship through Derivation
  • Citizenship through Naturalization

What Is Citizenship through Birth?

According to US law, any individual born within the US borders, including its territories, is automatically granted US citizenship. Only children of citizens who are foreign diplomats or members of a sovereign Native American tribe are exempt from this law. The 14th Amendment of the US Constitution states that all persons born or naturalized in the US, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the US. This pathway is not for foreign nationals who wish to obtain US citizenship. 

What Is Citizenship through Acquisition?

An individual can automatically acquire US citizenship even if they were born overseas if at least one of their parents was a US citizen at the time of birth and if certain other conditions are met. The children of this individual may also acquire US citizenship at birth if:

  • Both parents were US citizens at the time of birth, were married at the time of birth and at least 1 of them lived in the US or its territories before the birth of the child
  • One parent was a US citizen at the time of birth, the child was born after November 14, 1986, and the parents were married at the time of birth. The US citizen parent must have also been physically present in the US or its territories for at least 5 years at some point in their life before the child was born and at least 2 years must be after they turned 14

To get a certificate for acquired US citizenship, one must file Form N-400, Application for Certificate of Citizenship.

What Is Citizenship Through Derivation?

When an immigrant parent becomes a US citizen through naturalization, his/her dependent children can derive US citizenship from their parent, given they are also permanent residents at the time. Also, children who gain US citizenship through derivation are not required to attend the Naturalization ceremony. Children of immigrants who are under the age of 18 must meet the following requirements to derive US citizenship:

  • Must be a lawful permanent resident at the time 
  • At least 1 parent must be a US citizen
  • The child must be physically present in the US in the legal custody of the US citizen parent

What Is Citizenship Through Naturalization?

Naturalization is the process by which foreign nationals can gain US citizenship. They will be required to meet certain requirements including being 18 years or older and fall into one of the following categories:

  • Spent 5 years as a lawful permanent resident
  • Spent 3 years as a lawful permanent resident in marital union with a US citizen spouse for at least 3 years
  • Qualifying service record in the US Armed Forces

One can start the naturalization process by filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization if they fit into one of the above-mentioned categories.

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