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What Are 5 Uncommon Paths to US Citizenship?

2.75 minute read
"Everyone is aware of the most common pathway to obtain United States citizenship, that is, applying for lawful permanent residence before naturalizing as a US citizen. However, there are several other uncommon pathways to US citizenship that most people are unaware of."
Written by My Visa Source Team
Published on:  Aug 22, 2021
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Everyone is aware of the most common pathway to obtain United States citizenship, that is, applying for lawful permanent residence before naturalizing as a US citizen. However, there are several other uncommon pathways to US citizenship that most people are unaware of. 

The most common way to gain permanent residence in the US is through family-based petitions. Permanent residence can also be applied through employment-based visas, asylum/refugee status and on certain humanitarian grounds. There are also ways to apply for citizenship through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders and undocumented arrivals. 

Gaining permanent residence in the United States opens up the pathway to become a US citizen through the naturalization process after 5 years of continuous physical residence in the country.

What Are the Most Uncommon Pathways for US Citizenship?

US Nationals: 

A US national is not a US citizen. A US national is someone born in American Samoa and Swains Island. They have a direct pathway to becoming a US citizen without applying for permanent residence first. They must meet certain eligibility requirements regarding continuous residence in the US to qualify. However, time spent in American Samoa and Swains Island does not count towards the residence requirement. 

Widow(er) of a US Citizen: 

Foreign nationals who were married to US citizens at the time of their death are eligible to apply for permanent residence in the US, given that they can prove that the marriage was in good faith and not solely for immigration benefits. 

As permanent residents, they can apply for US citizenship through the naturalization process by filing Form N-400 after 5 years of continuous residence. Before October 28, 2009, the immigration law required the spouse to be married to a US citizen for at least 2 years to qualify for permanent residency. However, now the applicant may apply after any length of the marriage.

VAWA Self Petitioner: 

The federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows victims of battery or assault to extreme cruelty by certain family members to apply for lawful permanent residence. The victim can self-petition under the act by filing Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. This means that they do not require consent or support from the abusive family member. This gives them a clear path to US citizenship after 5 years of residence.

DACA and Other Undocumented Immigrants: 

The DACA program itself is not a pathway to permanent residence. However, many DACA recipients can obtain permanent residence through family-based and employment-based petitions. It is not uncommon for a DACA recipient to get married to a US citizen.

An undocumented immigrant who entered the US lawfully can also apply for permanent residence. Your entry is considered lawful if you entered with a valid visa and failed to return after it expired. However, if you did not make a lawful entry, then it is best to contact an immigration lawyer to obtain a Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility.

US Military Path to US Citizenship: 

The USCIS extends special provisions of immigration law that allow them to expedite the processing of naturalization for certain US army veterans and armed forces members on active duty.

Immigrants serving in the US army or that have been honorably discharged within 6 months can apply to expedite the processing of their naturalization application. However, they will be required to meet other additional requirements for service members to be eligible for naturalization.

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