Becoming an American citizen carries both privileges, rights, and responsibilities. It's a big decision to make, but one about which many immigrants have thought strongly and for which have made many sacrifices. Gopal Shah, an experienced Immigration attorney in citizenship and naturalization process based in Berkeley, California, knows first-hand about the privileges, rights, and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship. An immigrant himself, he knows the sacrifices families make to get here to become citizens. Contact his office today to learn more about how he can help you if you want to become a U.S. citizen, too.
How Can You Become a U.S. Citizen?
There are four ways to become a U.S. citizen, and these four ways include birth, acquisition, derivation, and naturalization.
1. Citizenship through Birth. The Fourteenth Amendment under the U.S. Constitution automatically grants citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil, including any person born in Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands. When born with citizenship, citizenship cannot be taken away from you.
2. Citizenship through Acquisition. A child can acquire citizenship even if he or she is born outside the United States if one or both parents were or are U.S. citizens during his birth.
3. Citizenship through Derivation. When a parent naturalizes, the children derive U.S. citizenship automatically when the parent naturalizes. There are three requirements that must be satisfied for children to become citizens through derivation:
- You must be unmarried and under 18.
- The child must be a U.S. lawful permanent resident.
- The child must have at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen (through the naturalization process).
- The child must be residing with the U.S. parent in the United States (and the U.S. parent must have legal and physical custody).
4. Citizenship through Naturalization. Naturalization is a process where non-citizens living in the United States voluntarily become U.S. citizens. The general requirements to become a naturalized citizen include the following:
- the applicant must be 18 years old or older; and
- the applicant must have been a permanent resident for five years; or
- the applicant must have been a permanent resident for at least 3 years while married and living with a U.S. citizen spouse for at least 3 years; or
- the applicant served or serves in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Naturalization is the most common way for a non-citizen to become a citizen. To start the naturalization process, a permanent resident must file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
Who is Eligible for Naturalization?
To be eligible to naturalize and become a U.S. citizen, there are certain qualifications and requirements expected of you, which go above and beyond what was listed above. In addition to your age and length of time you've been in the United States as a permanent resident, you must also:
- pass an English test, though there are exceptions;
- pass a civic and history test specific to the United States, though there are exceptions;
- have been physically present in the U.S. either on a continual basis or for the majority of the statutory period;
- be a person of good moral character;
- have lived in the state where you file the N-400 form for at least three months directly before filing the application; and
- support the U.S. Constitution and the United States government.
Though there is a form to complete, some people may think the process is relatively straight forward. That is true in part, but the process is also nuanced and different rules may apply when different circumstances are present or arise. It's always important to seek the counsel of an experienced citizenship attorney to make sure you are eligible and that your application is completed fully, accurately, and persuasively.
What are the Steps to Citizenship?
The steps to citizenship include only a few – it's the waiting that takes the longest. These steps include:
- Determining eligibility
- Completing the N-400 form
- Submitting the form along with the filing fee and supporting documentation
- Receiving a bio-metrics notice and appearing for a bio-metrics appointment
- Attending a naturalization interview, which includes the English test and a test on U.S. civics and history
- Receiving an oath notice in the mail, which informs you when and where your swearing-in ceremony will occur.
On the day of your swearing-in, you become a U.S. citizen.
Can U.S. Citizenship be Revoked?
Unlike those who become citizens by birth, naturalized citizens can have their U.S. citizenship revoked under certain circumstances, which include:
- You procured naturalization illegally, meaning you weren't actually eligible in the first place.
- You concealed a material fact or willfully misrepresented yourself and naturalization was procured based on the concealment or misrepresentation.
- You are a member or affiliated with certain organizations, like the Communist party, another totalitarian party, or a terrorist organization within five years of naturalization.
- You were a member of the U.S. military but were dishonorably discharged before you served five years – examples of dishonorable discharge include desertion, sexual assault, or court-martial.
With respect to the above, especially the first two reasons, it is very important to speak to an attorney. For example, you may think it is okay to conceal something you believe to be insignificant but later find out that it was a serious mistake that could cost you citizenship.
Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney in California Today
The process to obtain U.S. citizenship can be stressful and confusing. With the guidance of an experienced immigration attorney, the process can be easier on you, more efficient overall, and likelier to succeed. Don't hesitate to contact Gopal Shah today at (510) 402-4570 to schedule a consultation to discuss becoming a U.S. citizen.