US Citizenship

United States Citizenship

A citizen of the United States is a native-born, foreign-born, or naturalized person who owes allegiance to the United States and who is entitled to its protection. In addition to the naturalization process, the United States recognizes the U.S. citizenship of individuals according to two fundamental principles: jus soli, or right of birthplace, and jus sanguinis, or right of blood.


RECOMMENDED: Should I Consider U.S. Citizenship? | USCIS


The law states that in order to file a naturalization application, the applicant must be at least 18 years old. The applicant must be an LPR (lawful permanent resident) in accordance with the immigration laws. Individuals who have legal permanent status will be asked to produce an I-551, Alien Registration Receipt Card, as proof of their status. The applicant is eligible to file for naturalization if the following conditions are met:


  • They have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence, and;
  • They have been living continuously as an LPR in the U.S. for at least 5 years prior to filing without an absence from the United States of more than one year.


RECOMMENDED: 10 Steps to Naturalization | USCIS

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Application Process & Requirements

The applicant must show that they have been a person of good moral character for the statutory period (typically five years or three years if married to a U.S. citizen) prior to filing for naturalization. The applicant is permanently barred from naturalization if they have ever been convicted of murder, or of an aggravated felony as defined in section 101(a)(43) of the Immigration and Nationality Act on or around November 29, 1990. During the statutory period those who indulge in habitual, heavy drinking, practice polygamy, willfully fail to support their dependents, have been confined to penal institutions, among other such acts; cannot be regarded as a person of good moral character and thus may be also barred from naturalization.

Nevertheless, an applicant must disclose all the relevant facts to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service, including their entire criminal history, although this history could disqualify them. The applicant must show that they are attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States. Applicants for naturalization must be able to read, write, speak, and understand the English language. However, some applicants are exempt from this requirement. An exemption may be granted if the following conditions are met:

  • If they are 55 years of age and have been residing in the United States after an LPR status for periods totaling 15 years or more.
  • If they are 50 years of age and have been residing in the United States after an LPR status for periods totaling 20 years or more.
  • Or if they have a medically proven physical or mental impairment, where the impairment affects the applicant's ability to learn English.

All applicants for naturalization must demonstrate basic knowledge and understanding of the history of the country and of the principles and form of government of the United States. Some applicants are exempt from this requirement (see above).

RECOMMENDED: The 2020 Version of the Civics Test | USCIS

To become a citizen, one must take the oath of allegiance. By taking the oath, an applicant swears to support the Constitution and obey the laws of the U.S., renounce any foreign allegiance and/or foreign title, and swear to bear arms for the Armed Forces of the U.S. or perform services for the government of the U.S. when required.

Filing for U.S. citizenship requires completion of Form N-400. In addition to the filing fees, the applicant needs to submit a copy of the Permanent Resident Card.

Spouses of U.S. Citizens

The applicant who has been an LPR for three (3) years and has been married to and residing with the same U.S. citizen for the past three (3) years may file for naturalization. The U.S. spouse must also have been a citizen for all three (3) years and meets all the physical presence and residence requirements.


There are also exceptions for LPRs married to U.S. citizens stationed or employed abroad. Some lawful permanent residents may not have to comply with the residence or physical presence requirements when the U.S. citizen spouse is employed by one of the following:


  • The U.S. Government (including the U.S. Armed Forces).
  • American research institutes recognized by the Attorney General.
  • U.S. research institutions or;
  • An American firm engaged in the development of foreign trade and commerce of the United States.

Citizenship via Parents at Birth or after Birth

Generally, U.S. citizen parents of children born abroad may file an N-600 Application for Certificate of Citizenship. This form must be accompanied by copies of any documents that verify eligibility, and the required filing fee, to be considered complete and ready to process.

It is important to note that children born abroad of U.S. citizen parents derive citizenship from their parents. The Certificate of Citizenship is merely a record of citizenship; it does not confer citizenship on an applicant.

RECOMMENDED: U.S. Citizens at Birth (INA 301 and 309) | USCIS

Adopted children of citizen parents acquire citizenship. For adopted children, adoptive parents file an N-643 instead of an N-600. However, adopted children over 18 must file an N-400.


The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA) amended INA 320 and removed INA 321 to create only one statutory provision and method for children in the United States to automatically acquire citizenship after birth. According to INA 320, a child born outside of the United States automatically becomes a U.S. citizen when all of the following conditions have been met on or after February 27, 2001:

  • The person is a child of a parent who is a U.S. citizen by birth or through naturalization (including an adoptive parent);
  • The child is under 18 years of age;
  • The child is a lawful permanent resident (LPR); and
  • The child is residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent.

RECOMMENDED: Automatic Acquisition of Citizenship after Birth (INA 320) | USCIS

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Veterans of U.S. Armed Forces

Applicants who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces are eligible to file for naturalization based on current or prior U.S. military service. Such applicants should file the N-400 with a Military Naturalization Packet.

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LPRs with Three (3) Years U.S. Military Service

Any applicant, who has served for three (3) years in the U.S. military, who is a lawful permanent resident the time of their examination on the application is excused from any specific period of required residence, period of residence in any specific place, or physical presence within the United States. This applies if an application for naturalization is filed while the applicant is still serving or within six (6) months of an honorable discharge or have served honorably or separated under honorable conditions and can establish good moral character if service was discontinuous or not honorable. Applicants who file for naturalization more than six (6) months after termination of three (3) years of service in the U.S. military may count any periods of honorable service as residence and physical presence in the United States.

An applicant who has served honorably during any of the following periods of conflict is entitled to certain considerations:

  • World War I - 4/16/1917 to 11/11/1918.
  • World War II - 9/1/1939 to 12/31/1946.
  • Korean Conflict - 6/25/1950 to 7/1/1955.
  • Vietnam Conflict - 2/28/1961 to 10/15/1978.
  • Operation Desert Shield/ Desert Storm - 8/29/1990 to 4/11/1991; or
  • Any other period which the President, by Executive Order, has designated as a period in which the Armed Forces of the United States are or were engaged in military operations involving armed conflict with hostile foreign forces.

Applicants who have served during any of the aforementioned conflicts may apply for naturalization based on military service after qualifying service and the requirements for specific periods of physical presence in the United States and residence in the United States are waived.

When an interview has been scheduled with USCIS, our office will schedule a time for each client to review their case and to prepare them for the questions that will be asked during their interview. We also offer representation to accompany clients to their interviews for peace of mind. Attorney appearance encourages the USCIS officer to remain professional and courteous and keep to relevant issues.