“Naturalization” is the way that a foreign national (who must usually be a permanent resident or at least a US visa holder) obtains his/her United States citizenship. An experienced immigration attorney will advise you as to which of the available paths to naturalization will be most efficient, and will also guide you through the various naturalization requirements in the Immigration and Nationality Act, or INA. Note that citizenship is granted domestically, although military members and families may occasionally be naturalized abroad.
US Citizenship / Naturalization Qualifications
In addition to the basic citizenship qualifications, typical requirements for naturalization include the following:
- You have been a permanent resident, i.e. have held a green card, for at least 5 years (or at least 3 years if you are married to a US citizen), or
- You serve or have served in the US military, or
- You were born abroad, but to a US citizen, and currently reside in the US
This list is not exhaustive, so other paths to naturalization may be available even if none of the above apply. Consultation with a qualified immigration attorney is a crucial step in choosing the right path toward naturalization.
From US Visa Holder to Naturalized Citizen
Your path to becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States starts with your submission of the Application for Naturalization (Form N-400), with which your immigration attorney will assist you. Please keep in mind that if your parent(s), whether biological or adoptive, was naturalized before you reached 18 years of age, it is possible that you are already a citizen of the United States.