Most people born in the United States are U.S. citizens simply by virtue of their birth in the United States or certain incorporated territories. Others acquire U.S. citizenship if they are born abroad, so long as one or both parents are U.S. citizens.

Still others – minors, for example — can obtain U.S. citizenship when one of the minor’s parents naturalizes. If one parent is a citizen by birth or naturalization; the child is under 18; the child is a green card holder; and the child is in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the citizen parent, then the child automatically becomes a U.S. citizen immediately upon the grant of lawful permanent residency. In such a situation, there are two ways to obtain proof of U.S. citizenship: apply for a certificate of citizenship from the
USCIS; or apply for a U.S. passport directly with the U.S. Department of State.

U.S. citizenship can also be obtained by naturalization. The criteria to for naturalization include:

  • green card status for a minimum of 5 years (3 if married to a U.S. citizen);
  • 18 years of age, at minimum;
  • residence for at least 3 months in the state one is residing in when the petition is filed;
  • presence in the United States for at least 2 ½ years plus 1 day out of the 5 years
  • before the filing of the application; or 1 ½ years plus 1 day if eligible to apply as a spouse of a U.S. citizen;
  • continuous residence in the United States
  • good moral character for 5 years prior to the filing of the application (3 years if married to a US citizen;
  • passing score in the history and civics examination;
  • English language competency;
  • a willingness to bear arms or perform noncombat service or work of national importance if and when asked; and
  • a commitment to uphold the principles of the Constitution.


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