A person born in the United States who is subject to the jurisdiction of the United States is a U.S. citizen at birth.
For people not born in the United States, naturalization is the process of becoming a U.S. citizen by meeting certain requirements and filing an application, Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Generally, one must:
Be 18 or older at the time of filing;
Be a lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder) for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing;
Have lived within the state for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing;
Have continuous residence in the United States as a Green Card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application;
Be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application;
Reside continuously within the United States from the date of filing up to the time of naturalization;
Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (civics);
Be a person of good moral character during all relevant periods under the law.
If you are married to and living with a U.S. citizen, you may file for naturalization after only 3 years, instead of the usual 5 years.
In certain situations, a person need not apply to become a citizen because after a close examination of their circumstances, we discover that they are already a U.S. citizen by operation law. In general, an individual born outside the United States to at least one U.S. citizen parent (who met certain physical presence requirements in the United States prior to the child's birth) is a U.S. citizen. Or, a person born outside the United States automatically becomes a U.S. citizen if on or after February 27, 2001:
The child has at least one parent, including an adoptive parent who is a U.S. citizen by birth or through naturalization;
The child is under 18 years of age;
The child is a lawful permanent resident (green card holder), and;
The child is residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent.
In these situations, a person does not apply for naturalization, instead they file Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship, asking USCIS to recognize and issue a certificate confirming that they are already a United States citizen.
The laws relating to naturalization and citizenship can be particularly confusing and competent counsel is important. I can help you determine if you are already a U.S. citizen, and if not, decide not only if you meet the basic requirements to file for naturalization, but also if it is in your best interest to apply, what the likelihood of success is, or if there are any issues in your immigration or criminal history that suggest filing an application is unwise.
Contact the Law Offices of Michael Kohler, PLLC to schedule an appointment to discuss these and other potential issues.