Most immigrants are familiar with the general principals and requirements of becoming a U.S. citizen by naturalization. These requirements include a minimum age of 18, continuous residency in the United States as a Lawful Permanent Resident for five years (three years if married to a U.S. citizen) good moral character, attachment to the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. form of government, basic literacy in the English language, knowledge of U.S. history and civics as well as an oath of allegiance to the United States.
As well known, as these basic requirements are most immigrants are unfamiliar with the not so ordinary paths to U.S. citizenship. The law includes special provisions that permit several different classes of persons to become U.S. citizens outside of the basic naturalization process. These paths include:
Citizenship At Birth
The Constitution provides that all persons born in the U.S. are citizens. This generally includes Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. There are exceptions to this general rule: children born in the U.S. to foreign heads of state, to diplomats on the "Blue List" on foreign vessels in U.S. waters; and in certain U.S. possessions (individuals born in possessions or territories are considered nationals).
In addition, individuals born outside the U.S. may acquire citizenship at birth. Acquisition is dependent on the birth date of the child, whether one or both parents are U.S. citizens, and, if one is, which parent and whether the birth was in or out of wedlock. All parental requirements must be met before the child's birth.
Derivative Citizenship of Children
The Child Citizenship Act of 2001 provided for the derivative naturalization of children where one parent is a U.S. citizen, by birth or naturalization, and the child is under 18, is a Lawful Permanent Resident, and is residing in the U.S. in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent.
Unfortunately, stepchildren are not eligible for such consideration under this law. In order to be eligible for this provision all requirements must be met on or after February 27, 2001. The child is considered a U.S. citizen from the day the requirements are met.
Naturalization for Children of U.S Citizens Born Outside of U.S.
Under the Immigration Act a child with one U.S. citizen parent who has been physically present in the U.S for five years, two of which were after age 14, may apply for a certificate of citizenship (Form N-600) if the child is under 18 and the child is residing outside the U.S. in the legal custody of the U.S. citizen parent.
Section 322 also provides for children whose U.S. citizen parent does not meet the physical requirements: if the child is under 18 and in the U.S. pursuant to lawful admission or if the child is under 18 in the U.S. pursuant to lawful admission and a grandparent (parent of the U.S. citizen) has been physically present in the U.S. for at least five years, two of which are after the grandparent's 14th birthday.
Naturalization for Members of the Armed Services
An applicant with an aggregate of three years' honorable service at any time in the U.S. Armed Forces is eligible for naturalization. If honorably discharged a serviceman or woman may file an application for naturalization and even after separating from the service, so long as the application is filed within six months of his or her date of discharge.
Also, applicants who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Services during war or other periods of military hostilities may file for naturalization. This includes World War II Filipino Veterans.
Spouses and Ex-Spouses of U.S. Citizens Who Obtained their Residency Through a Battered-Spouse Petition
Any person who obtained status as a resident by reason of his or her status as a spouse (or a child) of a U.S. citizen who battered him or her or subjected him or her to extreme cruelty is eligible under the provisions of the Immigration Act to apply for naturalization after three years of permanent resident status.
U.S. citizenship is a dream come true for many immigrants seeking a better life in this country. It can also be a very complex and difficult road to follow. If you believe that you might be eligible for citizenship seek competent counsel to guide you along the way and together you can make it happen.