There are several paths available to receive U.S. citizenship.
If you meet certain requirements, you may become a U.S. citizen either at birth or after birth.
To become a citizen at birth, you must:
- Have been born in the United States or certain territories or outlying possessions of the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States; OR
- had a parent or parents who were citizens at the time of your birth (if you were born abroad) and meet other requirements
To become a citizen after birth, you must:
The most common path to U.S. citizenship for foreign-born nationals is through the “green card” process. This path allows a U.S. permanent resident or “green card” holder of at least 5 years to apply for naturalization.
Other paths to obtaining U.S. citizenship include:
In general, if you are a permanent resident (green card holder) married to a U.S. citizen, you may qualify for naturalization if you:
- Have been a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 3 years
- Have been living in marital union with the same U.S. citizen spouse during such time
- Meet all other eligibility requirements under Section 319(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)
In certain cases, spouses of U.S. citizens employed abroad may qualify for naturalization regardless of their time as permanent residents. These spouses may qualify under Section 319(b) of the INA.
Spouses of members of the U.S. armed forces (service members) may be eligible for expedited or overseas naturalization. Children of service members may also be eligible for overseas naturalization.
There are two general ways to obtain citizenship through U.S. citizen parents: at birth, and after birth but before the age of 18. Congress has enacted laws that determine how citizenship is conveyed by a U.S. citizen parent (or parents) to children born outside of the United States.
Definition of Child
In general, a child for citizenship and naturalization provisions is an unmarried person who is:
- The genetic, legitimated, or adopted son or daughter of a U.S. citizen; or
- The son or daughter of a non-genetic gestational U.S. citizen mother who is recognized by the relevant jurisdiction as the child’s legal parent.