There are four ways to become a citizen of the United States:
Birth in the US or one of its territories
Any child born within the territorial confines of the United States or any of its territories is ipso facto a citizen of the United States, regardless of the immigrant status of either one or both of his or her parents.
Birth outside of the US but to parents who are citizens of the US
Both parents are citizens
If both parents are US citizens, but the child is born outside the US, the child is a citizen so long as:
One parent is a citizen
If the child is born on or after November 14, 1986 and either parent is a US citizen, the child will also be a US citizen provided:
Note: For those born before November 14, 1986 but after October 10, 1952 to a US citizen parent, the requirements are the same as for a child born after November 14, 1986 EXCEPT the US citizen parent must have resided in the US for a minimum of ten years, five of which must have been after his or her 14th birthday.
Children born outside the US who still qualify for automatic US citizenship:
If the child is under 18 years of age and was born after February 27, 2001, he or she is a citizen provided that:
Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress.
First you need to file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, with USCIS. USCIS will mailing you receipt letter confirming that they received your application. The receipt notice will arrive approximately 2-3 weeks after filing.
Next, you will receive a biometrics appointment notice within the first 30 days from filing. Every applicant is required to undergo a security clearance and criminal background check. The appointment will take approximately 15-30min. You should bring some form of photo identification to enter the building such as passport or national photo identification issued by your country, driver’s license or state issued photo ID.
Next, USCIS will send another appointment notice for your naturalization interview. This notice can come anywhere from 5-8 months from filing.
At the interview, a USCIS officer will review the entire N-400 application to confirm that the answers previously provided are still correct. Your ability to understand these questions and answers is part of your English comprehension test. Additionally, you will be asked to read and write a sentence in English, and pass the history/civics examination.
If your interview was successful, you will soon receive a notice to take the Oath of Allegiance (N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony). You are not a U.S. citizen until you take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony. After taking the Oath of Allegiance, you will turn in your green card and receive your Certificate of Naturalization.
Deriving citizenship automatically through naturalization of one parent
A child can, in some situations, derive U.S. citizenship automatically through the naturalization of a parent. This will depend upon the laws in place when certain key events occurred. In most cases, you need to have already held U.S. lawful permanent residence.
To learn more about your options contact our San Francisco law firm to speak with one of our immigration attorneys.