Citizenship and Naturalization
A person born in the United States is a U.S. citizen pursuant to the 14th Amendment. A person born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent or parents may also be a citizen in some cases. Birth abroad complicates this matter because the determination as to whether a child born abroad is a citizen involves factors including the child’s date of birth, whether or not the parents were married, and the length of the parent’s previous residence in the U.S. Citizenship can sometimes be established through the careful review of a family tree to trace eligibility from U.S. citizen parents and grandparents to a person seeking to ascertain his or her status today.
Naturalization is the process through which a foreign national becomes a citizen. In most cases, the foreign national must first obtain lawful permanent residence prior to becoming eligible to apply for citizenship. A lawful permanent resident of good moral character who has regularly resided in the U.S. for at least five years may apply to become a citizen. A shorter wait time may apply to an applicant who has been married to a U.S. citizen for at least 3 years after obtaining lawful permanent residence. Under special provisions found at Section 319(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, an even shorter period of time may apply to the spouse of a U.S. citizen who will be transferred abroad on behalf of a U.S. entity. The law also provides special provisions for foreign nationals who have served in the U.S. military during a time of war.
An applicant who has spent a continuous period of more than 6 months outside the U.S. or who has been outside of the U.S. more time than inside the U.S. in the most recent 5 years should speak to an immigration attorney to confirm filing eligibility. Also, certain criminal problems can prevent naturalization, and in some cases, subject the applicant to deportation proceedings. Thus, an applicant who has been convicted of a crime or who has experienced a problem with immigration officials or the police at any time should consult with an experienced attorney to confirm filing eligibility.
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