I Belong! An Immigrant’s Pathways to Becoming a U.S. Citizen

The United States long prided itself on its welcoming stance for immigrants, even if in recent years it has been debated. Regardless, as a nation founded by immigrants, the U.S. still welcomes many immigrants every year.

Every immigrant follows a different process in becoming a U.S. citizen, and for some, it may be more difficult than it is for others. Here are some of those different pathways you can follow if you’re seeking U.S. citizenship.

Lawful Residents of Five Years or More

If you’re a green card holder of five years or more who has a permanent residence in the United States, you may be eligible for naturalization.

You need to have been in the United States for 30 months out of your five years to qualify, as well as prove your knowledge and dedication to the U.S. Constitution, U.S. history, and U.S. government. You will also need to announce your allegiance in an oath and have English fluency.

Married to a U.S. Citizen

In marriage, you and your U.S. citizen spouse must have married three or more years ago and retained residence in the U.S. for that long too. You also will have to reside in the U.S. while you are applying for naturalization.

The other requirements above regarding your knowledge and dedication to the U.S. and an oath of allegiance also apply.

Widow or Widower of a U.S. Citizen

If your U.S. citizen spouse has passed away, your eligibility for U.S. citizenship has not disappeared.

Under these circumstances, the process of becoming a U.S. citizen requires you to prove your marriage to your spouse up until their death and that the marriage was under good terms and not just to obtain a green card. There is no length of required time for your marriage to your late spouse.

Child of a U.S. Citizen

A child of a U.S. citizen is eligible to receive citizenship at birth or before the child turns 18. The parent who is a U.S. citizen had to have lived in the U.S. for a short while at some point.

This one can get a bit complicated, so make sure to read up on how children can obtain U.S. citizenship.

DACA Recipients and Undocumented Immigrants

Those enrolled in DACA (Deferred Action for Child Arrivals) do not have a clear road ahead to obtaining U.S. citizenship. Through family- or employment-based immigration processes, DACA recipients can receive green cards and U.S. citizenship.

It is a complicated process for many undocumented immigrants to receive U.S. citizenship, even if they made initial lawful entries into the U.S. Undocumented immigrants can be detained by ICE and other U.S. law enforcement for their status, so see here to check for someone’s eligibility for immigration bonds.

Becoming a U.S. Citizen

For more on the naturalization process, you can peek at the free naturalization information webinars provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security about becoming a U.S. Citizen.

Take a peek at our blog for more on other legal matters!

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