CITIZENSHIP in the USA                       

NATURALIZATION

DERIVATIVE CITIZENSHIP

MILITARY SERVICE

CERTIFICATE of CITIZENSHIP

CHILD CITIZENSHIP ACT

DUAL CITIZENSHIP

HISTORY/GOVERNMENT TEST

Welcome to the Citizenship home page. There are many reasons to become an American citizen, such as the right to vote in the United States.  As a voting member of our country, you can make a difference in the special interest groups of the political arena. Another strong consideration to becoming a citizen of the U.S. is that you may not be deported. There are also tax and other financial benefits in becoming a citizen especially after recent laws that drastically reduce or deny federal funding and other benefits to permanent residents as SSI, Medicare, FEMA funds and other financial necessities.

As a citizen, you may petition for other members of your family to live here with you. Or you can live with them in your native land without losing any benefits in the U.S. As a permanent resident, you must live in the U.S. or you may lose your green card status.

In order to become a U.S. citizen, you must be eligible. Our office is experienced in helping you to evaluate if you are eligible. We can prepare and file the application for you and provide you with the questions and answers to the test of American history and government you need to pass.                                                                   

The process to become a U.S. citizen is called Naturalization. There are some instances where you may already be an American citizenship through your parents or grandparents. Our experienced staff can analyze your particular case and file the appropriate documents to assist you to acquire citizenship. 

If you are confronted with the CIS trying to take away your citizenship, you are advised to immediately consult with our office to discuss your options and defense of such a case. To schedule an appointment for a full analysis of your particular situation, please visit our Contact Us or request an Consultation.                         Back to Top

NATURALIZATION                                                                                            

Naturalization is the process whereby a permanent resident of the U.S. applies to become a U.S. citizen. The application form is the N-400 which is submitted by mail  to the CIS Service Center with jurisdiction over the applicant's residence in the U.S. The current processing time for naturalization in the Los Angeles area varies from six to eight months, but of course, there are exceptions especially for security clearances and locations of old files. All Applicants are fingerprinted and subjected to a very thorough security clearance process that involves the FBI, the CIA, Interpol and other international agencies. This requirement has become particularly strict after the 09/11/2001 destruction of the World Trade Center.  But this is not the only glitch that can hold up the processing of an application.  Before anyone can naturalize, the original immigration file of the alien must be located and collated together with the naturalization application file. It is possible that one's original application for permanent residence will be revisited to determine if there was any fraud or misrepresentation abound in getting the green card initially.   

If you have any activity which may make you inadmissible now such as criminal convictions since you got your green card, or some other problem with the original application such as failing to take up employment with the petitioner sponsor, or not staying married after getting the green card, you are best advised to seek our consul before applying to the CIS for this benefit. It could mean the loss of your green card permanent residence and even deportation in some instances.  Consult Us

To qualify for naturalization, an alien  must fulfill the certain requirements which include:

  • 18 years or older;
  • continuous residence and physical presence in the U.S. for 5 years [or in some cases, 3 years] as a lawful permanent resident [alien must be present at least 1/2 of this time, but if there is any absence over 6 months, you should consult us to verify if you qualify];
  • residence for 3 months in a particular USCIS District prior to filing;
  • an ability to read, write, and speak English;
  • a knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government [you will be tested];
  • good moral character;  and
  • oath of allegiance to the United States and support of the U.S. Constitution. .

The Citizenship and Immigration Services produces a comprehensive guide that provides information on the benefits and responsibilities of citizenship, an overview of the naturalization process and eligibility requirements. USCIS now offers this publication in several languages. A Guide to Naturalization.  (Note: You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or later to read this document.) Back to Top

MILITARY                                                                                            

If you are a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and are interested in becoming a U.S. citizen, you may be eligible to apply for citizenship under special provisions. Generally, service in the U.S. Armed Forces means service in one of the following branches:

  • Army,
  • Navy,
  • Marine Corps,
  • Air Force,
  • Coast Guard,
  • Certain Reserve components of the National Guard, and
  • Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve

Recent changes make it easier for qualified military personnel to become U.S. citizens if they choose to file a naturalization application. And, there is now a streamlined process specifically for military personnel serving in active-duty status or recently discharged.

There are general requirements and qualifications that must be met in order for you to become a U.S. citizen as mentioned above. As a member of the military there are some naturalization requirements that you may be excepted from, including the required residency and physical presence in the United States

To qualify for the Military exceptions, you must be a lawful permanent resident who has served honorably for one or more years and you are willing to file your application for naturalization while still in service or within six months of being discharged. Or, if you have served in active duty status during authorized periods of conflict as outlined in the INA or any additional period designated by the President in an Executive Order. [President Bush signed an Executive Order identifying September 11, 2001 and after as an authorized period of conflict.]

On October 1, 2004, additional benefits have been made available to members of the military such as no fees and the availability to naturalize while overseas. Every military installation should have a designated point-of-contact to handle your application and send your N-400, G325B, and certified N-426 to The Nebraska Service Center, PO Box 87426, Lincoln, NE 68501-7426

The Service Center will review your application and perform the necessary security checks. Then, they will send it to the district office closest to your location. If you have a preference as to where you would like to be interviewed, you can provide that information in a cover letter attached to your naturalization packet. The district office will set a date to interview you and test your knowledge of English and Civics. If granted, CIS will inform you of the date you can take your oath of allegiance.

Posthumous Benefits  --- The Immigration Law allows for the awarding of posthumous citizenship to active-duty military personnel who die while serving in the armed forces. In addition, surviving family members seeking immigration benefits are given special consideration. To learn more, contact your military point-of-contact or the local district CIS office.      Back to Top

DERIVATIVE CITIZENSHIP 

Children born abroad of U.S. citizen parents derive citizenship from their parents. There are complex formulas to determine the derivative citizenship of a child when there is one parent who is a citizen and the other parent is an alien, or a lawful permanent resident. Other elements that complicate the formula are whether the child was born in or out of wedlock, what year the child was born, whether the U.S. citizen parent naturalized and when, etc. . . Then there are retention requirements to be satisfied and other residency elements. You must consult with a professional to fully analyze your particular case and eligibility. The Certificate of Citizenship is merely a record of citizenship - it does not confer citizenship on an applicant. Contact us for consultation.                                                     Back to Top

CHILD CITIZENSHIP ACT

The Child Citizenship Act (CCA) declares that children who are younger than 18 years of age and have at least one parent who is a U.S.citizen whether by birth or naturalization will acquire automatic citizenship. Under the CCA, qualifying children who immigrate to the United States with a U.S. citizen parent automatically acquire U.S. citizenship upon entry; children who live abroad acquire citizenship on approval of an application and the taking of the oath of allegiance.

Under the CCA, a child will automatically acquire U.S. citizenship on the date that all of the following requirements are satisfied:

    • At least one parent is a U.S. citizen,
    • The child is under 18 years of age, and
    • The child is admitted to the United States as an immigrant.

The CCA provides U.S.citizenship to other foreign-born children-including adopted children-of U.S. citizens. Specifically, these children include:

  • Orphans with a full and final adoption abroad or adoption finalized in the U.S.,
  • Biological or legitimated children,
  • Certain children born out of wedlock to a mother who naturalizes, and
  • Adopted children meeting the two-year custody requirement.

In general, children who are younger than 18 years of age and have at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen whether by birth or naturalization will benefit from this new law. Under the CCA, qualifying children who immigrate to the United States with a U.S. citizen parent automatically acquire U.S. citizenship upon entry; children who live abroad acquire citizenship on approval of an application and the taking of the oath of allegiance. Individuals who are 18 years of age or older on February 27, 2001, do not qualify for citizenship under the CCA, even if they meet all other criteria. If they wish to become U.S.citizens, they must apply for naturalization and meet eligibility requirements that currently exist for adult lawful permanent residents.

If your child satisfies the requirements listed above, he or she automatically acquires U.S. citizenship by operation of law on the day he or she is admitted to the United States as an immigrant, so you donít have to apply to the CIS.  If your child permanently resides in the U.S., you can obtain evidence of your childís citizenship by applying for a Certificate of Citizenship. You can also apply for a U.S. Passport. Our office is highly qualified to assist you with these procedures. We will give you  an honest appraisal of your case.                 Back to Top

CERTIFICATE of CITIZENSHIP  (The original Certificate, 1898)                              

 The Certificate of Citizenship is evidence of citizenship. It is generally filed by parents whose children either acquired citizenship under the CCA or derived citizenship by satisfying the statutory requirements.  You get a Certification of Citizenship  by filing form N-600. If you are filing on behalf of an adopted minor child, the fee is $145 (all other applicants must pay $185.

The USCIS has reengineered its processing in order to streamline the production of Certificates of Citizenship for certain children adopted abroad. Streamlined processes have been developed for newly entering IR-3 children who are automatically U.S. Citizens when they arrive. These newly entering IR-3 children will receive Certificates of Citizenship within 45 days of their arrival instead of receiving a Permanent Resident Card and then filing the N-600. Click here for a more detailed discussion of Derivative and Acquired Citizenship.             Back to Top

DUAL CITIZENSHIP

In general, countries define citizenship based on one's descent, place of birth, marriage, and/or naturalization. That is, you might be a citizen of a given country for one or more of the following reasons:

  • You were born on territory belonging to, or claimed by, that country (ius soli -- Latin for "right of the soil").

  • One or both of your parents were citizens of that country (ius sanguinis --Latin for "right of the blood").

  • You married a citizen of that country (not always possible)

  • You (or one or both of your parents) obtained that country's citizenship by going through a legal process of naturalization.

The exact details do not depend on the laws of the country in question. For example, the U.S. limits its application of ius sanguinis by requiring American parents to have lived for a certain period of time in the U.S. before foreign-born children can be entitled to U.S. citizenship by birth. Many countries (Switzerland is one example) do not confer citizenship via ius soli at all, and those which do generally make exceptions for children of foreign diplomats. Automatic citizenship via marriage is rare nowadays; more commonly, marriage may allow one spouse a "fast track" to immigration to the other spouse's country, but a period of non-citizen permanent residence would still be required before the immigrant spouse could obtain a new citizenship via naturalization.

Since there can be several ways to acquire a given country's citizenship, it is possible for someone to be considered a citizen under the laws of two (or more) countries at the same time. This is what is meant by dual (or multiple) citizenship.

For example, my children have been dual citizens of both the US and the UK from the day they were born. They are citizens of the US (via ius soli) because they were born in the USA. And they are also citizens of the UK (via ius sanguinis) because they are the children of their father, born in Antigua.  

Countries usually frame their citizenship laws with little or no regard for the citizenship laws of other countries. Newly naturalized citizens may similarly be required to renounce their previous citizenship(s); the US has such a requirement, for example, but Canada does not. In some cases, a country will automatically revoke the citizenship of one of its citizens who acquires another country's citizenship by naturalization (Germany) even if no explicit renunciation was involved, although that too has changed recently whereby a German may request a waiver of the automatic revocation.

Where one country requires a citizen to renounce the citizenship of another country, this renunciation may or may not be recognized by the other country. This can sometimes lead to sticky legal situations. Also, countries which require such renunciations differ in how seriously they treat this requirement. In some cases (such as Singapore), an applicant for naturalization may be required by his new country to go to an embassy or consulate of his old country and renounce his old citizenship in a manner prescribed by his old country's laws. Other countries (such as the US in recent years) may treat their own naturalization oaths' renunciatory language as essentially meaningless and take no steps to enforce it at all.

As a general rule, dual citizens are not entitled to any sort of special treatment by their two countries of citizenship. Each country will usually consider the person as if he were a citizen of that country alone. Some people describe this sort of situation by saying that a given country does not "recognize" dual citizenship.

Citizenship frequently carries with it legal obligations relating to taxes, military service, and/or travel restrictions. Again, since countries usually insist on dealing with their citizens without regard to any other citizenships they might hold, and tend to frame their laws regarding citizenship obligations without regard for the laws of other countries, a dual citizen could possibly find that a country which considers him a citizen, but in which he does not live, expects him to pay taxes (possibly in addition to taxes he is already paying in his country of residence); considers him liable to be drafted into its army (even if he has already served or is currently serving in the other country's army); and may forbid him to travel to certain countries, including possibly his other country of citizenship.

In practice, such situations are often smoothed over via tax treaties and the like, but conflicts could (and sometimes do) occur. Also, be aware that most countries (the US is the main exception) base liability for income tax on residence (where one lives) and/or source of income, not solely on citizenship; thus, dual citizenship usually does not automatically translate into double taxation.

Citizenship claims by a country over a given individual could happen even if the person in question never sought recognition as a citizen of that country -- or even if the person was totally unaware that he/she was a citizen of that country according to its laws. Accordingly, anyone who is planning to travel to an ancestral homeland -- even for a brief vacation trip -- would be strongly advised to check that country's citizenship laws carefully beforehand. 

On the other hand, dual citizenship can have distinct advantages. In particular, a person with dual citizenship has greater flexibility in his or her choice of where to live and work. Thus, it behooves anyone with dual or multiple citizenship -- or with the possibility of claiming such a status -- to investigate the pros and cons of the specific situation very carefully.                              Back to Top

HISTORY/ GOVERNMENT TEST QUESTIONS

For a copy of the questions generally asked during a naturalization testing process, please click here for PDF document.  (Note: You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or later to read this document.) You can even attempt a self-test which will automatically generate questions each time it's accessed.  You can also practice sample writing sentences.                                     Back to Top

Disclaimer:
The information contained herein is intended for general informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice. You must consult with an attorney to obtain specific, comprehensive legal advice. Also note that the CIS fees are subject to change without notice. For current CIS fee information contact the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service directly