Ways To Become a Citizen
Being a U.S. citizen comes with a lot of privileges that should not be taken for granted. There are people who go out of their way to get to the U.S. and even more in their journey to obtain citizenship. There are various ways for people to become citizens of the United States. The most obvious way is to be born in the United States but even people born outside of U.S. territory can’t be granted citizenship if their parents aren’t U.S. citizens. Another way to be granted U.S. citizenship is to go through the naturalization process which is what most legal immigrants do. It is also possible to become a citizen of the United States when one or both parents have gone through the naturalization process. if you are unsure of how to get this process started, consulting with an immigration lawyer will help.
There Are People Who do Not Know That They are U.S Citizens
As odd as it might seem, there are people both inside and outside of the United States who are U.S. citizens and do not even realize it. You are probably shaking your head and thinking, “How can that possibly be?” but there are situations and circumstances that lead to just such a thing. Here are a few examples:
People Born Outside of the U.S.
You would be amazed at the number of people who were born in other countries and continue to live there never even giving their U.S. citizenship a second thought; the thing is that they definitely know that their parents or grandparents were American but do not realize that that makes them American too! Typically, when U.S. citizens give birth in another country, the parents will seek to fully establish U.S. citizenship for their child but, as you can see, that is not always the case.
People Who Reside Outside of the U.S.
There are people who despite being born in the U.S. were taken to another country as kids by their parents and, as a result, have lived outside of the U.S. ever since. Whether these people care to ever come back to the U.S. or not they are still U.S. citizens…even if they mistakenly believe that having been away for so many years negates that fact.
Children of Naturalized U.S. Citizens
The most common way for people who were not born in the United States to become citizens is to go through the naturalization process. Once these people are granted citizenship their minor children (who have green cards) acquire it as well. However, because of various circumstances, these kids might grow up not even knowing that they gained citizenship along with their parents.
Citizenship and Being Born on American Soil
Most people who are born anywhere within U.S. territory, including Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands, are automatically granted U.S. citizenship. This is referred to as “birthright citizenship” and is guaranteed and protected by both the 14th Amendment of the U.S, Constitution and the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA.) The reason that some people who are born inside U.S. borders are not granted citizenship is that there are certain exceptions such as children who are born to diplomats or other foreign government officials who happen to be exercising their jobs in the country. Despite the fact that some people think that living outside of the U.S. for years will affect their citizenship, the reality is that, if they were born U.S. citizens, the only thing that can change that is if they themselves officially renounce their U.S. citizenship.
Acquisition of Citizenship
Children who have at least one parent who happens to be a U.S. citizen acquire U.S. citizenship regardless of whether they are born on U.S. soil or in a foreign country; in turn when these children have kids themselves, they too will become U.S. citizens. When a U.S. citizen adopts a foreign-born child, that child can also be considered a U.S. citizen. However, the acquisition of citizenship can be extremely complicated because of the many revisions that congress has made to the relevant laws throughout the years. Because of this, it would be a good idea for U.S. citizens who give birth outside of the U.S. to immediately contact an experienced attorney for help with the issue.
Naturalization of Parents and Derivation of Citizenship
Derivation of citizenship refers to the process by which children who are in the United States legally can attain citizenship when their parents become naturalized citizens. There are two major benefits to derivative U.S. citizenship: it happens automatically, and the child does not have to go through the naturalization process that adults do. But there are certain conditions that must be met in order for the process of derivation to take place.
As we mentioned previously, in order for a child of a naturalized parent to gain U.S. citizenship, he or she must have a valid green card.
Another requirement for derivative U.S. citizenship is that the child has to be under 18 years of age. Children who happen to be 18 or older will have to file on their own since they are considered adults.
The child must be residing inside U.S. territory and in the physical custody of the parent in question.
The child has to be unmarried. Although we would not expect a child under 18 to be married, it does happen so this point is important.
Derivative U.S. citizenship happens automatically, meaning that there is no need for either the parent to file an application of any sort. However, since this is an automatic process there is no tangible proof of citizenship for the child so the parent might want to apply for a citizenship certificate for the child. It would also be a good idea to consult with an experienced immigration law attorney since the laws that concern derivative U.S. citizenship have been changed time and again so what really applies are the laws that were in effect when the child was born.
You Should Consult an Attorney
If you or your child are going through a process that concerns U.S. citizenship, the wisest thing to do is speak to an experienced attorney not just because laws that govern U.S. citizenship and immigration are subject to change but because a lawyer who dedicates himself or herself to these issues will know about procedures, processes, and other things that can help you in your particular situation that you are probably not even aware of. Having a good attorney on your side can make the difference between a favorable outcome and a terrible one especially when things get complicated as they often do with legal matters.