of the United Estates is a person who by birth or naturalization has the protection of the United States as well as its constitutional rights and obligations. Through the process of naturalization, a person born outside the country can become a citizens. Do you qualify to become a citizen of the United States by birth or naturalization? More information.
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Since by law any individual born in the United States or any of its territories is considered to be an American citizen, there is no action required on his or her part in order to receive the benefits of this status. On the other hand, any individual born outside of the United States (unless he or she has an American parent) needs to go through the naturalization process in order to become a citizen.
To become an American citizen, the applicant must be a permanent resident of the United States. There are a few exceptions to this rule. A good example of this is the exeption made to individuals who honorably served in the US Military Forces during periods of war among others.
Additionally, it is required that the applicant remains in the United States for a period of no less than five (5) years, unless his or her naturalization process is based on his or her marriage to an American citizen. In these cases the minimum time required is only three (3) years.
At the same time, the applicant must have not left the United States for a year or more. Individuals who live outside the country for this period of time could lose their residency even if they left the country with proper authorization. The only individuals who are exempt from this law are those serving in the military or government agencies around the world.
Finally, the applicant must live for at least three (3) months within the state or district where the naturalization case was originally filed and be considered a person of good moral character. With regards to the last statement, it is normally understood that a person of good moral character is the one that does not break the law and lives according to his or her community norms. This includes not being accused of a crime and taking care of his or her financial responsibilities towards his or her spouse and children (child support, etc). The law does not establish what a person of “good moral character” is, but an immigration attorney could clarify any doubts that you may have.
Remember that all naturalization applicants must be able to read, write and speak English unless otherwise incapable due to a mental or physical disability. If at the time the petition is filed, the applicant was between 50 and 55 years of age and has been a permanent resident of the United States for more than 20 years, he or she could be examined in his or her native language.
During the citizenship exam, all applicants must take and pass an oral and written test on the history and government of the United States of America.