If You’re Thinking About Becoming A United States Citizen . . .
We’ll Help Guide Your Journey To Success
When most immigrants think of becoming a U.S. citizen, they presume that naturalization is their only path forward. Upon closer inspection, several learn they might have been eligible long ago but were unaware of their options:
- Were you born in the United States but have not been able to prove your citizenship?
- Were you born in another country and one of your parents was a U.S. citizen?
- Were you a permanent resident under the age of 18 when your parent became a U.S. citizen?
- Are you now a permanent resident and ready to take the next step?
Any of these options can open the door to U.S. citizenship for you.
When you become a citizen, you will have reached the final step – the final frontier – of your immigration journey.
You will be entitled . . . finally . . . to the full benefits of life in the United States.
This includes the ability to travel and visit loved ones freely. To work for state and national government offices. To buy a house in a better neighborhood
And build long-term economic security for your loved ones and family.
So why delay?
What Are The Four Ways To Become A United States Citizen?
There are four separate paths to U.S. citizenship:
- A. Citizenship through Birth – Children born inside the United States or its territories
- B. Citizenship through Acquisition – Children born in another country to U.S. citizen parents
- C. Citizenship through Derivation – Children of lawful permanent residents who naturalize
- D. Citizenship through Naturalization – U.S. citizenship after earning and living in permanent resident status
Each of these paths has its own set of requirements. Each poses unique challenges for immigrants seeking to become full fledged citizens.
The first three ways provide citizenship automatically if the child of the United States citizen can produce the requisite documents. The fourth, naturalization, is subject to a wider range of statutory and discretionary bars before the government will approve the application.
A. Birthright Citizenship:
Persons Born In The United States
You probably think this category seems strange. “If a person is born in the United States,” you wonder, “aren’t they automatically U. S. citizens?”
Well, as a immigration family unity lawyer, I know it’s not always that straight-forward – especially if the parents are not U. S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
Citizenship Case Example Number One: Can The Child Of An Immigrant Born Via Midwife Services Inside The U.S. Prove Birthright Citizenship?
One evening, on his way to a football game in Moreno Valley, James was picked up when the driver made a rushed right turn. James did not have any documents to prove citizenship. The officers turned him over to immigration agents. A few weeks later, a judge ordered him deported.
He visited our Hemet citizenship law office. Talking with James, we learned he was born in the United States. But he was not born in a hospital. A midwife and a priest helped his mother give birth. She could not afford medical care. She returned to her home country soon after. James was left behind and raised by his aunt and uncle in the U.S. They never registered his citizenship.
James, now 25, faced expulson to a country he had never seen. The immigration judge did not believe his birth by midwife citizenship claim. We advised James he could still fight back but it would not be simple.
James would need to get strong evidence from his family to prove he was a citizen. The family had lost contact with his mother. He would have to try everything possible to locate her. The priest had remained lifelong friends with the family, a good starting point.
James would need to file an immigration appeal to keep his hopes alive while he battled to prove his birthright citizenship.
Three years later, James prevailed.
Most recently, those against immigration have started a drive against certain children born in the U.S. They argue that children, born to parents without legal documents, should not be entitled to citizenship by birth.
They seek to hijack the constitutional meaning of citizenship through the use of misleading and pejorative terms like anchor babies.
B. Acquisition Of Citizenship:
Citizens Born In Other Countries
If you were born in another country, and at least one of your parents was a U. S. citizen, you may qualify as a U. S. citizen by birth.
This process is called “acquisition of citizenship.”
Citizenship Case Example Number Two: If A Child Of A U.S. Citizen Parent Is Born In Another Country, Is She Entitled To Citizenship?
Sheryl’s mother, Elia fell in love with Miguel shortly after high school. Elia was born and raised in San Diego County. Miguel lived in Mexico. During their courtship, Elia continued to live and work in National City. She would travel back and forth on the weekends to be with Miguel.
About two years later, Sheryl was born in a Mexican hospital. Elia brought her to the United States. She never filed papers to show Sheryl’s citizenship. It was not an issue until after Sheryl graduated from high school. Seeking employment, Sheryl needed to prove her U.S. citizenship.
Sheryl and her mother went to an immigration services specialist. The specialist filed papers on Sheryl’s behalf. The government denied her application. Sheryl felt lost. She could not work legally in the U.S. She feared being deported someday.
When they came to our San Diego immigration law office, they feared Sheryl’s case was over. They believed they had no options.
We explained they could start over again.
To begin, we needed to get Sheryl’s complete immigration file from the government. We wanted to study what went wrong with her first set of citizenship papers. This was crucial for various reasons.
We wanted to ensure we could explain any mistakes made in the earlier filing. We wanted to prevent fraud charges against Sheryl and her mother due to such mistakes.
Once we obtained the records, it was full speed ahead. Sheryl was able to prove she was a United States citizen.
Proving that citizenship has been acquired can be complicated.
The rules have changed often. For instance, a person born before January 14, 1941 but before December 24, 1952 has different requirements than a person born after December 24, 1952 but before November 14, 1986.
Moreover, a person who was born to a U.S. citizen mother has different guidelines to follow than a person born to a U.S. citizen father. Whether the parents were married at the time of the individual’s birth also affects what evidence must be proven.
C. Derivative Citizenship: Children Of Lawful Permanent Residents
Third, if you are a lawful permanent resident when your parent naturalizes, you may be eligible to become a U. S. citizen through a process known as “derivation of citizenship.”
As with acquisition, the laws regarding derivation of citizenship depends on when you were born and what law was in effect at that time.
D. Naturalization: The Final Frontier For Lawful Permanent Residents
Fourth, you can earn U. S. citizenship through “the naturalization process.”
This is the most commonly known path to full legalization.
Naturalization is the final step for immigrants in the family unity process after they have earned lawful permanent resident status.
Citizenship Case Example Number Three: Why Is Naturalization A Difficult And Scary Process For Many Law-Abiding Immigrants?
For over 20 years Jane, who now lived in San Bernardino, had been a lawful permanent resident. She wanted to become a U.S. citizen. She delayed for two reasons. First, she felt like she was betraying her home country, Guatemala. Second, she was very, very afraid of the naturalization process.
When she lived in Riverside, Jane’s first efforts to become a permanent resident had failed. Even though she later earned a green card through the same immigration program, that experience scarred her. She vowed to never go through the immigration process ever again.
But her dream to become a U.S. citizen never died. She was proud to live here. She was proud of the many benefits she gained by living in the U.S. legally. And she knew the benefits of becoming a U.S. citizen were even greater.
After three meetings with Carlos, she put aside her fears. She decided to take the next step – to move from permanent resident status to full legalization and citizenship.
Today, Jane is a naturalized citizen.
Obstacles To Winning Naturalization
Winning naturalization is not simple. Requirements like good moral character and continuous residence are trickier than applicants anticipate.
Here are the most common barriers to success.
- Good Moral Character
- Disruption Of Continuous Residence
- Arrests And Convictions
- Concealing Or Falsifying Information