There are a number of ways a person can acquire United States citizenship:

  1. A person who is born in the U.S. is automatically a U.S. citizen. The citizenship of that person’s parents is irrelevant.
  2. A person who is not born in the United States may be able to derive U.S. citizenship through his or her U.S. citizen parent. This may be the case even if the parent was not a U.S. citizen at the time of the person’s birth abroad, but later became a U.S. citizen, while the child was under the age of 18. This area of law is very technical, and whether or not a person derives U.S. citizenship from a parent depends on his or her particular circumstances. It is strongly recommended that when a child is born outside the U.S. to a U.S. citizen parent, who meets the U.S. physical presence requirement, the parent make an application for a “Consular Report of Birth Abroad” before a consular officer. If a U.S. citizen parent does not meet the U.S. physical presence requirement, it may be possible to derive U.S. citizenship based on a U.S. citizen grandparent’s current or previous physical presence in the United States.
  3. The most common way for a person, who was not born in the U.S., to become a U.S. citizen is through the naturalization process. There are a number of eligibility requirements, including admission to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident (i.e., “green card” holder). An application for naturalization must be filed, and the applicant must attend an interview, which includes an English examination and an American civics examination. Upon approval of the naturalization application, the applicant must attend a swearing-in ceremony.

Special Naturalization Provision for Spouses of U.S. Citizens Regularly Stationed Abroad

Spouses of certain U.S. citizens, whose employment requires that they live outside the U.S., may be eligible to naturalize regardless of how long they have been lawful permanent residents of the United States. Among other requirements, an applicant must join his or her U.S. citizen spouse abroad after naturalization and declare in good faith an intention to reside permanently in the U.S. when the spouse’s employment abroad ends. In addition, the U.S. citizen spouse must be regularly stationed abroad in the employment of one of the following: (1) The U.S. government; (2) An American institution of research recognized as such by the Attorney General; (3) An American firm or corporation engaged in whole or in part in the development of foreign trade and commerce of the U.S., or a subsidiary thereof; (4) The North Atlantic Treaty Organization or the United Nations and all agencies and organizations which are a part thereof; or (5) A religious denomination having a bona fide organization within the U.S. to perform the ministerial or priestly functions of the denomination or to be engaged as a missionary for the denomination or an interdenominational mission organization having a bona fide organization within the U.S.

How We Can Help You

If you think that you may have a claim to U.S. citizenship, we strongly encourage you to contact us as this is a very technical area of law. At Ferman Law we will assess your situation and determine if you are entitled to U.S. citizenship by descent. If you are able to derive citizenship, we will prepare and file your application for a certificate of citizenship and assist you with obtaining a U.S. passport. If you are a U.S. permanent resident, we will determine if you meet the requirements for naturalization. If so, we will prepare and file your naturalization application and help you prepare for your naturalization interview.