U.S. Citizenship Basics

Citizenship can be acquired by blood, birth, or naturalization. Those born in the United States are automatically U.S. citizens (except for children of foreign diplomats). Naturalization, a separate term, is the administrative process that everyone else can take to become a U.S. citizen.

Who has citizenship by birth?

Persons who are born in the United States are citizens at birth unless they are born to foreign diplomats.

A person who is born abroad to TWO US citizens is a US citizen if both parents were US citizens at his or her birth and at least one parent lived in the US at some point in his or her life.

For those born abroad to only ONE US citizen, if you are born outside the United States after November 14, 1986 and only one of your parents was a citizen at the time of your birth you may qualify for citizenship if: (1) Your citizen parent lived at least 5 years in the US before you were born, and (2) 2 out of 5 of these years were after his or her 14th birthday.

If you were born outside the United State before November 14, 1986 and only one of your parents was a citizen at the time of your birth you will qualify for citizenship if: (1) Your citizen parent lived in the US for at least 10 years before you were born, and 2) 5 out of 10 of these years were after his or her 14th birthday.

What are some of the benefits of becoming a U.S. Citizen?

The advantages of becoming a citizen of the United States are many.  The following is a list of some of the benefits that clients seek:

  • The right to vote;
  • The reuniting of families;
  • Protection of children’s right to remain in the U.S.;
  • Freedom to travel with U.S. passport;
  • SSI (Supplemental Security Income), based on certain contingencies.

Do I need a licensed attorney to help me fill out my immigration forms?

Due to the increase of individuals seeking an immigration benefit and deceived by people pretending to be experts at immigration law there are now protection measures for immigration applicants to prevent the unauthorized practice of law.

Only a licensed attorney who is authorized to practice law will be able to assess your immigration case and give you proper advice. Seeking advice or help on your immigration matter with anyone that is not a licensed attorney may end up hurting your case since they are not qualified to provide advice on immigration law or your immigration options.

Do I have to disclose all my criminal history on my immigration application?

Yes. All arrests, convictions, and crimes including those crimes for which you were not arrested or convicted must be disclosed. Even though you may think they are minor crimes, certain crimes may deny an individual of immigration benefits. Thus, it’s best to disclose all criminal history.

Can an immigration lawyer speed up my case?

While an immigration attorney cannot per se “speed up” your case, the immigration attorney is knowledgeable in immigration law and will know the best strategy and options for your case. Undeniably, this avoids any unreasonable delay by anyone lacking specialized knowledge in this area of law.

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