What Are The Requirements?
Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national. Generally, to be eligible for naturalization you must:
- Be age 18 or older;
- Be a permanent resident for a certain amount of time (usually 5 years but less for some individuals);
- Be a person of good moral character;
- Have a basic knowledge of U.S. history and government;
- Have a period of continuous residence and physical presence in the United States; and
- Be able to read, write, and speak basic English. There are exceptions to this rule for someone who:
- Is 55 years old and has been a permanent resident for at least
- 15 years; or
- Is 50 years old and has been a permanent resident for at least 20 years; or -
- Has a permanent physical or mental impairment that makes the individual unable to fulfill these requirements.
The biggest advantage to becoming a United States citizen is that you cannot be removed (deported) for the violation of any law (unlike those with visas and legal permanent residency). Further, only citizens enjoy the full benefits of the Bill of Right and Constitution. Nonetheless, there may be some disadvantages, depending upon your unique situation.
The concept of dual nationality means that a person is a citizen of two countries at the same time. Each country has its own citizenship laws based on its own policy. Persons may have dual nationality by automatic operation of different laws rather than by choice. For example, a child born in a foreign country to U.S. citizen parents may be both a U.S. citizen and a citizen of the country of birth.
A U.S. citizen may acquire foreign citizenship by marriage, or a person naturalized as a U.S. citizen may not lose the citizenship of the country of birth. U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one citizenship or another. Also, a person who is automatically granted another citizenship does not risk losing U.S. citizenship. However, a person who acquires a foreign citizenship by applying for it may lose U.S. citizenship. In order to lose U.S. citizenship, the law requires that the person must apply for the foreign citizenship voluntarily, by free choice, and with the intention to give up U.S. citizenship.
Intent can be shown by the person's statements or conduct.The U.S. Government recognizes that dual nationality exists but does not encourage it as a matter of policy. Claims of other countries on dual national U.S. citizens may conflict with U.S. law, and dual nationality may limit U.S. Government efforts to assist citizens abroad. The country where a dual national is located generally has a stronger claim to that person's allegiance.
However, dual nationals owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country. They are required to obey the laws of both countries. Either country has the right to enforce its laws, particularly if the person later travels there. Most U.S. citizens, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States. Dual nationals may also be required by the foreign country to use its passport to enter and leave that country. Use of the foreign passport does not endanger U.S. citizenship.Most countries permit a person to renounce or otherwise lose citizenship.
Information on losing foreign citizenship can be obtained from the foreign country's embassy and consulates in the United States. Americans can renounce U.S. citizenship in the proper form at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.