American Citizenship is based on the jus soli, also known as birthright citizenship. Under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside”.
As a result, many women come to the United States for what is called “citizenship tourism”, giving birth on American soil so that their child acquire automatically American Citizenship.
American Citizenship is also acquired at birth by those born abroad from one or both U.S. Citizen parents. A Consular Report of Birth Abroad is issued by U.S. Consulates abroad upon filing a formal application and supporting documents.
Besides birth in the U.S., American Citizenship can be acquired through the naturalization process.
Who qualifies for American Citizenship through Naturalization
The main requirements to apply for American Citizenship through Naturalization are:
- be a Green Card holder;
- satisfy the residency requirements (3 or 5 years as LPR);
- pass a civics and English test;
- be of good moral character.
Obtaining a Green Card has become extremely difficult in the past few years. The vast majority of immigrants become Green Card holders through family-based petitions. Few immigrants are sponsored for one of the employment-based preference categories. The only employment-based Green Card classifications that do not require sponsorship by an American employer are the EB-1a and the EB-2 National Interest Waiver.
Wealthy foreign investors can obtain a Green Card through the EB-5 Visa program, which requires a minimum investment of $500,000.
How to apply for American Citizenship
The application for American Citizenship is made by filing Form N-400 with USCIS. The application must be filed with a copy (front and back) of the Green Card, 2 passport pictures, and a check for $680 made out to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. After receiving the application, USCIS will schedule a biometric appointment to collect the applicant’s fingerprints and picture and start the background check process. Sometimes, a criminal conviction can prevent a lawful permanent resident from becoming a U.S. citizen. In cases like this, it is possible to eliminate the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction by filing a Writ of Coram Nobis with a Federal Court.
After the background checks are completed, USCIS will schedule an interview at a local Field Office. If you live in New Jersey, you will required to go to the Peter Rodino Federal Building, in Newark, NJ. A New Jersey Lawyer can attend the interview with you.
During the interview, the immigration adjudicator will administer the civics and English tests, and will review the applicant’s file. Most applicants are approved the same day of the interview, and sworn in as American Citizens.
Even after it has been granted, American Citizenship may be revoked by the U.S. Government. Of course, Citizenship can be revoked only in very limited cases. The most common grounds for citizenship revocation are 1) having obtained the Green Card with fraudulent means and 2) having lied at the Citizenship interview regarding criminal history.
If you are applying for American Citizenship, you should consult with an experienced U.S. immigration lawyer to guide you through the process.