Becoming a U.S. citizen happens naturally for those born here, regardless of the birth parent’s status. However, for those who want to immigrate and become citizens, there are a few ways to make it happen.
The federal government has set up different paths for immigrants to apply for citizenship. Having a basic grasp of what these are may help you choose which one may work for you.
What is a green card?
The most common path to citizenship starts with a green card. An immigrant may obtain a green card for various reasons, but the most common is that he or she already has family in the country. A green card permits temporary citizenship for a specified period. The process for permanent citizenship, called naturalization, may begin after someone with a green card has lived in the U.S. for five years.
What can marriage do?
If an immigrant marries a U.S. citizen, a green card becomes easier to obtain. However, it is not automatic. Officials may want to interview the couple to ensure that the marriage is genuine and not a farce to obtain a green card. Naturalization after a marital green card may occur within three years.
What does military service mean for naturalization?
A green card holder may decide to enter and serve in the U.S. military. When this happens, the government may waive the time for naturalization if it considers the service to occur during a hostile time where a conflict is more likely to occur. During peaceful times, a green card holder serving in the military may apply after one year.
With a few options for becoming a citizen, anyone wishing to do so should have a choice and a plan in place.