There are several ways to become a U.S. citizen, either through naturalization or by deriving citizenship through one’s parents.
The most common way a person becomes a U.S. citizen is through naturalization. Lawful permanent residents in the United States may be eligible to apply for naturalization. The general rule is that an individual is a permanent resident for at least five years in order to be eligible to apply for citizenship. Spouses of U.S. citizens are eligible to apply after three years.
There are several additional requirements to be eligible for citizenship, including residency requirements, English language skills, and knowing certain civics and history information. Citizenship is often the end-goal for immigrants to the United States, but it is important to know that the process can be complex and if an individual has any criminal or extensive immigration history, it is very important to consult with an attorney prior to filing for naturalization.
Some children of U.S. citizens derive citizenship automatically from their parents. This may occur at the time of birth abroad or could occur up until the time the child turns age 18 if a parent naturalizes and the child is or becomes a permanent resident.
Finally, certain members of the military may apply for citizenship.