Citizenship is the status of a person in a specific region that's acknowledged under the customs and laws governing that area. Citizenship identifies an individual's national origin based upon where they are located. There are several ways a person can obtain legal status in the United States, such as:
Naturalization is when person not born in the United States wants to voluntarily become a citizen by going through a series of tests. In order to obtain naturalization applicants must meet the following qualifications:
- Must be 18 years of age or older at the time of filing an application.
- Be a permanent resident while possessing a "green card" for the minimum of five years.
- Provide proof of U.S. residency for at least five years before the filing date.
- Take an oath of allegiance to the United States.
- The applicant must demonstrate the ability to speak, read and write in English.
- Demonstrate the comprehension of the U.S. Constitution's principles and concepts.
- Understanding U.S. government and history.
Obtaining a green card while being a resident for five years will qualify a person for citizenship. The card will indicate how long someone has been inside the country. The day of residency will begin the date of signed permission to become a permanent member of the United States. Individuals actively engaging in the Armed Forces may file immediately and those who are honorably discharged must file within six months.
Being born in the U.S. grants citizenship to both the parents and child. This method is one of the most common ways access is granted to non-residents. At least one or both parents must have lived on U.S. soil prior or after the birth of the child for 10 years. Marital status also plays a major role in gaining citizenship to the U.S. Even if a person does not gain membership to the U.S. through naturalization being married to a citizen will create eligibility. In order to obtain legal status through marriage the couple must live together and maintain marriage for the minimum of three years. The wait time is usually five years for those who are not married.
Derivation is another method of achieving citizenship to the U.S. This allows a parent who naturalizes a child that's under the age of 18 and living with a parent in the U.S. to grant citizenship to the child. In order to obtain legal status through derivation the child must be in the care of someone with a green card, one or both parents must be a citizens and a child must reside permanently in the physical custody of a U.S. citizen parent.
The rights of non-citizens and citizens differentiate in a major way. The following benefits only apply to citizens of the U.S:
- Gaining the right to vote
- Having the ability to run for public office
- Become eligible for federal benefits and free government money
- Travel limitations are decreased allowing long distance travels
- Deportation can be avoided
- Sponsor family members in efforts to obtain a green card
- Obtain a U.S. passport
- Maintaining previous citizenship will avoid the process of reapplying for citizenship