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Naturalization: The Process for Becoming a U.S. Citizen

A temporary or permanent visa will not give you all the rights and privileges of American citizenship—unless you go through the process known as “naturalization,” you won’t be able to vote, and you may face restrictions on travel, or on the ability to run for or hold public office.

Obtaining U.S. Citizenship

Under American law, you are automatically an American citizen if you are born in the United States, or if you are born anywhere in the world with at least one biological parent who is a U.S. citizen. If you don’t qualify under either of those tests, you must seek citizenship through the naturalization process.

Before you can pursue citizenship status, you must legally enter the United States, and you must maintain a legal and physical presence in the United States for a minimum period of time. You must also be at least 18 years of age.

  • Additional requirements that must be met before you can apply for citizenship include:
    An oath of allegiance to the United States (you must also give up any allegiance to any other country)
  • An indication that you agree with the philosophical principles found in the U.S. Constitution
  • A demonstration that you can understand, read, write and speak basic English, and that you know the basic concepts of American history, government and politics.
  • A showing of good moral character

Your Obligations after Becoming an American Citizen

If you are granted citizenship status, you will be required to assume certain responsibilities, such as:

  • Serving in the armed forces of the United States, if called to do so
  • Support and defend the laws of the United States, including the U.S. Constitution

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