If you meet certain requirements, you may become a U.S. citizen either at birth or after birth.
To become a citizen at birth, you must:
- Have been born in the United States or certain territories or outlying possessions of the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States; OR
- had a parent or parents who were citizens at the time of your birth (if you were born abroad) and meet other requirements
To become a citizen after birth, you must:
- Apply for “derived” or “acquired” citizenship through parents – N-600
- Apply for naturalization – N-400
N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship
The N-600 form is the application for Certificate of Citizenship, which can be filed by an individual to claim U.S. citizenship.
Biological or adopted child of a U.S. citizen born outside the United States can claim U.S. citizenship by action of law if the following applies:
- one parent is a U.S. citizen either by birth or naturalization;
- applicant generally resides in United States with legal and physical custody of your U.S. Citizen parent;
- applicant entered the U.S. lawfully for permanent residence. (Note: If an individual entered the U.S. as an adopted child, you should have been admitted as IR-3 (child adopted outside the U.S.). If admittance to the U.S. was based on an IR-4 (child entering U.S. to be adopted), the final adoption must take place for this section of law to apply to you);
- applicant has not reached the age of 18 years old
- applicant is the biological child; you were legitimate, or you were legitimated while in the legal custody of your legitimating parent(s) prior to your 16th birthday; or
- applicant is a biological child born out of wedlock and you have not been legitimated and your mother naturalized as a U.S. citizen.
If the applicant is the biological child of a U.S. citizen, born outside the U.S., and you would like to claim U.S. citizenship by having been born to a U.S. citizen parent(s) you automatically became a U.S. citizen at birth if the following applies:
- individual was born to two U.S. citizen parents, and one of your parents had residence in the U.S. or one of its outlying possessions. The residence of U.S. citizen had to have taken place prior to your birth; or
- individual was born with one parent who is foreign national and the other parent is a U.S. citizen, who prior to the applicant’s birth had been physically present in the U.S. or one of its outlying possessions for a period or periods of totaling not less than five years, at least two of which were after the age of 14 years.
N-400, Application for Naturalization
Lawful Permanent residents (Green Card holders) whose Green Card has been valid during the 5 years prior can file for US citizenship.
If you are married to a US citizen, you may apply for US citizenship after 3 years with a valid Green Card.
There are exceptions. If an applicant has served in the United States Armed Forces during war, that individual may obtain citizenship without first becoming a permanent resident if he or she was in the United States upon enlistment into the US military. A completed Form N-400 (US Citizenship Application) is the required form; it must be filed along with photos and supporting documents.