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Citizenship Law

Many people come to the United States for a bevy of reasons, both bad and good. Whatever the reason for coming, one of the ultimate goals remains the same: citizenship. As a full citizen, rights are granted that allow an individual to live in the U.S., work in the U.S., and receive all of the benefits that a natural-born U.S. citizen would have.

In order to achieve this goal of full citizenship, there are a number of hurdles to clear. These hurdles range from administrative to financial, to behavioral, but once completed, they will grant the individual the right to take their palace as a full-fledged citizen.


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Full Legal Integration

In order to become a citizen, individuals must ascend through a series of ranks. Beginning as a foreign alien, they must become a temporary resident, lawful permanent resident, and finally a fully naturalized citizen.

Lawful Permanent Residence

Lawful permanent residents are foreign-born individuals who are granted permission to live in the United States without expiration. While this status can allow someone to stay in the U.S., their status is fragile, and an infraction of the law could result in their deportation. Still, this is a crucial stage to becoming a full citizen.

There are four paths to becoming a lawful permanent resident: family, employment, good luck, and bad luck. The family path allows the immediate family of a lawful permanent resident or citizen to become a lawful permanent resident themselves. The employment path allows immigrants with certain professional qualifications to pursue lawful permanent resident status. The good luck path refers to the diversity visa program, which randomly allots certain immigrants from countries with historically low immigration numbers the opportunity to become a lawful permanent resident. Finally, the bad luck path to becoming a lawful permanent resident is for asylum seekers who are fleeing persecution and seeking sanctuary in the United States.

General Naturalization Provisions

Once an immigrant has maintained lawful permanent resident status for at least five years, they can apply to become a naturalized citizen if they have completed their general naturalization provisions. In order to fulfill these provisions, the individual must:
- Be at least 18 at the time of filing
- Have been a lawful permanent resident for at least five years
- Have been a continuous resident for at least five years
- Demonstrate “knowledge and understanding of the U.S. government”
- Be “of good moral character”
If these provisions are fulfilled, the individual can file a form N-400 Application for Naturalization, pay the associated fees, and swear the Oath of Allegiance to become a fully naturalized citizen.

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Citizenship Law Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a US citizen?

A U.S. citizen is a person who is seen as a full member of the United States of America with all of the rights and responsibilities that entails. U.S. citizenship can be acquired or it can be granted. Most U.S. citizens are granted their status by birthright. Any person born in the U.S. or whose parent is a U.S. citizen is also granted citizenship. 

Citizenship can also be acquired through the processes of immigration and naturalization. Citizenship acquired in this way is granted after a series of examinations, checks, and interviews determine that someone is eligible to become a U.S. citizen. 

2. How long does it take to become a US citizen?

Transitioning fully from alien national to U.S. citizen takes many years. First, the individual must legally immigrate to the United States. This may involve months or even years of filing papers and waiting for processing. Once inside the United States, the individual must apply for lawful permanent resident status, which can take months to complete. Finally, the individual must remain a lawful permanent resident in good standing for five years before they can become a naturalized citizen.

3. How much does it cost to become a US citizen?

Not including the costs associated with immigrating to the United States, applying for lawful permanent resident status, and all of the costs leading up to becoming a citizen, it costs $725. This includes the $640 to process Form N-400(Application for Naturalization) and an $85 biometrics fee.

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