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The pathways to citizenship

On Behalf of | Sep 7, 2021 | Immigration

There are several ways people in Pennsylvania can become United States citizens. Most people who are U.S. citizens are born in the U.S. and gain their citizenship status automatically at birth. However, there are several other pathways to citizenship in the U.S., including derivation, acquisition, and naturalization. Of these three pathways, the most common is gaining citizenship through naturalization.

Citizenship by derivation or acquisition

Children born outside of the U.S. may automatically acquire U.S. citizenship at birth through acquisition if at least one parent is a U.S. citizen. If both the child’s parents are married U.S. citizens with at least one parent living in the U.S. before their child’s birth, the child will automatically acquire U.S. citizenship when born. If one parent is a U.S. citizen who was married to the other parent when the child was born birth, the child will automatically acquire U.S. citizenship if the parent was physically present in the U.S. for at least five years beforehand and at least two years occurred after the parent reached age 14 if the child was born after November 14, 1986. For children born before that date, the parent who is a U.S. citizen must have resided in the U.S. for at least 10 years with five years occurring after his or her 14th birthday.

Children can also attain U.S. citizenship from parents who become naturalized U.S. citizens when the children were minors living in the parents’ custody and care and are green cardholders. People who obtain U.S. citizenship are not required to go through the naturalization ceremony during the immigration process.

Citizenship through naturalization

The final path to U.S. citizenship is through naturalization. There are numerous eligibility categories for naturalization. In general, the person must be at least age 18 and meet other requirements. Two of the most common ways for a person to become a naturalized citizen is to first remain in the U.S. as a legal permanent resident for five years or three years if he or she is married to a U.S. citizen. Serving in the U.S. military is also a way to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.