Immigration Law
citizenship

Citizenship

The Immigration and Naturalization Act sets forth the legal requirements for acquiring and losing citizenship of the United States. The requirements become more explicit since the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, with the most recent changes made in 2001.

Rights of Citizens

U.S. citizens have the right to participate in the political system of the United States (with most U.S. states having restrictions for felons, and federal restrictions on naturalized persons), are represented and protected abroad by the United States (through U.S. embassies and consulates), and are allowed to reside in the United States, and certain territories, without any immigration requirements.

 

Acquisition of Citizenship

Citizenship of U.S.A. can be obtained by:

 

By-Birth citizens

Most United States citizens are natural-born citizens, meaning they have been citizens since birth by virtue of having been born in the United States or born to United States citizens overseas.

 

Birth within the United States

Children born in the United States (including not only the 50 states and the District of Columbia, but also, in most cases, US Territories, such as Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Panama Canal Zone before it was returned to Panama, in addition to many current states which were territories at the time of the birth of some individuals now living, e.g. Arizona), are U.S. citizens at birth (unless born to foreign diplomatic staff), regardless of the citizenship or nationality of the parents. This has become controversial, as some non-resident parents enter the United States to give birth, so that their children, often called anchor babies, will be U.S. citizens. A birth certificate is considered evidence of citizenship.

The U.S. citizenship status of children born in the United States to non-citizen parents has been generally accepted as settled law since 1898, when the Supreme Court held in U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark that almost all such children were entitled to citizenship by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Although efforts have been made in Congress, from time to time, to overturn the Wong Kim Ark ruling or limit its effect, via either a new amendment to the Constitution or ordinary legislation, no such attempt has ever succeeded.

 

Through birth abroad to two United States citizens

In most cases, one is a U.S. citizen if both of the following are true:

 

  1. Both their parents were U.S. citizens at the time of their birth
  2. At least one of their parents lived in the United States prior to their birth.

 

A person’s record of birth abroad, if registered with a U.S. consulate or embassy, is proof of their citizenship. They may also apply for a passport or a Certificate of Citizenship to have their citizenship recognized.

 

Through birth abroad to one United States citizen

In most cases, one is a U.S. citizen if all of the following are true:

 

  1. One of their parents was a U.S. citizen at the time of their birth;
  2. Their citizen parent lived at least 5 years in the United States before their birth; and
  3. At least 2 of these 5 years in the United States were after their citizen parent’s 14th birthday (see note below).

 

A person’s record of birth abroad, if registered with a U.S. consulate or embassy, is proof of their citizenship. They may also apply for a passport or a Certificate of Citizenship to have their citizenship recognized.

 

Note: If born before November 14, 1986, one is a citizen if their U.S. citizen parent lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years and 5 of those years in the U.S. were after their citizen parent’s 14th birthday. The newer law does not apply retroactively.

 

Different rules apply for those born before December 24, 1952.

 

Read More >>> Naturalization

 

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