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
• Apply for naturalization
For more information, see USCIS Policy Manual Citizenship and Naturalization Guidance.
To become a naturalized U.S. citizen, you must pass the naturalization test. At your naturalization interview, you will be required to answer questions about your application and background. You will also take an English and civics test unless you qualify for an exemption or waiver.
Study Materials including:
• Study Materials for the Civics Test
• Study Materials for the English Test
If You Don’t Pass
You will be given two opportunities to take the English and civics tests and to answer all questions relating to your naturalization application in English. If you fail any of the tests at your initial interview, you will be retested on the portion of the test that you failed (English or civics) between 60 and 90 days from the date of your initial interview.
Most naturalization applicants are required to take a test on:
• Civics (U.S. history and government)
Spouses of U.S. service members may be eligible for expedited or overseas naturalization. Children of service members may also be eligible for overseas naturalization.
Expedited Naturalization for Spouses of Service Members
Spouses of U.S. citizen service members who are (or will be) stationed abroad may be eligible for expedited naturalization in the U.S. under section 319(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
To apply for naturalization under INA 319(b), you generally must:
• Be age 18 or older;
• Establish your spouse is a U.S. citizen who is, or will be, regularly stationed abroad as a member of the U.S. armed forces for a period of one year or more;
• Be authorized to accompany your spouse abroad by your spouse’s official orders;
• Be present in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident at the time of your naturalization application interview;
• Be present in the U.S. at the time of naturalization;
• Declare in good faith upon naturalization an intent to reside abroad with your U.S. citizen spouse and to reside in the U.S. immediately upon your spouse’s termination of service abroad;
• Be able to read, write, and speak basic English;
• Have a basic knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics); and
• Have been, and continue to be, a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and well-disposed to the good order and happiness of the U.S. during all relevant periods under the law.
Military spouses who are on their active-duty spouse’s Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders must contact the Military Help Line at 877-CIS-4MIL (877-247-4645, TTY 800-877-8339) or email@example.com to let the team know they are moving according to military orders and, therefore, are requesting expedited processing. This is a case-by-case review and we do not automatically grant it to spouses. In most situations, we route all military spouses through the normal processing.
We may also consider expedited processing in other unique cases (for example, if a U.S. service member is deploying and needs to update their family care plan). However, we cannot guarantee that we will grant every expedite request.
Overseas Naturalization for Spouses of Service Members
Under section 319(e)(2) of the INA and 8 U.S.C. section 1443a, a lawful permanent resident (LPR) who is married to a member of the U.S. armed forces can naturalize abroad without traveling to the U.S. In general, to be eligible for naturalization abroad under section 319(e)(2) of the INA and 8 U.S.C. section 1443a, you must:
• Be the spouse of a member of the U.S. armed forces who is stationed abroad in that capacity;
• Be authorized to accompany your spouse abroad by your spouse’s official orders;
• Reside abroad in marital union with your spouse; and
• Meet the requirements of either section 316(a) or 319(a) of the INA at the time you file your naturalization application.
Section 316(a) applies to you if you have been an LPR for at least five years immediately before the date you file the naturalization application and have been physically present in the U.S. for periods totaling at least two and a half years. Time spent living in marital union with your spouse who is abroad under military orders counts toward the continuous residence and physical presence requirements.
○ Section 319(a) applies to you if:
• You have been an LPR for at least three continuous years immediately before the date you file your naturalization application;
• You have lived in marital union with your U.S. citizen spouse for at least three years immediately before you file your naturalization application;
• Your U.S citizen spouse has been a U.S. citizen for at least three years immediately before you file your naturalization application; and
• You have been physically present in the U.S. for periods totaling at least 18 months out of the three years immediately preceding the date you file your application. Time spent living in marital union with your spouse who is abroad under military orders counts toward the continuous residence and physical presence requirements.
You can file for naturalization up to 90 calendar days before you meet the time requirement for being an LPR. For example, if you are filing under section 319(a), you can file when you have been an LPR for two years and 275 days. However, if you file early under section 319(a):
• You must have been married to your U.S. citizen spouse for at least three years at the time you file;
• Your spouse must have been a U.S. citizen for at least three years at the time you file; and
• You must meet all other eligibility requirements (such as good moral character).
Use our early filing calculator to determine your earliest filing date for naturalizations. For more guidance on naturalization for qualifying spouses of U.S. military personnel, including a quick reference chart on overseas naturalization and filing tips, please see our policy manual.
Overseas Naturalization for Children of Service Members
Certain children of service members, including certain children adopted by U.S. citizen parents, can become naturalized U.S. citizens under section 322 of the INA without having to travel to the U.S. for any part of the naturalization process. To be eligible for overseas naturalization, the child must appear on the service member’s official orders and live abroad with the service member.
Generally, under section 322(a) and (d) of the INA, a parent who is a U.S. citizen (or, if the citizen parent has died during the preceding five years, a citizen grandparent or citizen legal guardian) may apply for naturalization on behalf of a child born outside of the U.S. who has not acquired citizenship automatically under section 320 of the INA. The general requirements are:
• At least one parent is a U.S. citizen or, if deceased, that parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of death.
• The U.S. citizen parent or the U.S. citizen grandparent has (or at the time of death had) been physically present in the U.S. or its outlying possessions for at least five years, at least two of which were after the parent or grandparent turned 14 years old.
○ If the parent is a member of the U.S. armed forces and resided abroad on official orders, we treat that time as physical presence in the U.S.
• The child is under the age of 18 years.
• The child is residing outside the U.S. in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent (or, if the citizen parent is deceased, an individual who does not object to the application).
Adjusting Status for Spouses for Service Members
Generally, spouses need to have lawful permanent resident status before naturalizing.
If the spouse of a service member receives an adjustment of status interview appointment notice while the service member is deployed, the USCIS office will still conduct the interview. The spouse should bring evidence of the service member’s assignment (such as a copy of their orders or a letter from their commander) along with any other requested evidence listed on the appointment notice.
Petitioning for Family Members
If you are a service member assigned to an overseas U.S. military base and would like to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, please contact your country’s USCIS international office (or U.S. Embassy or Consulate if there is no USCIS international office). For a list of USCIS international offices and up-to-date filing instructions, please visit uscis.gov/international. We will update filing instructions before we close an international office.
Section 101(a)(22) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) states that “the term ‘national of the United States’ means (A) a citizen of the United States, or (B) a person who, though not a citizen of the United States, owes permanent allegiance to the United States.” Therefore, U.S. citizens are also U.S. nationals. Non-citizen nationality status refers only individuals who were born either in American Samoa or on Swains Island to parents who are not citizens of the United States. The concept of dual nationality means that a person is a national of two countries at the same time. Each country has its own nationality laws based on its own policy. Persons may have dual nationality by automatic operation of different laws rather than by choice. For example, a child born in a foreign country to U.S. national parents may be both a U.S. national and a national of the country of birth. Or, an individual having one nationality at birth may naturalize at a later date in another country and become a dual national.
U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one nationality or another. A U.S. citizen may naturalize in a foreign state without any risk to his or her U.S. citizenship. However, persons who acquire a foreign nationality after age 18 by applying for it may relinquish their U.S. nationality if they wish to do so. In order to relinquish U.S. nationality by virtue of naturalization as a citizen of a foreign state, the law requires that the person must apply for the foreign nationality voluntarily and with the intention to relinquish U.S. nationality. Intent may be shown by the person’s statements and conduct.
Dual nationals owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country. They are required to obey the laws of both countries, and either country has the right to enforce its laws. It is important to note the problems attendant to dual nationality. Claims of other countries upon U.S. dual-nationals often place them in situations where their obligations to one country are in conflict with the laws of the other. In addition, their dual nationality may hamper efforts of the U.S. Government to provide consular protection to them when they are abroad, especially when they are in the country of their second nationality.
U.S. nationals, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States. Dual nationals may also be required by the foreign country to use its passport to enter and leave that country. Use of the foreign passport to travel to or from a country other than the United States is not inconsistent with U.S. law.
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