The acquisition of US nationality or citizenship by any foreign national is called Naturalization. The term is called so because Naturalization confers on an applicant almost all the rights that a citizen by birth benefits from.
How to become a U.S. Citizen?
A foreign citizen can initiate the Naturalization process by filing Form N-400, which is the Application for Naturalization.
A US citizenship aspirant must meet the following eligibility criteria as a prerequisite for the same:
- Must be at least 18 years of age
- Must be a permanent resident for at least 3 years if married to a US citizen, or at least 5 years after acquiring green card.
- Must be an individual with a sound moral character
- Must know the basic facts about US government. This can be exempted in cases of individuals with certain kinds of permanent impairment
- Must be physically present in or should have resided in the US for a continuous specified period.
- The aspirant must be capable of speaking, reading and writing basic English, except in a few specified cases.
An applicant may or may not be in the US while filling the said form. It is recommended to refer to the manual M-476 at www.USCIS.gov when filling the same from overseas.
Benefits of U.S. Citizenship
US citizenship not only offers several rights but it involves many responsibilities too. A U.S citizen gets many exclusive rights that permanent residents do not including the following:
- The Right to Vote US citizens can exercise this right in Federal elections, and most states restrict this right only to US citizens.
- The Right to Get Family Members to US US citizens are usually given priority when filing petition to permanently move their family members to the US.
- Acquiring US citizenship for children born abroad Generally, a child born to a US citizen in a foreign country automatically acquires US citizenship.
- US Passport US citizens can avail of government assistance when travelling overseas.
- Applications to Federal Jobs Most Federal jobs quote US citizenship as an eligibility criterion.
- An opportunity to become an elected official Most elected offices in US necessitate US citizenship.
What Responsibilities Come with US Citizenship?
- A US citizen needs to give up any prior, national or sovereign, allegiance completely.
- The Oath requires a citizen to swear allegiance to US.
- It requires an individual to support and safeguard the US Constitution and Federal laws.
- A US citizen needs to commit service to the nation whenever required.
There are many more responsibilities a US citizen needs to fulfill, apart from the ones in the Oath. He/She needs to register for and exercise the right to vote diligently; and serve on a jury. Finally, to fortify America by respecting diversity in opinions, cultures, ethnicities and religions in this nation. Tolerance for differences is a key responsibility that comes with US citizenship.