Most people become U.S. citizens either by birth in the United States, by birth abroad to U.S. citizen parents or by a process called naturalization.

Citizenship in the United States gives a person all of the rights that the United States has to offer. For example, a U.S. citizen has the right to vote, the right to petition for family members to immigrate, and the right to live abroad without losing your right to return.  

To become a U.S. citizen, you must first have lawful permanent residence in the United States (a "Green Card"). You must also meet the other requirements listed below.

Automatic Citizenship

People who are born in the United States are automatically citizens at birth. There are a few exceptions for those who are born to foreign heads of state or on foreign vessels in U.S. waters.

Certain people who are born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent or parents may also be citizens at birth. The rules for automatic citizenship for those who are born abroad are extremely complicated and vary depending upon the year in which the individual seeking citizenship was born. If you were born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent or parents, contact Kolko & Associates, P.C. about your eligibility for automatic citizenship.

Citizenship Through Naturalization Application

All individuals applying for citizenship through a naturalization must be at least 18 years old and:

  • Have continuously resided in the U.S. for five (5) years after becoming a lawful permanent resident (three (3) years if married to a U.S. citizen);
  • Have spent at least half of the past five (5) years (three (3) years if married to a U.S. citizen) as a lawful permanent resident physically in the United States;
  • Must have lived for at least three (3) months in the jurisdiction where the application is filed;
  • Must demonstrate good moral character for the entire period of required residence (5 or 3 years), and an attachment to the principles embodied in the U.S. Constitution; and
  • Must possess basic English skills and knowledge of the history and government of the United States (certain exceptions apply); and
  • Must be willing to take the Oath of Citizenship.

Certain people are not eligible for citizenship even if they have met the above requirements. These include people who have held certain ideological beliefs and people who have deserted the U.S. military. Some criminal offenses may also interfere with a person’s eligibility to obtain citizenship through naturalization.

Derivative Citizenship through the Naturalization of One or Both Parents

Children who were born outside of the United States who have not acquired citizenship at birth may still derive citizenship when one or both parents naturalize.

Under current law, a child derives citizenship if:

  • One (1) parent is a U.S. citizen by birth or naturalization; and
  • The child is under 18; and
  • The child is a lawful permanent resident; and
  • The child is residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent.

Citizenship Through Military Service

There are special rules for the naturalization of members of the Armed Forces. If you are a lawful permanent resident who has served in the U.S. Armed Forces and you wish to apply for naturalization, please contact Kolko & Associates, P.C. to inquire about the special rules that apply to you.

Dual Citizenship

Dual citizenship means that a person is a citizen of two (2) countries at the same time.  Sometimes dual citizenship occurs as an operation of law.  For example, a child born in the United States to foreign parents is a citizen of the United States and will usually be a citizen of his/her parent’s home country as well.

The U.S. government allows, but does not encourage, dual citizenship. Other countries do not allow their citizens to hold citizenship in another country.

It is important to understand that the United States government does not have the power to take away another country’s citizenship from those who wish to naturalize.  A person who becomes a U.S. citizen through naturalization may keep his or her original citizenship if the country of original citizenship does not prohibit dual citizenship.  Dual citizenship may also expose an individual to additional liabilities, including taxation.  Because dual citizenship carries unique rights and responsibilities, it is important to consider naturalization carefully.

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Kolko & Associates is a full service immigration and naturalization law firm providing professional legal services to individuals and businesses throughout Colorado, the Rocky Mountain West, the United States, and the World. Our professional staff speaks English, Spanish, Korean, German, and Slovak, and we can arrange for translators in any other language.