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Naturalization versus Citizenship: Is there a difference?

What is the difference between Naturalization and Citizenship in the United States of America?

When people talk about becoming a United States citizen, they tend to use the words naturalization and citizenship interchangeably, but do the two immigration law terms really mean the same thing?

United States Citizenship

United States citizenship is a status that grants specific unalienable rights, duties and benefits to citizens of the United States of America. Those rights are derived from and protected by the United States Constitution and the laws of the United States. People born in the U.S. and in certain American territories are U.S. citizens. Someone who is born abroad to U.S. citizen parents may claim U.S. citizenship upon birth. There is nothing else that these people need to do to receive the full rights and benefits of a U.S. citizen.

If a U.S. citizen is born outside of the United States and needs to obtain proof of their citizenship, they may apply for a U.S. passport from the Department of State or they might apply for a Certificate of Citizenship from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Children who are adopted outside of the United States and acquire citizenship through their U.S. citizen parents can apply to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship as well.

Naturalization Requirements

Naturalization is the process by which a foreign national may apply to become a United States citizen. In order to qualify for naturalization, one must meet certain requirements, including:

  • Be a Lawful Permanent Resident of the United States for at least 5 years immediately before applying to naturalize;
  • Have continuous residence in the United States for at least 5 years immediately before applying to naturalize;
  • Be physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application;
  • Maintain good moral character

Spouses of U.S. citizens do not need to be Lawful Permanent Residents for 5 years prior to applying for naturalization. Instead, they are eligible to naturalize if they have had their green card for at least 3 years and have been living in marital union with the same U.S. citizen spouse during those three years. To qualify, spouses of U.S. citizens also only need 3 years of continuous residence in the United States as well as 18 months of physical presence out of the 3 years immediately prior to filing for naturalization.

Members of the U.S. Armed Forces may also qualify for naturalization based upon their service if they meet all other requirements. Military service members and veterans should investigate this route to citizenship further if they served honorably in active-duty status or in the Selected Reserve or the Ready Reserve after September 11, 2001, from August 2, 1990 until April 11, 1991, from February 28, 1961 through October 15, 1978, from June 25, 1950 through July 1, 1955 or from September 1, 1939 until December 31, 1946.

Naturalization Process

Naturalization applicants must file Form N-400 with USCIS. Applicants will have their bio-metrics taken and will then attend an interview at their local USCIS office. During this interview, the applicant will take a U.S. history and civics test. They will also need to demonstrate their ability to read, write and speak the English language.

Once the N-400 applicant is approved, the applicants will be scheduled for their Naturalization Ceremony. At the ceremony, applicants take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America to become a United States citizen. The applicants will then receive their Certificates of Naturalization proving that they have become United States citizens.

Do Naturalized Citizens Have the Same Rights as Other U.S. Citizens?

Naturalized U.S. citizens have essentially the same rights as native born U.S. citizens. They have the right to vote in U.S. elections and hold U.S. passports. They enjoy freedom of speech, assembly, and religion. They are entitled to trial by a jury of their peers. The only difference is that a naturalized citizen may not run for President or Vice President of the United States.

Contact Immigration Attorney in Clearwater, Julie Beth Jouben P.A. to Learn More about Naturalization Vs Citizenship and schedule a no-cost legal consultation today for immigration assistance.

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