Naturalization Vs. citizenship…what is the difference? Do you know? If not, don’t worry because many people get the two confused and others don’t know the difference at all! But if you’re unsure, read on as we explain how these two concepts differ and how that might affect you!
Naturalization Vs. Citizenship: What is the Difference Between the Two?
Naturalization and citizenship are two terms that come up frequently in immigration law, but they are also two terms that are often confused. So, what is the difference? Let’s take a look!
Naturalization is a process by which a foreign national obtains U.S. citizenship by going through the “naturalization process”.
To be naturalized, an immigrant must meet specific criteria
- They must have been a permanent resident for at least five years and meet all other eligibility requirements.
- They must have been a permanent resident for three years or more and meet all eligibility requirements to file as a spouse of a U.S. citizen.
- They must have qualifying service in the U.S. armed forces and meet all other eligibility requirements.
- Their parents are U.S. citizens, they currently reside outside of the U.S., and they meet all other eligibility requirements.
The eligibility requirements referenced above include:
- Be at least 18 years old when submitting Form N-400, the Application for Naturalization;
- Show that they have been a lawfully admitted permanent resident of the United States for at least five years;
- Demonstrate continuous residence in the United States for at least five years immediately before the date they file Form N-400;
- Show that they have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the five years immediately before the date they file Form N-400;
- Show they have lived for at least three months in a state or USCIS district having jurisdiction over their place of residence. (If they are a student and are financially dependent on their parents, they may apply for naturalization where they go to school or where their family lives.);
- Show that they are a person of good moral character and have been a person of good moral character for at least five years immediately before the date they file Form N-400;
- Demonstrate an attachment to the principles and ideals of the U.S. Constitution;
- Be able to read, write and speak basic English;
- Have knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history, and of the principles and form of government, of the United States, (civics); and
- Take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States.
Let’s look at an example of naturalization.
Jan and Minnie were both born in Sweden. They were married in Sweden. They had a child in Sweden.
Jan, Minnie, and their daughter, Maja, are all Swedish citizens.
Jan is offered a permanent job in the United States. He takes the job and brings Minnie and Maja to the U.S. with him.
Jan, Minnie, and Maja are all sponsored for green cards by Jan’s new company.
After five years, Jan and Minnie want to become U.S. citizens.
The process by which they become citizens is called naturalization.
This requires them to undergo an interview, take a civics test, take an English test, and go through the oath-taking process.
After taking the oath, both Jan and Minnie are issued with certificates of naturalization which prove their U.S. citizenship.
Now, since Maja is only 6 when her parents are naturalized, she obviously cannot take a test in the same way her parents can.
Fortunately, Jan and Minnie can fill in an application for a certificate of citizenship for her. Once approved, Maja is granted U.S. citizenship.
For someone to apply for naturalization, they must be 18 years old or older. Children under 18 can be naturalized once their parents become U.S. citizens by applying for a certificate of citizenship as mentioned above.
So, how does citizenship acquisition differ from naturalization?
When we talk about citizenship acquisition, we are talking about someone who obtains citizenship because
- They are born in a U.S. territory.
- They are born to parents who are U.S. citizens.
In short, the difference lies in the fact that citizenship acquisition involves being given citizenship as a consequence of BEING something – ie: the child of U.S. citizens. citizenship via naturalization is being given citizenship as a consequence of DOING something.
- Both naturalization and citizenship make you a legal citizen of the United States.
- Naturalized citizens and people who have acquired citizenship both have the same inalienable rights within the U.S.
- Being versus doing (as mentioned above).
- Naturalization requires that someone be a lawful permanent resident for five years prior to application.
- Naturalization requires that an immigrant meet the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
- Naturalization requires an immigrant to take an oath swearing allegiance to the United States.
Have Questions About Naturalization Vs. Citizenship?
If you have questions about naturalization Vs. citizenship or questions about immigration-related issues overall, Nelson and Associates can help! Give us a call today at 626-683-3451 to set up an appointment at a time that’s convenient for you!