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Steps to becoming a U.S. citizen

Many Pennsylvania residents seek to become U.S. citizens each year. In order to become a citizen of the United States, a person must meet specific criteria. For someone to become a U.S. citizen at birth, he or she much have either been born in the United States or specific territories or possessions, or have at least one parent who was a citizen at the time of the person's birth.

Individuals who were not granted citizenship at birth may apply for naturalization or citizenship through their parents. To qualify for citizenship through parents, an individual must apply before he or she reaches the age of 18. If the child was born outside the U.S., he or she can gain citizenship if both parents were U.S. citizens at the time of the child's birth, his or her parents were married and at least one of them lived either in the U.S. or its territories before the birth.

People who do not qualify for citizenship through parents may apply for naturalization. In order to do so, they will need to complete the Application for Naturalization, or Form N-400. In addition, applicants must take the Naturalization Test. Individuals might qualify for naturalization if they have been permanent residents for a minimum of five years.

It can be difficult to figure out whether a person qualifies for either citizenship through parents or to file a citizenship application. A Pennsylvania lawyer with a background in immigration law matters can review a client's circumstances and determine the best path toward citizenship. If there are some additional requirements, the lawyer may explain what they are and assist with the process by helping to prepare and file the necessary documentation.

Source: USCIS, "U.S. Citizenship", October 13, 2014

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