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The process by which a lawful permanent resident becomes a U.S. citizen is called naturalization. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service has initial jurisdiction over applications for naturalization. The basic requirements for naturalization include being 18 years of age, a lawful permanent resident for five years (three years if married to and living with a U.S. citizen), physically present in the U.S. for at least half of the 5 years preceding the application, and demonstrating good moral character for the five years preceding the application.

The USCIS may deny applications for naturalization for a variety of reasons, including criminal history or failure to demonstrate the other requirements. In addition to denying the application, the USCIS may even initiate removal proceedings against an individual. Denial of applications for naturalization may be appealed, first with the USCIS and later in U.S. District Court if necessary. A lawful permanent resident should be careful to review the facts of his case with a competent attorney before filing his or her application.

Individuals may also be U.S. citizens without realizing it. Someone may be a U.S. citizen automatically by virtue of his or her parent’s naturalization.


Individuals born overseas may also obtain U.S. citizenship at birth through their parents. These laws are complex and have changed many times over the last hundred years. Both the USCIS and Department of State may determine whether an individual is a U.S. citizen. Due to the complexities in the law, a review of your facts by a qualified attorney is essential before making any decision on how to proceed with your case.

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