Description of the US Citizenship Process
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Citizenship isn't as simple as residence. There are many requirements beyond residence to qualify as a citizen of the United States. Some people have lived here for years and still aren't qualified to vote because they are not yet citizens. Specific criterion have been set to acquire citizenship that involve things such as knowledge of basic United States history, fluent english, and many other things that will be discussed throughout this paper. Overall, as a born-in citizen, I will be discussing the other end of the spectrum and the advantages that citizens have over aliens.
To become a citizen, there are a few processes an individual can take. One way is to be born in the United States, though you can't really choose this option. The other way is through naturalization. Naturalization is the established legal process that allows an individual to acquire citizenship in a new country. The naturalization process is different for every country, but in the United States of America, we like to make the process simple and overall easy. Whether this is a good thing is up to each person on their own to decide.
To discuss the naturalization process, we first have to draw the lines as to who is a born-in citizen. Any person born in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, or Guam is also a citizen from birth. There are a few more rules though. Children born on an American embassy anywhere in the world are also citizens; however, a child born on a foreign embassy on United States soil isn't a citizen. This means that in America we look at both where and to whom you are born to define your citizenship. Therefore, anyone born outside of those boundaries set has to go through the naturalization process before they can enjoy their life as a citizen of the United States of America.
To begin the naturalization process an applicant needs to be qualified to apply. This requires a few extra boundaries. First of all, for any of this to matter, the applicant needs to be at least eighteen years of age. This is because before a person is eighteen their citizenship is based on their parents. If a person of age is wanting to file, they need to find out if their are eligible due to their residence or spouse.
A person is eligible if they fit under any of these categories for qualification by residence. An applicant must: Have lawfully been admitted for permanent residence, have resided in the states for a minimum of five years with less than one full year of absence (or only three years if married to a citizen), have been physically present in the states for at least 30 months out of the last five years (they cannot be absent for more than 6 months at one time), and have lived in a single city or state for at least three months continually. If someone has achieved any of these, they are eligible to apply for citizenship by residence.
To apply based on spousal qualifications, a person needs to follow similar guidelines. They need to have lived on United States soil for at least 3 years while married to a citizen. They need to have a legal union, and the spouse had to be a citizen for the full three years, minimum. They do not have to follow the residence laws if the applicants spouse is employed by any of the following organizations: The United States government (this includes all army, navy, marine corporations, or air force employees), American Research Institutes (must be recognized by the attorney general), a recognized religious organization, or certain public international organizations involving the United States. If an applicants spouse fits any of these requirements, then they are eligible for naturalization.
Once they have found out whether they are eligible or not, they need to follow the steps to complete an application for citizenship. These can be acquired through a local courthouse or a public government building. This application needs to be accompanied by two photographs of the applicant, these pictures need to meet the standards set by the USCIS (The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). There are a few documents that are required as well as a fee for application and another fee for fingerprints.
After an applicant completes all of these steps, they will receive an appointment letter from the USCIS. This is to get your fingerprinting done. Once this is done, they will set up an appointment for an interview. This interview includes a few questions about your background and about you as a person, to test the good moral character required. If the applicant is passed on, they will be given an English test to see how fluent they are. After completion of that test, they take a civics test. This is a general knowledge test of simple American history, things such as war knowledge, what wars we were involved in and why, what presidents were major models, and other questions along those lines.
When the applicant has gone through all of this, they are still a few steps away from becoming a citizen. They first receive a decision. This decision comes from a member of the USCIS looking through the applicants profile and criminal history and seeing if they meet the standards for moral character. Upon examination, if there are any flaws, these will be brought up to the applicant for potential clearing up. After this, the member will look through the answers on the test, grade them, and see if they are qualified to receive a ceremony date. If they pass all tests and their moral character is in tact, they will be scheduled for a ceremony date.
The ceremony is where the applicant finally officially becomes a United States citizen. This ceremony usually happens at the nearest courthouse, and includes a few more applicants. These dates are usually spread out so that there can be as many people as possible receiving their citizenship cards at the same time. When the applicant arrives at the courthouse, they are required to turn in their Permanent Resident Card. This is simply because once they are citizens they will not need it anymore. Once they do that, court is in session.
In the court, they will all line up, pledge their allegiance to the United States, the usual way, and sit with the other applicants. Each individual will get up and give a speech for those in the court, usually family and friends are there to support them. They will discuss what they have been doing since they found out that they are eligible to receive their citizenship, and why they desired to be citizens of this great country.
After everyone is done with their speeches, they move on as a group to the floor. They will all take the Oath of Allegiance. This is the final step to naturalization. It is the last leap to becoming a citizen, and after it is done, there is only one thing left to do, celebrate. It may be a simple process, but it is incredibly lengthy, not including the time that you have to have lived in the States. This process can really take a toll on a person, so it is a glorious time when the applicant finally receives that card. They can finally vote, and gain a United States passport. Above all, they have all the freedoms that a citizen has, and they are protected by the constitution.
They can finally get a high end job, and will be respected as any other worker would be. It is difficult to get a job that isn't fast food or shelf-stocking when you aren't a legal citizen, so that is a bonus. They finally gain the freedoms listed out in all of the Bill of Rights, and will be tried in court just the same as a born-in citizen would. There isn't any backlash for being a citizen in America, like there would be if you became a citizen of Cuba. The only thing that is an issue is the impossibility of dual citizenship. Here in America, there is a sort of moral code that says we believe a citizen in our country considers us their home, and having dual citizenship doesn't reflect that very well.
Of course, in any case that a person truly does want to become a citizen, the process is a little bit more involved than it has been told in this paper. When a person wants to become a citizen, they don't already have the knowledge of what wars America has been in, and they surely don't know all of the presidents. There is studying to do, and along with that, the process nearly requires a lawyer who majors in legalization and immigration. The legal steps to becoming a citizen like finding out whether you are eligible, and how to display yourself to the interviewers. Also getting into the system takes a fine-tuned approach, so the best way to attack that is through someone who truly knows the system. Overall though, being a citizen of this amazing country is worth all the trouble, and the freedoms we have are the greatest we can expect from any country.
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