How to Become a US Citizen

United States of America is a great country to call home. If you have not been lucky to be born there, becoming a citizen of the country is not easy. Admit it…if it was easy to become a US citizen, you would take up the chance. If you have a dream of becoming an American, the path to realize this dream will be long and difficult, but it is doable.

For you to lay claim to the stars and stripes (the American Flag), you have to prove that you are worthy of taking the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.

There several ways to become a US citizen other than terra firma (birthright citizenship). Below are the most common.

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Citizen by Naturalization (Immigration and National Act 316(a))

To apply to become a US citizen by naturalization, you must;

  • Be 18 or older.
  • A permanent resident (or green card holder) for not less than 5 years.
  • Have been married for 3 years to a US citizen.
  • Have a parent who is married to a US citizen.
  • Have an approved VAWA (Violence against Women Act) petition which is granted after having an abusive relationship with US citizen.
  • Have lived in the US for 3 months before the filing date of the application.
  • Have lived in the US for at least 30 months out of the previous 5 years.
  • Resided in the US continuously from the date of application for naturalization to the actual date of naturalization.
  • Able to speak, read and write English and have some understanding of the US government and history of the country.
  • Be a person of good moral character.


Citizen by Parents (Immigration and National Act 320)

A child to parents who are US citizens become a citizen automatically if he meets the following conditions as provided for in the Child Citizenship Act (CCA);

  • One of the parents of the child must be a US citizen either by birth or naturalization.
  • The child must be below 18 years.
  • The child must be domiciled in the US physically under a custody of a parent who is a US citizen.
  • The child must be lawfully admitted and domiciled in the US.
  • A child adopted by American parents automatically becomes a US citizen under the Immigration and National Act (INA) S.320 if the said child satisfies the provisions of adoption under INA 101(b) (1).
  • A biological or adopted child, who is not domiciled in the US may qualify for naturalization under INA 322 if he satisfies the provisions provided for by the Child Citizenship Act (CCA).

To qualify for naturalization under INA 322, a minor must meet the following requirements

  • At least one of the child’s parents must be an American citizen and if deceased, he/she must have been an American citizen at the time of death and
  • The parent who is/was a US citizen must be/have been physically domiciled in the US or in one of its regions for at least 5 years, two of which must have been after attaining 14 years.
  • The child must be in the age of minority (18 years or less)
  • The child is living outside the US under the legal custody of a parent who is a US citizen
  • The child is temporarily and lawfully in the US and is maintaining lawful status while in the country


Citizen through Military (Immigration and National Act 328 and 329)

To qualify to become a US citizen through military, you should have completed one year of qualifying service in the military during peacetime

A person who has served the US military is eligible to apply for naturalization under S.328 through what is known as “peacetime naturalization”. The provisions to satisfy under this include;

  • Be 18 or older
  • Serve(d) the US armed forces for at least 1 year honorably.
  • Be a permanent resident of the US during the application and naturalization process.
  • If no longer serving the US army, you must have separated honorably.
  • Be a permanent resident of the US during the naturalization process.
  • Ability to read speak and write basic English
  • Knowledge of the US history and government
  • Be a person of good moral standing
  • Have the US constitution copy and be well aware of happiness and order of the US
  • Be consistently domiciled in the US for 5 years and at least 30 months in the period preceding the application filing unless such an application has been filed during active service or within 6 months of separating from military service.

To qualify for naturalization during periods of hostilities under section 320; members who have served honorably for even 1 day can apply. The following are the prerequisites to qualify;

  • Must have served honorably in active duty or in the Selected Reserve of the Ready to Serve during designated hostilities.
  • Must have separated from US military honorably if separated
  • Must be a permanent resident during induction or enlistment
  • Have physically resided in the US or its territories during induction or enlistment
  • Able to write , read and speak basic English
  • Knowledge of the US constitution, history and government
  • Be disposed of good happiness or good order during the relevant law.


Note that the designate periods of hostilities include;

  • September, 11 2001 to date
  • August 2, 1990 up to April 11, 1991
  • February 28, 1961 up to October 15, 1978
  • June 25, 1950 up to July 1, 1955
  • September 1, 1939 up to December 31, 1946 and
  • April 6 1917 up to November 11 1918


Another section of military naturalization is the INA 319(b) which allows spouses of US citizen who is regularly stationed abroad or residing abroad. To qualify under this section of INA, you must satisfy the following conditions;

  • At the time of your interview, you must be permanently and lawfully residing in the US
  • A petitioner for naturalization under INA 319 (b) must satisfy the provisions of S.312 and S.316 of the INA as well as Title 8 of the Federal Regulations which covers people whose physical presence is not required.
  • You must be living together with a US citizen in marital union that is valid
  • You must produce proof that you will rejoin your spouse within 45 days after naturalization.

Note that the US citizen spouse that you will invoke under INA 319(b) must satisfy the following conditions;

  • Must be a member of the US armed forces
  • Must be an under contract employee of the US government
  • An employee of a research institution that is recognized under the US attorney general
  • An employee of a foreign trade and commerce firm that is engaged in promoting the interests of the US
  • An employee of an international body such as the UN of which the US is a member
  • A member of a denominational organization with valid presence in the US and performs priestly or ministerial functions.

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