Acquired and Derivative Citizenship

There are 4 ways you can become a US citizen:

  • Being born within the United States.
  • Being born outside of the United States to a US citizen parent.
  • Being a lawful permanent resident and under 18 years of age when one of your parents naturalizes.
  • Applying for naturalization.

Establishing citizenship by birth in the United States simply requires registration of the birth at a civil registry. The remaining avenues for citizenship are more complicated because they have additional requirements. For example, if one of your parents was a US citizen at the time of your birth abroad, your parent may have registered your birth at a US consular post and obtain a certificate of a US citizen born abroad for you. However, that parent must first show that he/she lived within the United States during a specific period and for a certain amount of time. Those conditions are called requirements for acquisition of citizenship and vary depending on what year you were born. If your parent naturalized before your 18th birthday and at the time you were a lawful permanent resident, you may already be US citizen by derivation of your parent’s naturalization. If none of the above avenues for citizenship applies to you, you may be able to become a citizen by applying directly for naturalization.