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Common Questions About Immigration Law

How can I become a United States citizen?
A person becomes a U.S. citizen by birth or through naturalization. People are born U.S. citizens if they are born in the United States or if they are born to a U.S. citizen. If you were born in the United States, you are an American citizen at birth. Your birth certificate is proof of your citizenship. Naturalization is the act of making a person a citizen of the United States. An application for citizenship is an application for Naturalization.

How do I become a naturalized citizen?
If you were not born a U.S. citizen, you may be eligible to become a citizen through naturalization. People who are 18 years and older must apply for naturalization. Children whose parents are US citizens must apply for a certificate of citizenship to become naturalized citizens.

What are the requirements for naturalization?
You may apply for U.S. citizenship if: (1) you have been a lawful permanent resident for five years, (2) you are married to a US citizen and have been a lawful permanent resident for three years, (3) you are a lawful permanent resident child of a United States citizen parent, or (4) you have qualifying military service. Children under 18 years old automatically become U.S. citizens when their parents naturalize.

If I am a naturalized citizen, is my child a U.S. citizen?
In most cases, your child is a citizen if all of the following are true:
(1) The other parent is also naturalized or
(2) You are the only surviving parent (if the other parent is dead) or
(3) You have legal custody, the child was under 18 when you naturalized, the child was not married when you naturalized, and the child was a Permanent Resident before his or her 18th birthday.

What is an Immigrant?
An immigrant is a person coming to the US to remain for an indefinite period of time to make the United States his or her primary place of residence. A permanent resident of the US is an immigrant.

What is a Visa?
A visa is an authorization that allows a foreign citizen to travel to the U.S. port-of entry and request permission to enter the U.S. The visa is issued by a US consulate. The visa does not give the foreign citizen the right to enter the US, only the right to request permission to enter the U.S.

What is an Immigrant Visa?
An Immigrant visa is the visa given to a person by a US consulate. Immigrant visas are issued to those who qualify for residence in the United States. The most common immigrant visas are:

  • Employment Based Visas
  • Family Relations Visas
  • Lottery Diversity Visa
  • Religious Worker Visa
  • Investors/Entrepreneur Visa
  • Refugee/Asylum/Protected Status

    What is a Nonimmigrant?
    A nonimmigrant is a person coming to the US for a limited period of time. Common types of nonimmigrants are:

  • Tourists
  • Students
  • Exchange Visitors
  • Temporary Workers
  • What is a Nonimmigrant Visa?
    A nonimmigrant visa allows a foreign citizen to remain within the United States for a particular purpose. A visa is not a guarantee of entry into the United States. The nonimmigrant visa does not give the foreign citizen the right to enter the US, only the right to request permission to enter the U.S. The period shown on the visa does not indicate the length of time the foreign citizen may stay in the United States. Only the U.S. Immigration authorities at the port of entry determines how long the foreign citizen may stay in the United States. A nonimmigrant that stays in the United States beyond the period he or she was granted permission to stay is subject to deportation.

    What is a Permanent Resident?
    An immigration status that allows a person to live permanently in the US. The status allows the person to travel in and out of the US without a visa, to work at any job, and to accumulate time towards US citizenship. The status is shown by a card commonly called a green card.

    Is it possible to be a dual citizen of the United States of America and another country?
    Yes, as long as the other country does not have any laws or regulations requiring you to renounce your US citizenship before a US consulate.