Citizenship Lawyer & Naturalization Attorney Serving Bellevue, Kirkland, Seattle and Beyond

Many non-Americans have a dream of one day becoming U.S. citizens. Our firm is devoted to helping our clients who have these dreams advance their path to citizenship. The following provides some important information concerning the U.S. citizenship process.

If you need assistance seeking United States citizenship, we invite you to complete the contact form or email our office, and experienced Bellevue citizenship attorney Barbara Marcouiller will follow up with you. For three decades, Barbara has helped individuals become citizens in our country. Contact us today to learn how we can help advance your immigration objectives.

As a citizenship law firm, we are dedicated to serving clients in Bellevue, Kirkland, Seattle, and beyond.

How Can U.S. Citizenship be Acquired?

Generally, U.S. citizenship can be acquired at birth, by naturalization, or by the naturalization of a parent.

What is Naturalization, and Who Is Eligible?

United States naturalization is the legal process by which a non-U.S. citizen voluntarily becomes an American citizen. To be eligible, applicants must meet requirements set by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

To be eligible for naturalization, applicants must be lawful permanent residents (green card holders) and meet other criteria. Generally, a person must be a permanent resident for five years prior to applying for naturalization, but there are two exceptions:

  • If an individual was granted asylum, then they can apply for permanent residence a year after becoming an asylee. An applicant can count one year of asylum toward the five years of permanent residence, allowing a citizenship application to be submitted four years after becoming a permanent resident.
  • If a person has been married to a U.S. citizen and has been residing with that  S. citizen spouse for the immediate three years prior to applying for naturalization and throughout the naturalization process, he or she  may be able to apply for citizenship after three years as a permanent resident instead of the typical five years.

In addition, an applicant must have been physically present in the U.S. for at least one-half of the five (or three) years before applying for naturalization. Also, an applicant cannot abandon their permanent residence. (See our page on permanent residence for more information on abandonment).

Additional requirements include passing a U.S. history and civics test and taking an oath of allegiance to the U.S.  There are also many facts that may prevent an applicant from being approved for citizenship including certain criminal history, participating in the persecution of others, and many more. To learn more about what specific requirements may apply in your case, we invite you to reach out to ciizenship lawyer Barbara Marcouiller.

United States Citizenship Based Upon Birth

United States citizenship based on birth is determined by two primary criteria and does not require obtaining permanent residence (a green card) first:

  • Birth within the United States. Anyone born within the territorial boundaries of the U.S., regardless of the citizenship status of the parents, is automatically a U.S. citizen. This is in accordance with the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
  • Birth Abroad to a U.S. Citizen Parent. A child born outside the U.S. can acquire citizenship at birth if both parents are U.S. citizens.
  • For a child born abroad to one U.S. citizen parent and one non-U.S. citizen parent, the specific laws applicable depend on the date of the child’s birth, as these laws have changed over time. Generally, the U.S. citizen parent(s) must have lived in the U.S. for a certain period of years before the child’s birth.
  • For children born out of wedlock to a U.S. citizen father, there may be additional requirements, such as proof of an actual father/child relationship, such as having provided financial support for the child, and made decisions such as schooling or healthcare on behalf of the child.  Also, the child can be legitimated through a number of ways before the child turns 18.

These rules are intricate, and the exact requirements can vary based on individual circumstances and the laws in effect at the time of birth. It is the role of a citizenship attorney to carefully analyze each applicant’s personal situation and circumstances. If you need assistance with a birth-based citizenship petition, we invite you to email our office or complete the contact form to review your situation with Seattle citizenship attorney Barbara Marcouiller

Is It Possible to Obtain Citizenship Based on Birth If a Parent Does Not Meet the U.S. Residency Requirement Prior to the Birth of the Child?

In certain cases, if the U.S. citizen parent does not meet the residency requirement, it may be possible to count the residency of a grandparent (the U.S. citizen parent’s parent).

For example, we had the case of children of a U.S. citizen father and a foreign national mother. The children were born in the mother’s country of citizenship where the family was residing. At that time, we needed to show that the U.S. citizen father had physically resided in the U.S. for at least five years, was over the age of 14 for at least two of those years, and all five of those years were before the children were born.

Our U.S. citizen father’s parents divorced when he was 13 years old, and he was residing in Canada with his father, so he did not meet the residency requirements. However, his mother (i.e., the children’s grandmother) continued to reside in the U.S., and we were able to count her residency toward the case to have the children adjudicated to have been U.S. citizens from their birth without going through the process of obtaining lawful permanent residence for them.

How Does the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 Impact Birth-Based Citizenship?

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 provides “automatic” acquisition of citizenship for a child who was already granted lawful permanent resident status, and at least one of whose parents became a U.S. citizen while the child was under 18 years old. In these types of situations, individuals should still file an application for a certificate of citizenship to have the official proof that the child is a citizen.  Without it, the citizenship cannot be proved.  In U.S. immigration little is truly “automatic.”

Again, each case must be analyzed independently, since the law that applies may be different or may have changed again, and the facts of the case, including the residency of the parent in the U.S., will vary.

Need Assistance Seeking Citizenship?  Email or complete the contact form to discuss your situation with Seattle and Bellevue Citizenship Lawyer and Naturalization Attorney Barbara Marcouiller.

We are committed to guiding individuals and families through every aspect of the citizenship and naturalization process. To discuss your path to becoming a U.S. citizen and how we can assist you, complete the contact form or email our office for an initial review or to schedule an appointment with experienced citizenship attorney Barbara Marcouiller. Let us help turn your dreams of citizenship into reality with professional, personalized legal support. Contact us today to get started.

This is general information and does not constitute legal advice; each case must be analyzed independently. Nothing here creates an attorney/client relationship; each potential client must set up an appointment for proper analysis, and written agreement if after a full analysis we both agree in writing that we accept to represent the case and you also agree that you want us to represent your case as detailed specifically in the written contract.

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