US Citizenship: Types, Requirements & Information

There are several ways that someone is able to qualify for US citizenship, this could be through family based immigration or employment based immigration and there are some other options too for certain circumstances.

Reasons there are high numbers of applications for US citizenship

The US is a very popular place that people want to live in because there are so many benefits. The US is a vast country with so many different types of lifestyle, from the busy cities like NYC and Washington, to the warmer coastal areas like Florida, or the quiet locations where there are acres of land available to buy with property.

The main language spoken is English, which is another reason to move to the US, as many people around the world have basic skills and understanding of English compared to other languages.

There is a strong employment market in the US, which is another reason it is so attractive to live there. Some of the biggest global companies are based in the US and there are many very different industries that are hiring from tech giants through to tourism. The US is also a very diverse country, with a mix of cultures making up the population.

Many people seek to move to the US in search of a better quality of life, with more opportunities and higher potential income than the countries that they are living in. Therefore, it is easy to see why so many applications are made to get a US green card and later start proceedings to become a US citizen.

Whilst the US is known around the world to be the Land of the Free, it is not possible to freely move into the US. There are strict immigration rules and criteria that must be met for anyone looking to obtain a green card and become a permanent resident of the US. The US government also operates with a quota on different types of visas that are available to limit how many people can get a visa each year.

Over the last few years, there have been several policy changes that have made it more difficult for some people to get US citizenship and the Trump administration is commonly referred to as having anti-immigration agendas.

Who can apply for US citizenship?

The first step to getting US citizenship is to obtain a green card. This is not a straightforward process and the main ways to get a green card is through family based immigration (relative of a US citizen), employment based immigration or marrying a US citizen. There are some other ways to obtain a green card, such as asylum or through the Diversity visa lottery.

Family based immigration

The family based immigration system has different categories for the different relationships. Spouses, unmarried minor children and parents of US citizens are classed as immediate relatives and there are an unlimited number of visas available for this category.

The rest of the family based visas are allocated only to a restricted number of applicants and are put into preference order:

  • 1 – Unmarried adult children of US citizens
  • 2A – Spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents
  • 2B – Unmarried adult children of legal permanent residents
  • 3 – Married adult children of US citizens
  • 4 – Brothers and sisters of US citizens

Employment based immigration

Getting permanent employment based visas is difficult unless you have required skills for obtaining a working visa. This system also operates with a preference system and limited numbers of approvals each year. People with extraordinary ability in the arts, science, education, business or athletics are in the preference 1 category, along with outstanding researchers and professors. Multinational executives and managers also come under the preference 1 category.

Preference 2 is for those with advanced degrees, or exceptional abilities in the arts, science or business. Preference 3 is for skilled workers with two years or more experience and professionals with college degrees. Preference 4 includes religious workers and 5 is for investors putting at least $500,000 of money into a US commercial enterprise.

There is an overall limit for the total number of employment based visas allocated each year. Another restriction is the number of immigrants that are allowed from any one country.

Other factors that are considered in green card application

As well as fitting the required qualification for US permanent residency, the applicant must also have a health examination and get any necessary vaccinations. This is to ensure that the person does not pose a health risk to US citizens.

Criminal records are also taken into account when applying for a green card and although some minor crimes will be generally accepted, any conviction will be reviewed and a decision will be made as to whether a green card should be approved.

What happens after getting a green card?

Once someone has a green card, they are then able to make the next steps towards becoming a US citizen. As long as they are 18 years old and have a green card and have lived in the US for 5 years, they are eligible to apply for US citizenship.

The first step is to complete the N-400, Application for Naturalization form and provide all requested documents along with the application. The application will then get assessed by officials and if the applicant qualifies for US citizenship, the next step is to attend a biometrics appointment where fingerprints and photographs are taken. The FBI will run background checks on the applicant.

If all is in order, then the next step is to attend an interview and exam. This involves questions on US history and government, as well as questions regarding how the person qualifies e.g. questions about relatives or employment. Is they pass this stage then they will be granted US citizenship once they have taken the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.

Summary

It is not easy to obtain US citizenship and it is very long process with lots of steps along the way. As well as meeting the right conditions for qualifying to apply to be a US citizen, the applicant must pay first the fees for a green card and then the US citizenship application fee, which are both considerable amounts. However, once someone has US citizenship they can enjoy all of the many benefits of living in the US with the rights of a US citizen.



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