Is Naturalization the Same as Citizenship?

If you are an immigrant living in the United States, you may have wondered about the difference between naturalization and citizenship.

Are they the same thing?

If not, what are the benefits and requirements of each?

Is Naturalization the Same as Citizenship
Is Naturalization the Same as Citizenship

In this article, I will explain how these two concepts differ and how they affect your rights and responsibilities in this country.

What is the Difference Between Naturalization and Citizenship?

Naturalization and citizenship are two terms that come up frequently in immigration law, but they are not synonymous.

Naturalization is a process by which a foreign national obtains U.S. citizenship by meeting certain criteria established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Citizenship, on the other hand, is a status that grants certain rights and privileges to a person who is born in the United States or who acquires citizenship through their U.S. parents.

To be naturalized, an immigrant must meet specific criteria, such as:

  • Be at least 18 years old when submitting Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
  • Show that they have been a lawfully admitted permanent resident of the United States for at least five years (or three years if married to a U.S. citizen)
  • Demonstrate continuous residence and physical presence in the United States
  • Show that they are a person of good moral character and have no serious criminal convictions
  • Demonstrate an attachment to the principles and ideals of the U.S. Constitution
  • Be able to read, write, and speak basic English
  • Have knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of U.S. history and government
  • Take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States

To apply for naturalization, an immigrant must fill out Form N-400, pay the filing fee, submit supporting documents, attend a biometrics appointment, complete an interview, and pass a test in English and civics.

If approved, they will receive a notice to take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony, where they will officially become a U.S. citizen.

To acquire citizenship, a person must either be born in the United States or have at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen at the time of their birth.

A person who is born outside of the United States to U.S. citizen parents may also acquire citizenship if they meet certain conditions, such as:

  • Having at least one parent who lived in the United States for a period of time before their birth
  • Having their birth reported to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate
  • Applying for a Consular Report of Birth Abroad or a Certificate of Citizenship

A person who acquires citizenship does not need to go through any application process or take any oath.

They are automatically considered a U.S. citizen from birth or from the date they meet the eligibility requirements.

What are the Benefits of Naturalization?

  • Naturalizing as a U.S. citizen has several benefits, such as:
  • Ensuring that you receive the correct amount of benefits based on your work history and contributions
  • Qualifying for additional benefits that are only available to U.S. citizens or qualified immigrants
  • Avoiding overpayment or underpayment of benefits and potential penalties
  • Facilitating the access to other government services that require proof of citizenship or legal status
  • Protecting your identity and preventing fraud

Some of the specific benefits that only U.S. citizens can enjoy are:

  • Voting. Only U.S. citizens can vote in federal elections and most state and local elections. Voting is one of the most important ways to participate in the democratic process and influence public policies.
  • Bringing family members to the United States. Citizens generally get priority when petitioning to bring family members permanently to this country. They can also sponsor their spouses, children, parents, and siblings for green cards without any numerical limits or waiting times.
  • Obtaining citizenship for children born abroad. In most cases, a child born abroad to a U.S. citizen is automatically a U.S. citizen, regardless of where they live or whether they ever visit the United States. This can make it easier for them to travel, study, work, and access benefits in this country.
  • Traveling with a U.S. passport. A U.S. passport allows you to travel to more than 180 countries without needing a visa or with minimal visa requirements. It also allows you to get assistance from the U.S. government when outside of the United States in case of emergencies or crises.

Conclusion

Naturalization and citizenship are not the same thing, but they are both ways to become a U.S. citizen.

Naturalization is a process that requires meeting certain criteria, filling out an application, and taking an oath.

Citizenship is a status that is granted automatically to those who are born in the United States or who acquire it through their U.S. parents.

Both naturalization and citizenship come with many benefits and responsibilities that affect your rights and opportunities in this country.

If you are interested in becoming a U.S. citizen, you should check your eligibility, prepare your application, and seek help from reliable sources.

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