U.S. Citizenship from Birth
The U.S. Constitution confers U.S. citizenship at birth upon persons born within the United States. By statute, American citizenship is also acquired at birth by children born to two American-citizen parents if one of the parents has resided in the United States or one of its outlying possessions prior to the child’s birth. Children born abroad to a U.S. citizen and a non-citizen parent are U.S. citizens if the citizen parent resided in the United States for certain specified periods of time before the child’s birth.
Naturalization refers to the process by which a foreign person may become a United States citizen. Since the United States’ inception, Congress has sought to promote the naturalization of qualified aliens. Although the acquisition of citizenship by resident aliens has never been automatic, neither has any resident alien ever been under compulsion to apply for naturalization. Instead, Congress has established the privilege of naturalization, available only to those who satisfy prescribed requirements.
The purpose of having major requirements for naturalization is to ensure identification with the national community. The process of naturalization thus tests whether an applicant understands and adopts our historic principles of government and is worthy to be accepted as a full member of our society.
If his or her application is approved, a naturalization applicant will go through a ceremony in which he or she takes an oath and receives a certificate of naturalization. At the end of the ceremony, applications for U.S. passports are typically accepted for processing.