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Everything You Wanted to Know About U.S. Citizenship

One of the perks of writing a widely read industry blog is meeting all the experts far and wide who practice immigration law.  Today, we get a unique glimpse into everything you wanted to know about U.S. citizenship (much more than you will find on USCIS or the Department of State’s websites).

Today’s topic is brought to you by Gary Endelman, Senior Counsel at FosterQuan, LLP.  He recently presented before the Houston Bar Association and provides us with an informative slide deck on U.S. citizenship rules covering:

  1. Ways to Acquire Citizenship
  2. Citizenship of Children Derived from Assisted Reproductive Technology
  3. Citizenship through Naturalization
  4. Automatic Citizenship
  5. Proving Citizenship
  6. Loss of Citizenship

Click here to access the full deck or read his Top Myths and Realities below:


Myth:  You always have to know how to read and write English to become a U.S. citizen (USC).

Reality: Not true.  If you are over 55 years of age, and have been a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) for at least 15 years, you may be exempt from certain requirements.


Myth: You always have to have a fundamental understanding of U.S. history and government to apply for naturalization.

Reality: Not true.  If you are over 65 years of age and have been an LPR for at least 20 years, you may be exempt from certain requirements.


Myth: Getting a re-entry permit helps preserve continuity of residence for the naturalization process.

Reality: It has no such effect.  The re-entry permit serves as an insurance policy to guard against unintentional abandonment of LPR status, but otherwise has no effect on naturalization.  To preserve “continuity of residence,” the N-470 may be applicable but is difficult to qualify.


Myth: You can never leave the USA once you file the N-400, Application for naturalization.

Reality: The Immigration and Nationality Act § 316(b) says that you must “reside continuously” in USA from time of submitting the N-400 until the time you become a USC. This does not mean continuous physical presence.


Myth: Step children count as children, for purposes of deriving citizenship.

Reality: Step children come within the definition of “child” for visa purposes, but unlike adopted children, step children have never counted for citizenship purposes.


Myth: The child of a USC born outside the USA is automatically a USC.

Reality: Being USC does not give the USC parent the right to transmit that citizenship to his or her children, unless the parent satisfies the “physical presence requirement” of being in the USA prior to the birth of that child.


Myth:  American law does not allow dual citizenship.

Reality: A child born in the USA to parent(s) who are citizens of another country may legitimately acquire foreign citizenship if the law of that country follows jus sanguinis.  U.S. law does not allow the acquisition of foreign citizenship AFTER birth- this is the definition of naturalization- but it does allow acquisition of foreign citizenship AT the time of birth. There is never a need for an election.


Myth:  A U.S. passport is always proof of USC status.

Reality: It is proof of USC only if it is valid. An expired US passport is NOT proof of citizenship. This is why it is a good idea whenever possible, for a derivative USC, to also get Certificate of Citizenship.  The Certificate of Citizenship never expires.


Myth: If a USC parent dies, there is no way for a child under age 18, born outside the USA, to derive USC status.

Reality: Under the Immigration and Nationality Act §322, physical presence of a USC grandparent can be substituted for that of a USC parent, if the USC parent has died during the preceding five (5) years.  The child must be under the age 18 years, in legal and physical custody of USC parent (if deceased, then in legal and physical custody of an individual who does not object).  Other conditions must also be satisfied at the time of N-600 application, even if the child is older at time of adjudication.

About the Author

Gary Endelman is Senior Counsel at Foster Quan, LLP in Houston, Texas practicing in U.S. immigration and nationality law.  You can read some of Mr. Endelman’s previous guest articles on our blog or visit his immigration blog here.