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Immigration Frequently Asked Questions


How can I become a United States citizen?

A person may become a U.S. citizen by birth or through naturalization. Generally, people are born U.S. citizens if they are born in the United States or if they are born to a U.S. citizen. If you were born in the United States (including, in most cases, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands), you are an American citizen at birth (unless you were born to a foreign diplomat). Your birth certificate is proof of your citizenship.

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What is Naturalization?

The act of making a person a citizen of the United States who was not born with that status. An application for citizenship is an application for Naturalization.

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How do I become a naturalized citizen?

If you are not a U.S. citizen by birth, you may be eligible to become a citizen through naturalization. People who are 18 years and older use the “Application for Naturalization” (Form N-400) to become naturalized. Children who are deriving citizenship from naturalized parents use the “Application for a Certificate of Citizenship” (Form N-600) to become naturalized.

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What are the requirements for naturalization?

You may apply for naturalization if: (1) you have been a lawful permanent resident for five years, (2) you have been a lawful permanent resident for three years, have been married to a US citizen for those three years, and continue to be married to that U.S. citizen, (3) you are a lawful permanent resident child of United States citizen parents, or (4) you have qualifying military service. Children under 18 may automatically become citizens when their parents naturalize.

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How long will it take to become naturalized?

The naturalization process is a long one. The average time for complete naturalization is two years.

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If I am naturalized, is my child a citizen?

Usually if children are Permanent Residents they can derive citizenship from their naturalized parents. In most cases, your child is a citizen if all of the following are true:

  1. The other parent is also naturalized or
  2. You are the only surviving parent (if the other parent is dead) or
  3. You have legal custody (if you and the other parent are legally separated or divorced.) and,
  4. The child was under 18 when the parent(s) naturalized, the child was not married when the parent(s) naturalized; and the child was a Permanent Resident before his or her 18th birthday.

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What is an Immigrant?

A person coming to the US to remain permanently or for an indefinite period of time and to make the United States the primary place of residence. A permanent resident of the US is an immigrant. A person who plans to become a permanent resident is an intending immigrant.

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What is a Visa?

An authorization issued by a US consul permitting a person to come to a US port or inspection point to apply to be admitted to the US for the purpose of the particular visa. A visa does not give the bearer the right to enter the US but only the right to apply to be admitted at an inspection point.

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What is an Immigrant Visa?

An Immigrant visa is the visa given to a person by a US consul after qualifying for permanent residence. After arriving in the US, the person will receive a green card. Immigrant visas are issued to those who qualify for residence in the United States. There are various applications for residence some are listed below:

  • Employment Based Visas and Special Ability Visas
  • Family Relations Visas
  • Lottery Diversity Visa
  • Religious Worker Visa
  • Investors/Entrepreneur Visas
  • Refugee/Asylum/Protected Status

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What is a Nonimmigrant?

A person coming to the US for a limited period of time who intends to return to another country after the stay in the US ends. Also, a class or type of visa issued for a non-immigrant purpose such as visitor, student, diplomat, and others.

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What is a Nonimmigrant Visa?

A nonimmigrant visa is a visa that allows a nonimmigrant to remain within the United States for a particular purpose. A nonimmigrant visa for a particular category is valid for entry only for the purpose for which it was originally issued. For example, a student visa cannot be used for entry as a visitor, nor can the possessor of a visitor visa enter to study. A visa is not a guarantee of entry into the United States. The bearer of a visa is subject to inspection at the port of entry by US Immigration officials who have authority to deny admission. Therefore, the recipient of a visa should carry with him/her, for possible presentation to immigration inspectors, the evidence submitted to the consular officer when the visa was obtained.

The validity period shown in a nonimmigrant visa relates only to the period during which it may be used in making application for admission into the United States, it does not indicate the length of time the alien may spend in the United States. The U.S. Immigration authorities at the port of entry determine the period for which the bearer of a nonimmigrant visa is authorized to remain in the United States. A nonimmigrant that remains in the United States beyond the period for which he/she has been granted permission to stay may become subject to deportation.

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What is a Permanent Resident?

A status held by a person after qualifying and being registered by the Immigration Service. This status allows the person to live permanently in the US, to travel in and out without a visa, to work at any job, to accumulate time toward US citizenship. The status is shown by possession of an identification card commonly called a green card.

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Is it possible to be a dual citizen of the United States of America and another country?

Yes. If you have been a dual citizen from birth or childhood, or you became a citizen of another country after already having US citizenship, you may qualify for duel citizenship. As long as the other country in question does not have any laws or regulations requiring you to formally renounce your US citizenship before US consular officials, then current US law unambiguously assures your right to keep both citizenships for life.

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Alejandro O. Campillo,
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