A person born outside the United States can become a United States Citizen under either of three separate laws of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

  1. Naturalization
  2. Acquisition of U.S. Citizenship
  3. Derivation of U.S. Citizenship


To apply for naturalization to become a U.S. citizen, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age.
  • Have been a lawful permanent resident for the past five years or three years if you are married to a U.S. citizen.
  • Have continuous residence and physical presence in the United States.
  • Be able to read, write, and speak basic English and pass a civics test.

Acquiring U.S. Citizenship

Child of a marriage between a U.S. Citizen Parent and Alien Parent born on or after 11/14/1986 outside the United States acquires U.S. citizenship at birth if at the time of birth the U.S. citizen Parent was physically present in the United States for at least 5 years, including at least 2 years after 14 years of age.

Deriving U.S. Citizenship

On or after February 27, 2001, a child may “derive” citizenship under the following conditions:

  • At least one of the child’s parents is a U.S. citizen, either by birth or by naturalization.
  • The child is unmarried and under 18 years old.
  • The child is a permanent resident of the United States (a “green card” holder)
  • The child is residing in the U.S. and is in the physical and legal custody of the U.S. citizen parent.