Citizenship Laws

The citizenship law of the United States decides which people are or can become U.S. citizens. This citizenship law can be explained under two heads, for birth within the United States and for birth abroad.

Citizenship law for birth within the United States

According to Section 1 of the 14th amendment to the U.S. constitution, persons born or naturalized in the U.S. and come under U.S. jurisdiction are U.S. citizens.

For this, any of the following conditions should be fulfilled:

  • The person should be born in the U.S.
  • If the parents are foreigners, they should not be acting in any official capacity on behalf of the foreign country.
  • Parents should be permanent residents in the United States.
  • Parents should be in the U.S. for business.

Although not stated clearly, generally, children born to illegal immigrants are also considered U.S. citizens.

Citizenship law for birth abroad

A child who is born abroad, becomes a U.S. citizen under certain conditions.

When both parents are U.S. citizens at time of birth of the child:

  • The parents are married.
  • One parent has lived in the U.S. before the child’s birth and has a place of residence there.

When only one parent is a U.S. citizen at the time of birth of the child:

  • The parents are married.
  • The parent who is the U.S. citizen should have lived at least five years in the U.S. of which a minimum of two years should have been after the parent’s 14th birthday.

The citizenship law also grants U.S. citizenship to adopted children of U.S. citizens.


A person can acquire U.S. citizenship through a process called naturalization. To be eligible, he should be above 18 years of age and must have been a legal permanent resident of the United States for at least five years before applying for citizenship. This is reduced to three years under certain conditions. To become citizens, the applicants should answer a citizenship test. Ten questions are asked out of which the applicants should get at least six right. There is also an interview conducted in person. Additionally, the applicants would have to meet certain other requirements.

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