Celebrate Citizenship Day With 4 Ways to Become a U.S. Citizen

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on September 17, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

September 17 is Citizenship Day and Constitution Day, when Americans celebrate their founding document and those who have become U.S. citizens. Signed on this day in 1787, the Constitution lays out the founding principles of the nation and the parameters for citizenship.

So how does one become an American? Some ways are automatic, while others are not so simple. Here are the four paths citizenship:

  1. Birth: By far the easiest way to become a U.S. citizen is through parents or by birth. If you are born in the United States or to U.S. citizen parents (or possibly on a plane bound for America) you are automatically a citizen. Birthright citizenship, based on being born on U.S. soil, has come under fire lately, but isn't going anywhere soon.
  2. Naturalization: The naturalization process can be long and confusing. First, an applicant must meet certain age and residency requirements, and then fill out an Application for Naturalization. After that, he or she must pass an interview and citizenship test. Due to the complexity of the process, many applicants seek the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney.
  3. Marriage: You can also apply for a green card based on marriage. A non-citizen who has been married to a U.S. citizen for two years must apply for a green card and complete a lengthy green card marriage interview, during which the applicant must provide evidence of a legitimate marriage, as well as financial stability.
  4. Military: Perhaps the least-known or travelled path to citizenship is through military service. Foreign-born individuals who have served at least one year in the U.S. Armed Forces or have completed their active duty can apply for citizenship. While the applicant must go through the some of the same naturalization procedures in order to gain citizenship, some citizenship status benefits are available to families of U.S. servicemembers.

Today is a great day to pause and reflect on the founding document and principles of our nation, and welcome those who want to make it their own.

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