U.S. Citizenship Pairs Duties with Freedoms

Article excerpt

Each nation decides to whom it will grant citizenship and how it will grant it.

Some sell it. The Central American country of Belize does. But most give it away, and the gift demands a payback that consists of duties to be accepted and a pledge of allegiance and loyalty.

The United States grants citizenship in several ways. It confers it on almost all children born on U.S. soil - even to children born to illegal border crossers - and it confers it on children born anywhere to U.S. citizens.

The baby delivered overseas, however, will be an American only if one of its parents actually lived in the United States at some point before its birth.

A child born on foreign soil can inherit U.S. citizenship, even if only one parent is a U.S. citizen - if the citizen parent lived in the United States for at least five years and, for two of those years, after the parent was 14 years old.

By "naturalization," adults also can become U.S. citizens.

To be eligible for naturalization, an immigrant must be at least 18 years old and have lived in the country as a legal resident for five or more years. Immigrants married to U.S. citizens can apply for naturalization after three years, as can immigrants who served in the U.S. military.

Beyond that, applicants for naturalization generally must be able to speak, read and write ordinary English.

Immigrants who have lived in this country for many years are exempt from that rule, and numerous published reports suggest that, in some jurisdictions, many who cannot comprehend simple English are approved for citizenship anyway. …