Friday, August 14, 2009

Citizenship through naturalization

Photo used under Creative Commons from Christian Reed.

In the last couple of posts, we described the acquisition of U.S. citizenship through birth in the United States and for children of U.S. citizens born abroad. Today, we discuss naturalization. Naturalization is the process set up wherein a person of another country comes to the United States and becomes a citizen. The United States Constitution, Art. 1, Sec. 8, cl. 4., states that Congress has the duty to "establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization." This is a duty specifically for Congress. As a result, the rules of naturalization can change from time to time.

Generally a person must be a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) for a set period of time before they are eligible to apply for citizenship. A useful guide to the process is published by the USCIS. If the LPR submits an acceptable application, then they must demonstrate the ability to read, write, and speak basic English. Additionally, the applicant must pass the Citizenship Exam. While the test is generally an oral exam, you can take a sample online test here.

There are some exceptions to the LPR requirement. For example, the President may issue an Executive Order in times of combat and hostilities that allows a person who has served honorably to apply for citizenship.

A naturalized citizen has all the rights and privileges of other U.S. citizens. There is one notable exception, however. A naturalized citizen may not be elected President of the United States. See Article 2, Sec. 1, cl. 5 of the United States Constitution. So unless there is a constitutional amendment, Govenor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, for example, is ineligible to run for president.

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