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US Citizenship vs. Naturalization – What’s the Difference? 2024

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US Citizenship vs. Naturalization – What’s the Difference? 2024

Individuals that were born in foreign countries do not gain citizenship simply by living in the U.S. The main difference between naturalization and natural-born U.S. citizenship is that naturalization is a process that foreign citizens must go through in order to become U.S. citizens. Understanding the process of naturalization is fundamental for any immigrant that would like to become a citizen of the United States.

A U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Lawyer can help you.

What Is the Difference Between Natural Born U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization?

To better understand the differences between the two concepts, think of each as a process that grants you citizenship. Natural-born U.S. citizenship is given to individuals who were either born in the United States or born in another country to United States citizens. Citizenship is a right that comes with being born in the country, which is why natural-born citizens do not have to go through the naturalization process.

People that were not born in the United States, however, must go through naturalization if they would like to become a citizen here. To be eligible to become a naturalized citizen, you must meet the following requirements: 

  • Be at least 18 years of age.
  • Have a basic grasp of the English language (including being able to read, write, or speak it).
  • Have a general understanding of U.S. history.
  • Be of “good moral character.”
  • Meet one of the following:
    • You have held a green card for at least five years.
    • You are married to a U.S. citizen.
    • You are the child of a U.S. citizen.
    • You serve or served in the U.S. military.

If you are eligible for naturalization, you can then send in a request to take part in the process. If you are approved, you will have an interview scheduled where an official tests your knowledge of English and U.S. history. They will also ask basic questions about your life and why you’d like to be a citizen. If you pass your interview, you can become a naturalized citizen of the United States.

What Rights Do You Get As an American Citizen?

All American citizens receive the same rights and benefits, regardless of the way that they became a citizen. Many people make the decision to become U.S. citizens because there are a multitude of important rights, benefits, and opportunities that you can receive. Some of the most well-known and essential rights of any American citizen include the following:

  • The Right to Vote. As a democracy, the U.S. gives all citizens the opportunity to vote on government officials they’d like to see in office. Temporary and permanent residents do not have the right to vote, even if they have lived in the country for years, unless they become a citizen.
  • Basic Constitutional Rights. Freedom of speech, religion, assembly, press, and petition are the primary rights given to all American citizens. These are basic constitutional rights that help to give the U.S. its well-known reputation for offering some of the most freedom in the world. Other important rights include a citizen’s right to a fair trial when they are accused of a crime and the right to bear arms.
  • Protection Against Deportation. Once you are a U.S. citizen, the threat of deportation can finally cease. This is because you are now a U.S. citizen that holds lawful permanent residency. The only possible reason a naturalized citizen could face deportation is if they commit specific criminal offenses. However, you will most often be tried facing the same consequences as the average American.


Q: What Is a Certificate of Naturalization?

A: Once a foreign citizen has gone through the process of naturalization in the U.S., they will then receive what is known as a “certificate of naturalization.” This certificate states that the individual passed their naturalization interview and is now a citizen of the United States. This is an essential document for anyone that becomes a naturalized citizen and is used to prove your status.

Q: How Long Does the Naturalization Process Take?

A: Naturalization can take quite a long time, depending on how quickly everything is processed. Generally, the process takes anywhere from 8 to 14 months or more. This is because after you send in your request, it will take a few weeks to be processed. It will then take another few weeks to schedule an interview for you, which could potentially be months in the future. After your interview, all of your information will have to be processed fully so that a certificate of naturalization can be given to you.

Q: What Do You Need to Know for Your Naturalization Interview?

A: There are generally three main parts of a naturalization interview. One stage will address your personal information, such as why you’d like to become a citizen. The other two stages are centered around your knowledge of the U.S. and the English language. One of these stages is called a civics test, where you’re questioned on the country’s history. The last portion will simply assess your understanding of English and how well you can read, write, and speak it.

Q: Are You Allowed To Bring a Lawyer to Your Naturalization Interview?

A: Foreign citizens that are going through the naturalization process are not only allowed to hire a lawyer for assistance, but they can also bring them along to their naturalization interview. You will just have to provide the USCIS with the proper notification that you’re bringing them. Your lawyer can help clarify questions but not answer them for you.

Looking for Immigration Assistance in Southern California?

If you’d like to become an American citizen, it is vital to understand the process of naturalization. At U.S. Law Center, our experience in immigration law allows us to aid individuals and families from around the world. Our head attorney is fluent in multiple languages and has helped numerous people move to the United States. If you are interested in becoming a naturalized citizen of the U.S., contact U.S. Law Center to discuss your options today.

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