A naturalized citizen is a foreign national who is granted citizenship in the United States after fulfilling certain requirements. In addition to the United States, many other nations offer naturalization to people who wish to apply for citizenship. The naturalization laws for various countries are typically available through their departments of immigration.
There are two basic categories of United States citizens. A natural citizen is someone born in the United States or born to American parents on foreign soil. A naturalized citizen is someone who was born in a foreign country, but took a series of steps with the end goal of being granted citizenship.
In the United States, you can become a naturalized citizen if you have been a legal resident of the United States for at least five years and you are over the age of 18. In addition, applicants for naturalization must demonstrate “good moral character,” as well as a knowledge of the English language and the history of the United States. The citizenship application process can take anywhere from six months to two years, and once approved, a naturalized citizen has all of the rights and responsibilities of a United States citizen, although he or she is barred from serving in the offices of President and Vice President.
Someone who has been a legal resident of the United States for at least five years and wishes to become a naturalized citizen must first file an application for naturalization with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). After the application is filed, the applicant will be asked to attend an interview and take a citizenship test. The citizenship test includes questions which test the applicant's knowledge of English, American government, and American history.
If the application is approved, the applicant is asked to take an oath to the United States, during which he or she denounces allegiance to other parties and states. However, the United States does recognize dual citizenship as a basic human right, and therefore people are not asked to give up citizenship in their native country, although they may be encouraged to do so. Once the oath is taken, the new citizen is granted the right to vote, run for public office, and to participate in American society as a full citizen; he or she also enjoys the same rights and protections that other US citizens receive overseas.
An exception to this lengthy process is foreign adoptions. Since foreign adoptions have become very popular in the United States, the INS recognizes such children as full citizens as soon as they are granted permanent residency in the United States. Adoption agencies typically assist parents with this process to make it quick and painless.