Becoming a citizen of the United States is usually a long process if you were born in another country. Even if you gain permanent resident status (a green card), it can take years to become a citizen with the right to vote and all the other benefits and protections that go along with citizenship.

When a person is granted citizenship through immigration, they are known as either naturalized or derived citizens. While citizenship benefits apply to both types of designation, there are major differences in the path to citizenship between naturalized and derived citizens.

What is a Naturalized Citizen?

A naturalized citizen is a lawful permanent resident who has met the requirements to become a full citizen. To become a naturalized citizen, a person must apply after receiving their green card. Green card holders must live in the United States for at least five consecutive years without spending more than a year at a time out of the country before they are eligible for naturalization.

Other requirements for naturalization including being:

  • At least 18 years old
  • A resident of the state where they are applying for at least 3 months
  • A person of good moral character with no felonies

What is a Derived Citizen?

Naturalization is a process that is only open to adults. Derived citizens are minor dependents who become citizens when their parents are naturalized. This makes the immigration process much simpler for families with children.

Although the process of becoming a naturalized citizen can be long and challenging, becoming a derived citizen is very easy. Children who have green cards automatically become U.S. citizens when at least one parent finishes the naturalization process and takes the Oath of Allegiance. No additional action is required to become a citizen, although derived citizens can request a Certificate of Citizenship to serve as proof of their citizenship.

How Long Does it Take to Become a U.S. Citizen?

Becoming a naturalized citizen takes time. First, you have to get a green card. After that, you must live in the United States for at least five years. Once those basic requirements are met, you must go through the naturalization application process, which can involve a biometrics test, submitting documentation, and undergoing an interview with officials.

If you need help with naturalization or any other immigration processes, it’s a good idea to speak with an experienced immigration lawyer. Immigration laws are complex and any errors on your application could result in delays or other issues. To learn more about your options and discuss your immigration case, call our Hackensack, NJ law firm at (201) 883-9800 today.