Obtaining citizenship can lead to many benefits in the United States. Only a citizen can petition for his or her parents and brothers or sisters to obtain lawful permanent residence status. A citizen petitioner either has no waiting list for a qualifying relative or a much shorter waiting list than a permanent resident petitioner. Only citizens can vote, serve on juries, obtain certain government benefits or reside outside of the country for an extended period of time without prior Immigration Service permission.
Other than through birth in the United States, citizenship can be obtained derivatively or through the naturalization process.
Â A child can automatically derive citizenship through either a parent who was born in the U.S. and resided for a certain period of time here or a parent who naturalized to U.S. citizenship while the child was a lawful permanent resident under 18 years of age.
Â A lawful permanent resident can be naturalized after five years in permanent status (or three years in permanent status in marital union with a U.S. citizen), after demonstrating good moral character, and after passing a test on American history and government as well as showing an ability to read and write English.