The debate over immigration reform and eventual citizenship is a heated one, especially on the campaign trail. And this time around is no different.
But how does someone become a U.S. citizen?
The first step for anyone coming to America is to get permanent resident status — or a green card. That can happen through sponsorship by a spouse, family member or employer, by getting asylum or refugee status, or through a couple of other ways like the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. That’s run by the State Department, which randomly selects about 50,000 individuals a year to receive immigrant visas from countries with low immigration rates to the U.S.
Permanent residents have the right to live and work in the United States; they can travel to and from the country and can petition for other family members to receive green card status. But only a citizen has the right to vote or run for office, although there are a few exceptions to both of these in certain jurisdictions. Citizens also no longer live with the threat of deportation.
The path to citizenship generally happens in two ways: by birth (a person is born in the U.S. or born overseas to a U.S. citizen) or through the process called naturalization.
In general, immigrants are eligible to apply for naturalization if they’ve been a permanent resident for five years, are married to a U.S. citizen and have been a permanent resident for three years, or have served in the military.
If eligible, applicants send in the proper forms to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. From there, they get fingerprinted for background testing and then have an in-person interview, where they will be tested on their ability to speak and understand English as well as their knowledge of civics — U.S. history and government.
If rejected, the applicant can appeal or reapply after a certain amount of time. If approved, the process isn’t complete until the Oath of Allegiance is taken during a naturalization process.
So while the conversation continues about immigration in America, when it comes to the path to citizenship, after watching this video, you can say, “Now I get it.”