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The meaning of citizenship is membership - and with it, the right to participate - in a political community.
In a strictly legal sense, you are considered an American citizen if you
1) are born within the designated borders of United States or any of its territories. If this is the case, American citizenship is granted under the Fourteenth Amendment.
2) are born overseas to parents who are American citizens,
3) undergo a process called "naturalization." Naturalization is the way in which a person acquires a citizenship different from that person's citizenship at birth.
In the United States, the term usually refers to immigrants who reside "on American soil," and who have voluntarily and actively chosen to become U.S. citizens after meeting specific requirements.
In some cases, naturalization can take place involuntarily. For example, upon annexation or border adjustments between countries.
On paper, the basic requirements for United States naturalization seem simple enough:
* The applicant must hold legal status as a full time U.S. resident for a minimum period of time.
* The applicant must promise to obey and uphold the country's laws.
* In many cases, a sworn oath or pledge of allegiance is added.
In reality, gaining United States citizenship is much easier said than done. The process can take fifteen or twenty years, and that's assuming the applicant is able to obtain "legal status" to begin with.
Naturalization and citizenship are not to be confused with the "green card," which is a form of ID issued by the government of United States of America. the green card affords non-citizens some of the rights that citizens enjoy, such as legal employment and permanent residency.
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