What are the Four Ways to Become a U.S. Citizen?

Updated on April 4, 2024

At a Glance

  • Four main ways to become a U.S. citizen: naturalization, marriage, U.S. citizen parents, and military service.
  • Naturalization requires a green card and meeting specific requirements.
  • Marriage involves proving the relationship and applying for a green card.
  • U.S. citizen parents can pass citizenship to their children, married or not.

The United States of America currently has 330,928,170 citizens, and there are multiple other people who wish to become citizens of the country. But how can you become one?

What are the four ways to become a U.S. citizen? Read on to find out!

What Are the Different Ways to Become a U.S. Citizen?

Becoming a U.S. citizen is possible in various ways, which is very convenient for people who want to reach the country they always see in their favorite movies. People who want to experience the American dream have the chance to do so, as long as they qualify based on the method they choose for becoming citizens.

Probably the most common way to move to the United States and live there permanently is by either becoming a legal permanent resident or by obtaining a green card. Still, the green card that everyone hears about is not the only way to become a proud citizen of the States. There are four other ways you can choose from.

Having said that, the four main ways to become a U.S. citizen are: through parents, marriage, the military, or naturalization.

4 Paths to U.S. Citizenship

Here’s how you can fulfill your dream of becoming a citizen of the United States by using the four ways mentioned above:


Owning a green card is something that can help you become a naturalized citizen of the States as it makes the entire process much easier. Basically, if you own a green card, it means you are a legal permanent resident of the United States already. As a result, living freely in the States and working there is very much possible.

Getting a green card is possible as long as you meet some requirements. For instance, if you got a very good job offer, then you can have your employer file the petition for the green card on your behalf. However, you can also petition yourself as long as you are able to demonstrate your good abilities.

Green cards can be obtained if you have a relative who lives in the United States and is there legally. In case you’re an unmarried child under 21 of the citizen or you are the spouse or parent, you have a chance of reaching the green card you are so eager to get.

Lastly, obtaining your green card will also be possible if you are an asylee or refugee who lived in the United States for a year.

What Are the Requirements to Becoming a Naturalized Citizen?

Although you can become naturalized through the ways mentioned above, there are still some requirements you need to meet, such as:

  • Being at least 18 years old when filing the application
  • Knowing the U.S. government basics and the history of the US
  • Showing evidence that you had a permanent home in the States at least five years prior to applying for naturalization
  • Bringing proof that you were physically in the U.S. for at least two and a half years out of that amount
  • You must know how to write, read and speak in English
  • Be a moral person
  • Proving that you’ve lived in the same USCIS district or state for at least 30 months


Becoming a U.S. citizen is possible if you are married to a citizen of the U.S. as well. You will have to submit Form I-130 Petition for an Alien Relative. This helps you apply for your green card as it establishes a relationship between you and your significant other. But there are some things you will need to prove before being able to obtain that green card. Basically, you will need some documentation that proves you are married – this can be your marriage certificate.

Not to mention that if the immigrant spouse lives outside the United States, then they will have to wait a certain amount of time to receive their visa. Afterward, it is required to go to the embassy or consulate for an interview. When the spouse is finally admitted to the States, they can file Form I-485 to adjust status.

Additionally, if the spouse is already living in the States with you, then they can adjust their status when you’re completing the I-130 form. Form I-485 needs to be completed as well.

Through Parents

If you have parents that live in the United States and are married, you’re in luck, because it makes it easier for you to become a U.S. citizen as well. Of course, this works as long as your parents are married. If they are, then you can become a citizen even if you weren’t born inside the United States. However, at least one of the parents must have lived in the States prior to the birth of the child.

Even if only one of the parents is a citizen of the U.S., you still have the chance to obtain your citizenship. Basically, the parents have to be married to each other if you want to qualify. At the same time, the U.S. citizen parent must have been in the States for a good period. To be more specific, he/she must have lived in the U.S. physically at least five years before the birth of their child.

However, it is still possible to obtain citizenship even if the parents aren’t married. This can happen as long as the father of the child has been a citizen of the U.S. when the child was born and can provide proof that he’s the biological father.

It is also possible if the mother of the child has been a citizen of the U.S. when the child was born and was also on U.S. territory for at least a year.


If you’ve been in the military, then you can apply for naturalization. This means that you served in the armed forces in an honorable way. However, there are some requirements that you should meet if you want to become a citizen this way.

What Are the Requirements for Becoming a Naturalized Citizen through the Military?

  • You need to understand the government and history of the U.S.
  • Must be at least 18 years old when you apply
  • You must know how to read, write and speak in English
  • You must be a morally good person, which means that you’re paying your taxes and child support, and you haven’t been convicted of any serious crimes

Read More


Becoming a U.S. citizen is a dream that can be achieved as long as you meet the requirements. As you can see, there are four ways through which you can become a proper citizen. So, depending on your circumstances, you can use one of these ways and start living in the States.

You need to make sure that you have the proper documentation to prove your situation, and that both you and your spouse take the necessary steps such as filing the right forms.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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