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Monday, July 15, 2013

Becoming an American Citizen

Becoming an American Citizen

Every year thousands of people attend naturalization ceremonies and legally become citizens of the United States of America. For many years the Fourth of July has been a popular time to hold these ceremonies and this year was no different. One news report I heard stated that 7,800 new citizens would be naturalized in 100 scheduled ceremonies this year. Many of these ceremonies took place in historic sites such as The White House, Mt. Vernon, Monticello, and even in my town of Williamsburg, VA, as well as many other locations throughout the country.

While the laws and procedures governing the process of becoming a United States citizen have changed and been amended over the years, the first naturalization law was passed by Congress in 1790.  At that time it was a two-step process that took a minimum of 5 years. An alien, after residing in the United States for two years could file a "declaration of intent" to become a citizen. Then, after three additional years, they could "petition for naturalization." When the petition was granted, a certificate of citizenship would be issued to the alien.

There were also several exceptions to the “two-step, 5-year rule”. 

From 1790 to 1922, wives and minor children of naturalized men automatically became citizens. An alien woman who married a U.S. citizen could automatically become a citizen and American woman who married an alien would lose her U.S. citizenship.

Another exception was that, from 1824 to 1906, minor aliens who had lived in the United States 5 years before their 23rd birthday were then allowed to file both their declarations and petitions concurrently.

A final exception was the special consideration given to veterans. Quite a few laws were passed between 1862 and 1952 which gradually increased preferential treatment provisions for non-citizen veterans thereby expediting their citizenship.

Citizens of other nations have served in our military since the Revolutionary War. Almost 29,000 currently are in uniform. According to government statistics 660,000 military veterans became American citizens between the years of 1862 and 2000. Nearly 90,000 members of the military have been naturalized since September 2002, many of them while stationed overseas.

Our family looks forward to the day when our Serbian daughter-in-law becomes an American citizen.

Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America

"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."

Note: In certain circumstances there can be a modification or waiver of the Oath of Allegiance.


  1. Janet,

    Thank you for sharing this. My husband and I will be going through the process of citizenship soon. We've been in the U.S. for 13 years--the process of getting a green card seemed to take forever! Now we have done our 5 years as a resident alien and are working to get all our ducks in a row to become citizens. My grandfather was American and under a certain provisional law, my father could claim his citizenship as well, but doing so wouldn't help me obtain mine.

  2. Congratulations, Lynn. That's great! Our daughter in law, a Serbian, will be going through the process soon also.


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