Updated on 12.06.2024

US citizenship

You can become a US citizen by birth or by naturalization. Learn more about the steps leading to US citizenship.

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Bild von einem US-amerikanischen Reisepass

How do you gain US citizenship?

People can obtain US citizenship in various ways. A basic distinction is made between acquiring US citizenship by descent or birth (citizenship) and the naturalization process (naturalization). There are therefore "Americans by birth and by choice".

  1. Birth in the United States
    Citizenship by birth in the USA is independent of the citizenship of the parents.
  2. Birth outside the United States to at least one US parent
    US citizenship must be acquired before the age of 18 and applies to natural and adopted children of persons who have US citizenship by birth or naturalization. The US embassy and the US consulates issue certificates of citizenship for children of US parents.
  3. Naturalization
    US citizenship is granted to certain qualified individuals under strict conditions and upon application. This includes, among others
    - holders of a US immigrant visa (Lawful Permanent Residents),
    - spouses of US citizens,
    - persons who serve or have served in the US army and
    - employees of the US government.

Depending on the situation, there may be other requirements that you need to fulfill.

Requirements for US naturalization

The decision to become a US citizen is one of the most important that an immigrant can make.

In order to apply for United States citizenship, certain legal requirements must be met. In general, you may qualify for naturalization if the following basic requirements are met:

  • You have a valid US immigrant visa (Green Card)
  • You are at least 18 years old
  • You have been a permanent resident of the USA for at least 5 years (or 3 years for spouses of US citizens) with no absences of more than 6 months outside the USA
  • You have been physically present in the United States for 30 months (or 18 months for spouses of US citizens)
  • You have lived in the US state or USCIS district in which you claim residence for at least 3 months
  • You have a good reputation
  • You have a good knowledge of English
  • You can demonstrate basic knowledge of US history and government structure

Depending on the initial situation, e.g. naturalization due to a military service in the US army, there are further requirements that you must fulfill.

Apply for US naturalization

If you meet all the requirements for naturalization in the USA, please use form N-400 (Application for Naturalization) to apply for naturalization with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

As part of the application process, you must submit your biometric data such as photo and fingerprints to the USCIS and complete a naturalization test including a personal interview. At the end of the naturalization process, there is an official naturalization ceremony.

As a new US citizen, you will exchange your Green Card for a certificate of naturalization. This certificate is required to apply for a US passport.

For more information on US citizenship and naturalization, please visit the official USCIS website.


With the entry into force of the new naturalization law on June 27, 2024, dual citizenship will be permitted by law in Germany. This means that the acquisition of another nationality will no longer automatically lead to the loss of German citizenship and a retention permit will no longer be required to obtain a second citizenship. German citizens who qualify for US naturalization can now apply for a US passport without risk and with less bureaucracy.

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Updated on 12.06.2024