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What is a Naturalized or Derived Citizen?

There are multiple ways to obtain U.S. citizenship if you have not been born inside the United States. People who weren’t born in the U.S., or one of its territories, must apply and prove their citizenship through the processes of either derivation, naturalization, or acquisition.

Confused about which process you may be eligible for? In this blog, we’ll cover what is a naturalized U.S. citizen, what is the difference between derived and naturalized citizenship, and the application process for naturalized and derived citizens. Keep reading to learn more! 

What is a Naturalized U.S. Citizen? 

A naturalized U.S. citizen is a person who was not born within the United States but has been given U.S. citizenship through the process of naturalization. To get your citizenship through naturalization, you will need to meet a specific set of eligibility requirements that will vary depending on your situation. However, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) expects the following:

  • Be at least 18 years old when you apply
  • Lived in the U.S. for five years in a row without being away from the U.S. for more than a year at a time
  • Lived at least three months in the state they are applying from
  • Have good moral character and do not have any felony charges in your name
  • Be willing to take the Oath of Allegiance

So, what is the difference between derived and naturalized citizens? Some people can acquire citizenship through their parents if at least one of their parents was born in the U.S. Derivative citizenship is given to people whose parents are naturalized citizens, or those who were adopted by people born in the United States. The eligibility requirements for derivation citizenship have changed many times over the years. Because of this, the eligibility requirements differ depending on what year you were born. The following basic eligibility requirements are consistent no matter what year you were born in:

  • You have a green card and have permanent resident status
  • At least one of your parents, by adoption or birth, must be a U.S. citizen

What is the Application Process for Naturalized and Derived Citizens? 

The application process for naturalized and derived citizens differs slightly so be sure to follow the correct process depending on which route you believe you are eligible for.


Once you have gone through the naturalization process, you will become a U.S. citizen. Below is a list of what needs to happen to accomplish that goal:

  • First, determine if you meet the eligibility requirements for naturalization.
  • Gather the required documents and complete Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. This form is available online by creating a free account on the USCIS page.
  • USCIS may then send you an appointment for your biometrics to be taken. If so, you need to arrive at the location assigned to you and have your biometrics taken. You may also be asked to submit additional documents before an interview.
  • Once your documents have been verified and your biometrics taken, USCIS will schedule an interview.
  • Once you have your interview, you will receive a notice within 120 days of whether your application has been granted, continued, or denied. If your application has been granted, you’ll be asked to participate in a naturalization ceremony.


Unlike naturalization, derivation citizenship through your parents is an automatic process. However, you can file Form N-600, Application for Certification of Citizenship, online to serve as evidence of your U.S. citizenship. Follow the below steps to prepare and send in your Form N-600:

  • If you haven’t already, create an account on the USCIS website and pay any filing fees.
  • Fill out and submit Form N-600 and attach any necessary supporting evidence documents.
  • Provide original copies of the documents submitted, if requested.
  • If asked, get your biometrics taken by the USCIS.
  • If USCIS thinks you qualify for citizenship through derivation, they will inform you by mail.

Just as a reminder, the above method doesn’t grant you citizenship but serves as a document to prove your status as a derived citizen.

If you believe you or your loved one may qualify to become a citizen through naturalization, but aren’t sure where to begin, it’s best to speak to an experienced immigration attorney. At Dominguez Law Firm, PLLC we work together with our clients to get them through the process and work hard to achieve the best result possible. Get in touch today to discuss your specific immigration needs.