The Differences Between Naturalization and Citizenship


Naturalization and citizenship are often conflated. But what is naturalization? And how does it differ from citizenship? What do the terms “naturalized citizen” and “citizen by birth” mean? In this article, we will explain the differences between these two concepts and how you can become a citizen of the United States.

What is citizenship?

Citizenship is the status of being a citizen. It’s the legal bond between a person and a country, which confers on them certain rights, the most important of which is the right to live in that country. Citizenship also grants other rights like voting, being tried by courts of law in that country, and serving in its military or on juries.

The word “citizen” comes from Latin roots meaning “city-dweller” or “townspeople.” Citizens are members of political communities who share some common goals, interests, and values, whether they live within one city or many cities across an entire nation!

What is naturalization?

You are a naturalized citizen if you have obtained citizenship through the naturalization process. In the United States, this is an exhaustive, multi-step process that can take over two years, depending on your circumstances. If you’re currently in the United States and are looking to become a citizen, there are several things you’ll need to do—and some of them might seem confusing at first.

Who can become a citizen?

Before applying for citizenship, immigrants must have lived in this country as a lawful permanent resident for five years (three years if married to a U.S. citizen), reside in their state for at least three months before filing their application, be able to speak English and pass both the English language test and civics test administered by USCIS (United States Citizenship & Immigration Services), which oversees all immigration matters within our borders.

What is a citizen by birth?

You are a citizen by birth if you were born in the United States OR if you were born to two parents who were citizens of the United States at the time of your birth under section 301(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Additionally, you may be a U.S. citizen by birth if you were born outside of the United States, the U.S. Department of State outlines other requirements when born out of wedlock and under other circumstances.

There are some key differences between naturalization and citizenship.

It’s important to know the differences between naturalization and citizenship. Here are some key points:

Citizenship is granted at birth, while naturalization is a process that confers citizenship.

You can only become a naturalized citizen if you meet certain requirements, such as being 18 years of age or older, having lived in the United States for five years (or three years if married to a U.S. citizen), and being able to pass a civics test, among other requirements.

Citizenship by birth is automatic, while naturalization requires an application process.


So now that you know the key differences between naturalization and citizenship, you may be wondering whether or not you qualify for either one. If you have a green card, that’s a good first step toward becoming a citizen, but many other requirements must be met. This is where an immigration attorney can help! Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you start your journey toward citizenship and naturalization!