There are four fundamental ways to obtain U.S. citizenship:
- Birth in the U.S. or its territories
- Acquisition of citizenship (birth to U.S. citizen parents)
- Naturalization (obtaining citizenship after an application and exam)
- Derivation of citizenship (naturalization of one's parents)
When a parent naturalizes, his or her children (under the age of 18 and living with the parent at the time) may "derive" U.S. citizenship automatically, provided they have green cards. What's more, a child who gets U.S. citizenship through derivation does not have to participate in a naturalization ceremony.
The laws on the automatic naturalization of children have varied over the years. Making a determination if the law applies to you is dependent on the law that existed when your parent's naturalization took place. Therefore, it is generally recommended that you seek the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney that can guide you through this process.