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Law Office of Joseph C. Grasmick --Business Immigration--
Rated "AV" (a lawyer's highest possible rating) by Martindale-Hubbel

U.S. Citizenship For Canadians

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Photo of Joseph C. Grasmick, Citizenship Lawyer for Dual Canadians

Joseph C. Grasmick, the Citizenship Lawyer for Dual Canadian/Americans.

Why Should You Read This Report ?

We estimate there are thousands of Canadians who are U.S. citizens--and don't know it!

Had these Canadians known this, it may have changed their professional and personal lives. We have helped many people get their U.S. passports---several of whom had been U.S. citizens for 30 years or more without knowing it.

If you have a claim to U.S. citizenship, this can make your U.S. immigration very easy. It is worth briefly reviewing this report to see if you (or a relative or associate) qualify.

This report also discusses how green card clients holders may become U.S. citizens.

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What Is A U.S. Citizen ?

A U.S. citizen (hereinafter "USC") is one step further than a U.S. permanent resident.  Put another way, it is one step beyond a green card holder.  Citizenship will give you the maximum rights available in the U.S.

Citizens may also find it advantageous to use a U.S. passport when traveling.

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Advantages of Citizenship

Government benefits

Immigration laws severely limit valuable public benefits, unless you are a U.S. citizen.  Even green card holders face strict restrictions.  Who knows what future laws will bring?  With full citizenship, these exclusions disappear.

Integrated family

Citizens, including dual Canadian/Americans, get priority to sponsor relatives for U.S. immigration.  In most cases a child born anywhere to a U.S. citizen is automatically a U.S. citizen.


Many government contracts and jobs require U.S. citizenship.

Voting rights

Only U.S. citizens can vote in Federal Elections.  Most states also restrict the right to vote.

Immigration laws severely limit your public benefits, unless you are a U.S. citizen.

Freedom to live anywhere

A citizen does not have to reside in the U.S.  By contrast, the immigration authorities can revoke green cards, if the holders fail to reside in the U.S.  (See the FAQ question concerning preservation of permanent residency.)

No more paperwork

If you become naturalized you do not have to worry about replacing your Green Card with newer versions.  Some time ago, the INS announced the expiration of the old green card forms I-551.  All people in possession of the card had to apply for replacement with a secure, machine-readable Alien Registration Receipt Card.  This card expires, and you must renew it.  Citizens do not have to do this.

Easy international travel

Only citizens can take out U.S. passports.  Entering the U.S. is easier. Many countries waive visa requirements for U.S. passport holders.  With a U.S. passport, you are eligible for U.S. citizen services from U.S. embassies and consulates when traveling throughout the world.  Because of the contiguous location of our countries, this is a huge advantage to dual Canadian/U.S. citizens.

Easy domestic travel

U.S. citizens do not have to carry proof of citizenship when they travel within the U.S.  On the other hand, immigration authorities demand that permanent residents always carry their green cards.  The government detains permanent residents who forget to carry their cards.

Eligibility for elected positions

Many elected offices require U.S. citizenship.  The ability to go into politics is more important than it may seem.  Many Canadians are in demand and called upon to serve in local government.  This is because of our common cultures.  My retired USC clients, for example, often enjoy serving on city councils.

Emotional benefits

Finally, there are intangible advantages.  Most green card holders have decided that the U.S. is the permanent home for their families.  Canadians find it of psychological benefit to be on an equal footing with their American peers.  Becoming a U.S. citizen is an unassailable demonstration of commitment to the country.  This is important for school-age children who are very much concerned with their identity.

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Questionnaire To Determine U.S. Citizenship

Here is a quick set of questions you can answer. If the answer to any of these questions is "YES", please call us--we should see if you are eligible for citizenship.

Both you and your spouse (if you are married) should answer these questions.


Questionnaire To Determine U.S. Citizenship
1. Were you born in the U.S. or its territories or possessions?
2. Were either of your parents born in the U.S.?
3. Were any of your grandparents born in the U.S.?
4. Have you had a Green Card based on marriage to a USC spouse for at least 3 years?
5. Have you had a Green Card for at least 5 Years ?

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Can I Be A Dual Citizen ?

. . . you can be a citizen of the U.S. and of another country.

Yes. According to U.S. law, you can be a citizen of the U.S. and of another country or other countries.  You can have a "second citizenship".

Consider this option of you are a Canadian citizen who wants dual U.S./Canadian citizenship.  Of course, you should also look to your own country's law, to see if that country will allow you to keep dual citizenship. Canada and the U.K. allow dual citizenship. The international trend is to allow dual citizenship.

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Do You Give Up U.S. Citizenship When You Become a Canadian ?

The State Department presumes a person intends to retain U.S. citizenship.

Only if you actually intended to give up U.S. citizenship. The State Department presumes a person intends to retain U.S. citizenship when that person obtains naturalization in or declares allegiance to another country.

This actual policy goes against public belief. Have you ever heard these statements?:

  1. "My father was a U.S. citizen...but he gave it up."
  2. "My mother voted in Canada and lost her citizenship."
  3. "The U.S. Consulate once told me I'm not a citizen."
  4. "My father was born in the U.S. but I can't prove it."
  5. "I had to choose what country I wanted when I turned 21."

Most likely, these statements were not true!

This relatively new policy is retroactive. This means that it applies to people who may think they already lost their citizenship--even if the U.S. Consulate already made that finding

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The Different Ways To Become A Citizen

There are three major ways to qualify for U.S. citizenship:

  1. Birth in the U.S.
  2. Birth to US Citizen parent(s).
  3. Change from Green Card to citizenship. (Naturalization).

Here are some ways to get a document to show U.S. citizenship:

  1. U.S. Passport, applying either in the U.S. or at a U.S. Consulate outside the U.S.
  2. Consular Report of Birth Abroad, (FS-240), a handy birth certificate-like document, from a U.S. Consulate outside the U.S.
  3. Certificate of Citizenship, via application form N-600, from within the U.S.
  4. Naturalization Certificate, via application form N-400

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Requirements For Naturalization

Canadian Executive Receives Coveted Approval Notice
NEW CITIZENS: President of an international architectural design firm, his family and Joe Grasmick (second from left) after the naturalization ceremony
  1. A lawful permanent resident (hold green card)
  2. A resident of the U.S. since you received your green card, and until you receive your citizenship.
  3. A "continuous" resident of the U.S. for at least 5 years (3 years of "marital union" for certain spouses of U.S. citizens) counting back from the date of your application. Absences from the U.S. of less than 6 months shall not break the continuity. An absence from the United States of more than six months but less than a year creates a presumption against you. Absence from the United States for a continuous period of one year or more absolutely breaks the continuity of such residence unless you get permission via form N-470 Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes. Note: these requirements are similar but not identical to requirements for preserving your green card. (See the FAQ question #12 "How can I keep my Green Card while working abroad?") You can file your Naturalization application up to three months before the date you meet the residence requirement.
  4. Physically present in the U.S. for 1/2 of the five years (or three years). You must actually be in the U.S. for 913 days (or 548 days if a three year requirement) during the five year period counting back from the day your file for naturalization. Note that some spouses of U.S. citizens who are or were employed outside the U.S. have no residency or physical presence requirement. This means that the spouse can get his/her green card, and then your citizenship, almost simultaneously!
  5. Continuous residency in the State or INS District where you are applying, for 3 months prior to filing the petition for naturalization.
  6. At least 18 years old and legally competent. Certain children can receive derivative citizenship when their parents are naturalized.
  7. Understand English and U.S. history/government. (Waived for certain elderly people).
  8. Good moral character and allegiance to the U.S.

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Procedures For Naturalization

The immigration authorities will receive and examine your application. They will verify your lawful admission for permanent residence.  They will then notify you to appear to file your official petition for naturalization.  (If we represent you, send us copies of any notices you receive.)

You will then appear for an interview with an immigration official. Again, contact us when you receive any notices. We will then help prepare you for the interview.

After the examination by the official, you will take the final oath of allegiance to the U.S. There will be a waiting period between your examination and the swearing in at the U.S. District Court. Waits vary from several months to several years. This depends on the area of the country where you apply.

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Citizenship From Citizen Parent When Born Outside The U.S.

Your Date Of Birth Citizen Parent Residence Required Of Your Parent Residence Required Of You
Before 05-24-34 Both 1 parent resided in U.S. None
Only 1 USC parent resided in U.S. prior to your birth for one or more periods of time totaling at least 1 year None
On/after 05-24-34 and before 01-13-41 Both 1 parent resided in U.S. None
Only 1 USC parent resided in U.S. 2 yrs physical U.S. presence between ages 14-28**
5 yrs U.S. residence between ages 13-21**
On/after 01-13-41 and before 12-24-52 Both 1 parent resided in U.S. None
Only 1 USC parent resided in U.S. 10 yrs, at least 5 after parent's age 16. 2 yrs physical U.S. presence between ages 14-28, except if born 10/10/52 or after **
5 yrs U.S. residence between 13-21 yrs.**
On/after 12-24-52 and before 11-14-86 Both 1 parent resided in U.S. None
Only 1 USC parent with 10 yrs physical presence in U.S. prior to your birth, at least 5 yrs. after parent's age 14 None
On/after 11-14-86 Both 1 parent resided in U.S. None
Only 1 USC parent physically present in U.S. 5 yrs, at least 2 yrs. after parent's age 14 None
Children under age 18 may qualify for automatic or expedited naturalization if they have at least 1 USC parent. This can eliminate green card residency and physical presence requirements. It may eliminate the green card requirement itself. Automatic: Child has a green card. Expedited: Child has USC parent or grandparent who has been physically present in the U.S. for 5 years, 2 which were after parent's or grandparent's age 14.
** Residence of the child is no longer required. If a child lost citizenship by not meeting the residency requirement, the child can reinstate citizenship. However, children who reinstate citizenship cannot pass citizenship on to their children born after citizenship was lost.
*Data obtained from C. Gordon and S. Mailman, Immigration Law and Practice [Appendix A, A.1 (a)] and U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual, Vol.8, Exhibit 214.1, 1967, and updated by Joseph Grasmick, Esq.

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My Grandparent Was A Citizen---Does This Help Me?

If your parent or grandparent was a U.S. citizen it could help you. See if either:

  • you are already a U.S. citizen, or
  • your living parent can sponsor you for a Green Card.

Step 1: See if your parent is a citizen using the table above. Your parent is the "you" in the boxes. If your parent is a citizen then. . .

Step 2: See if you are a citizen. Use the table. You are the "you" this time. If you are a citizen, you can get a U.S. passport. You can live and work (& pay taxes) in the U.S. If you are not a citizen, then. . .

Step 3: See if your living parent can sponsor you for a green card. Consult the Complete List to find the category. Warning: many categories produce long waits. Check the State Department website's Visa Availability Report for quota waits. If too long, consult the Visa Selector for quicker options.

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U.S. Citizenship Impact On Personal Income Tax

Obtaining citizenship may result in communication to the Internal Revenue Service. This may have an impact on your personal income taxes. We suggest speaking with a tax advisor experienced in U.S.Canadian tax issues before proceeding with a U.S. citizenship claim. Your advisor may suggest making a tax filing before filing your citizenship application.

We would be happy to give you the name of a tax lawyer or accountant if you need a referral. See my Rolodex for names.

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Do I Need A Lawyer ?

Many people handle simple naturalizations by themselves.  The government does not require legal representation.

Here are some sample cases where a lawyer may be especially useful:

  1. You are in a hurry or cannot afford the time to do the paperwork.
  2. Your case is complex or has an unusual twist.
  3. Your citizenship depends on proving an ancestor's citizenship or U.S. residence.

I invite you to read extensive information on this topic at our FAQ.

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2010 Law Office of Joseph C. Grasmick
Law Office of Joseph C. Grasmick, Business Immigration
300 International Drive
Williamsville, NY 14221 USA
Tel: 716/842-3100  jgrasmick@grasmick.com

This Internet Web page is http://www.grasmick.com/citizen.htm