The Naturalization Process

Naturalization is the process through which a person who was born in one country becomes a citizen of another with most of the rights of a native born citizen; one exception in the U.S. is that only native-born citizens may become President. The process has changed some in the United States over the years, but for the most part, especially since Lake County has been doing them, the procedure is twofold. First after a certain waiting period and continuous residence in the country, a Declaration of Alien Intention is filed. The form, also called First Papers or DOA, simply states that the person plans to become a citizen. After a further waiting period a Petition for Naturalization is entered at a court. This form includes the basic information for the person. Information for witnesses who will swear that the petitioner is of good moral character and has resided in a place for the required time are noted on the form. Then the court appointment date is scheduled. Upon appearing, the person is examined and takes the Oath of Allegiance. The witnesses testify and the court approves (or denies) the petition. A certificate is then issued, often that day, or sometimes much later.

There are some exceptions to these very basic rules. One of them is for a minor. If a person came to this country before the age of 18, he may petition directly upon reaching the age of 21 without the DOA. A person who has served at least one year in the armed forces of the United States and honorably discharged may petition directly without DOA if he has resided in the US for at least one year. These petitions may be found in separate volumes or sections of volumes. Soldiers sometimes petitioned the court where they were discharged for immediate citizenship to make obtaining a job easier.