The citizenship process refers to the steps a person must go through to become a legal citizen of a nation. Each country may have different procedures and regulations regarding citizenship, but many contain similar steps. Information on the citizenship process for a specific country can usually be found through governmental websites, or by contacting an immigration attorney.
In most cases, the citizenship process refers to becoming a naturalized citizen. People who are born in a country, or those that have parents with citizenship in a country, often are granted citizenship automatically or through an expedited process. Naturalized citizens, by contrast, do not have the rights of birth or soil, and must usually go through a longer citizenship process.
The citizenship process may involve several distinct segments. Most countries that allow naturalization require that a person first apply for citizenship through the country's state or immigration department. There are several pre-requisites that may be necessary for an application to even be considered, including that an applicant has never been convicted of a crime, is in the nation legally through a visa, and is self-supporting. Many countries also have a residency requirement, which means that an applicant needs to show proof that he or she has legally lived in the country for a certain period of time, sometimes several years.
Some countries, such as Denmark, also have a requirement that does not permit citizenship if a person is indebted to the state in some way. This might disqualify those who have not paid tax debts or people that are in default on child support or alimony payments. Those who are currently in debt on state-ordered payments may need to resolve their financial issues before being able to qualify for citizenship.
Many regions require that qualified applicants learn the national language and can demonstrate skills through a test. Applicants may also need to pass tests on the history and government of a country, as well as on national laws. Tutoring programs for both language and national tests are sometimes available through state agencies, immigrant assistance programs, or community colleges.
Once a person has met all pre-requisites and passed any required tests, he or she may be required to take an oath of loyalty as the final step of the citizenship process. This oath may include forswearing citizenship in other countries, but some countries allow dual citizenship. The oath usually takes place in the presence of a judge and witnesses, and is often a celebratory affair. Despite the relatively simple steps required in the citizenship process, the entire procedure can take many years and may be quite frustrating at times. In order to help prepare for the citizenship process, some experts advise contacting an immigration lawyer who can lay out the appropriate steps for applicants.