Aliens in America

Naturalization Process and Illegal vs. Legal Aliens

Naturalization Process

Several million aliens live in the U.S. Some come to study, some come to work, and some come to visit relatives. While those who only visit return home, some aliens plan to settle here and become naturalized citizens. More than half a million immigrants gain American citizenship each year.

  • Beginning the Process- Aliens who want to become U.S. citizens must first sign a statement saying just that. The Declaration of Intention is filed with the USCIS and the next step comes after living in the U.S. for at least five years.
  • Interview and Examination- After the paperwork is checked, the alien has an interview with a USCIS official. Agency officials want to be sure the alien meets the necessary requirements and is of good moral character. The applicant also takes an exam that consists of many questions about the U.S. Afterwards, the USCIS makes its decision.
  • Oath of Allegiance- If the application is granted, the final step is attending a ceremony and pledging an oath of allegiance where the person signs a document, declaring them a citizen of the United States.

Ways to Lose Citizenship

The government may strip naturalized citizens of citizenship if it was improperly obtained. Citizens can lose citizenship in three ways: through denaturalization, expatriation, or by being convicted of a crime.

  • Denaturalization- The loss of citizenship through fraud or deception during the naturalization process.
  • Expatriation- Giving up one's citizenship by leaving one's native country to live in a foreign country. It may be voluntary or involuntary.
  • Punishment for a Crime- A person may lose citizenship when they are convicted of certain federal crimes that involve extreme disloyalty. The crimes include treason, participation in rebellion, and attempts to overthrow the government through violent means.

Illegal Aliens

12 million aliens are living in the U.S. illegally. Some were refused permission to immigrate and others never applied because they were afraid of a long slow process or being turned down. Illegal aliens come to the U.S. in a variety of ways. A few enter the country as temporary visitors, but never leave. Others risk arrest by illegally crossing our borders with Mexico and Canada. Other illegal aliens are foreigners who have stayed in the U.S. after their legal permits have expired. Some have no friends, no family, nowhere to live, and no sure way to earn money. It is against the law to hire illegal aliens, and those who do find work usually receive little pay and no benefits. Every day they live in fear that government officials will discover them and deport them.

Legal Aliens

A resident alien is a person from a foreign country who has established permanent residence in the United States. They are allowed to stay as long as they want without becoming American citizens. They can hold jobs, own property, attend public schools, and receive other government services. They pay taxes and are entitled to legal protection. However, they don't have full political rights, meaning they can't vote in elections or run for office. Resident aliens also cannot serve on juries or work in most government jobs. They have to carry identification cards at all times.


Ashley Adkins and Makayla Craig