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John Hamlin
Country Description
Basis Of Government
Election Process
History Of Events
Historical Documents
History Of Wars
Past Presidents
Making Laws
National Accounts
Banking And Currency
Branches Of Government
The Executive
The Legislative
The Judicial
Independent Agencies
The Right To Lobby
Details of 50 Sovereign States, Maps, Regulations, Harbors and Airports...
A list of Territories ...

A visual tour of America
View the National Monuments
Important Symbols of America

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Fleeing political or religious persecution or searching for better economic conditions, many people have left their native lands to live in America . This has resulted in a very diverse U.S. population. People living here have different heritages, religious beliefs, ethnicity, languages, and national origins. Though there are these differences, Americans are bound together y basic political values and principles described in historical documents.

However, living in the United States does not automatically make one an American citizen. Residents of the United States can be aliens, nationals, or citizens. Aliens are people who have emigrated from a foreign country. They have some of the same freedoms and legal rights as U.S. citizens, but they cannot vote in elections. American nationals are natives of American territorial possessions. They have all the legal protections which citizens have, but they do not have the full political rights of U.S. citizens. Persons born in the U.S. or born to U.S. citizens in foreign countries, are automatically citizens of the United States . Persons born in other countries who want to become citizens must apply for and pass a citizenship test. Those who become citizens in this manner are naturalized citizens.

All American citizens enjoy the freedoms, protections, and legal rights which the Constitution promises.


The process by which people from foreign countries become U.S. citizens is called naturalization. There are three steps in this process.

  1. File an application. The application asks for biographical information about the person. The person has his or her fingerprints taken, and provides photographs and legal documents.
  2. Take a naturalization examination. The examination tests the applicant's knowledge of U.S. Government and history. The applicant must also pass an English test.
  3. Appear for a court hearing. The applicant appears before a judge and asks to become a U.S. citizen. The judge will listen to the applicant's reasons and will decide on naturalization.

To become a citizen, or to be naturalized a person must meet certain requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have lived in the U.S. for at least 5 years
  • Be of good moral character and loyal to the U.S.
  • Be able to read, write, speak and understand basic English
  • Have basic knowledge and understanding of the history, government structure and the Constitution of the U.S.
  • Be willing to take an oath of allegiance to the U.S.


A citizen is a person who is a full member of the U.S. Citizens owe loyalty or allegiance to their country. They can take an active part in helping to improve their community and the U.S. system of government. Some ways in which citizens can help govern their community are by:

  • Nominating candidates to run for public office
  • Voting for candidates who are nominated
  • Holding public office at the local, state or national level
  • Directing or organizing community affairs

Naturalized citizens can obtain federal government jobs (including those that require a security clearance), can travel with a U.S. passport, and can petition for close relatives to come to the U.S. to live. People who are not citizens do not have these rights. They do not receive all available benefits and are not eligible for all jobs.


The most important right citizens have is the right to vote. Voting is the basis of a representative democracy. By voting, the people have a voice in government. The people decide who will represent them in the government. Officials can be voted in or out of office. Every person's vote counts the same as another person's vote.

Each citizen can register to vote in his/her community. Usually, there is a requirement that the citizen has lived in the state for a certain period of time. Each state has the power to decide which citizens in the state can vote. However, some voting rights are guaranteed by the Constitution. This means that states cannot deny the right to vote to anyone:

  • Who is at least 18 years of age
  • Because of his/her race color or gender
  • Because she/he has not paid a voting or poll tax
  • In national elections for President and Vice President

States have the power to deny the right to vote to citizens who have been convicted of serious crimes or who are not able make rational decisions. States cannot require citizens to pass a reading and writing test before granting the right to vote.