Path to U.S. Citizenship

Path to U.S. Citizenship

Explore one of the paths available for someone seeking U.S. citizenship.


5 - 8


Experiential Learning, Social Studies, Civics

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Idea for Use in the Classroom

Explain to students that the infographic shows the standard process to become a naturalized U.S. citizen after obtaining a green card. Have volunteers read each space and tell how the image relates. Encourage students to provide a rationale for the requirements of each of the first six spaces. Then prompt students to brainstorm examples of how people could approach their path to citizenship differently, while still meeting all the requirements.

Next, tell students that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows for exceptions and accommodations under certain circumstances:

  • Certain people who are older than 50 years old and have lived in the United States for more than 15 years may be exempted from the English language requirement.
  • A medical disability may provide exemption from the English and/or civics requirements.
  • Certain kinds of overseas employment may allow for an exemption of the continuous residence requirement.
  • In addition, modifications can be made as needed, based on any reported physical or mental disability listed on the application.

Ask students to suggest a rationale for each type of exception.

Finally, explain that people may qualify for citizenship through a citizen spouse, through their parents, or if they are family members of a member of the U.S. armed forces, rather than through the regular green-card process. Divide students into seven groups (two each for citizen spouses and parents inside and outside the U.S.; three for the three categories of family members) to have them research the requirements (see Resources) and make their own game board infographic for each way of qualifying for U.S. citizenship. When they are done, work as a class to compare and contrast all the paths to citizenship.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Clint Parks
Roza Kavak
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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