U.S. citizenship is attained either by birth or by naturalization, the legal procedure that a qualified person must satisfy in order to be accepted as a citizen.
Federal law provides that those who are born in any of the 50 states, Puerto Rico, the former Panama Canal Zone, the Virgin Islands of the United States, and Guam are all native-born citizens, including the children of an American Indian, Eskimo, Aleutian, or any other tribal member.
Persons born in outlying possessions of the United States, such as Wake Island or Midway Island, and their children are called nationals. They owe allegiance to the United States and enjoy some rights. The term national denotes everyone who owes allegiance to the country, including citizens, but not every national possesses all of the rights of a citizen.
A person born beyond the geographical boundaries of the United States and its outlying possessions, of parents who are both U.S. citizens, is a national and a citizen of the United States at birth if one parent had a residence in the United States or one of its outlying possessions prior to the birth of such person. If only one parent is a citizen and the other is a national—but not a citizen—the parent who is a citizen must have been physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for a continuous period of one year prior to the birth of the child in order for the child to be a national and a citizen of the United States at birth.
A person born out of wedlock in a foreign country acquires at birth American citizenship if the mother was a citizen at the time of such person's birth and had formerly been physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for a continuous period of one year preceding the birth.