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I'm writing a piece about a polish refugee at the start of WW2 and I am trying to figure out the process for an unaccompanied minor, whose parents are supposed to be dead if that makes a difference, to become a US citizen in the late 40s or early 50s.

  • Does the country of origin (Poland here) make a difference?
  • How does the minor status affect the process?
  • What were the conditions (having lived in the US for x years, etc?) at that time - it is easy to find the rules today, but were they the same during WW2 with the many European refugees?
  • Does it matter if the parents are alive or supposed dead? (confirmation difficult in post-WW2, Soviet occupied Poland)
  • Does it make a difference if the boy is adopted by US citizens (considered orphan as parents are supposed to be dead) ?

There are plenty of examples for refugees becoming permanent US residents and citizens, but I could not find the exact process at that time for an unaccompanied minor.


I understand one had to be adult to become a citizen. So to amend the question: What would be the process once the person had his 19th birthday?

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    Minors cannot swear the citizenship oath. Candidates for citizenship had to be over the age of majority (19 or 21 or whatever was current for the period).Early in the 1900s, the head of household's citizenship change also applied to wife and minor children (not applicable to your example), but later on, each person had to be processed individualy. – bgwiehle Jan 2 at 17:09
  • @bgwiehle - thanks. Updated the question. How soon after becoming adult? – Tom Jan 2 at 20:39
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    You need to narrow down the time range because of the Nationality Act of 1940 vs Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. – sds Jan 2 at 20:58
  • @sds - in the story as written so far, he is 7 in 1939. So he'd be 20 in 1952, meaning I can have him become a citizen either before or after, whatever makes more sense. – Tom Jul 26 at 9:32

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