Here’s something to think about on this Fourth of July: If you are born in the United States, citizenship is a birthright, but if you immigrate to this country, the work of the citizenship process culminates in the reciting of an oath.

The U.S. citizenship oath consists of 140 words. Some of those are more contemporary, others more archaic. That’s because the idea of the citizenship oath is almost as old as the Constitution itself.

The first naturalization law was passed in 1790, the year Rhode Island became the final of the original 13 colonies to ratify the Constitution and one year before the Bill of Rights was ratified.

“It permitted any free white person who lived in the United States for two years to petition the court to be a citizen,” says Xiao Wang.

Wang is one of millions of people who have become naturalized U.S. citizens. His family came to the U.S. from China when he was 10 years old. Today, he’s the CEO of Boundless Immigration, a Seattle-based technology company that helps immigrant families navigate a naturalization process that in 2018 saw nearly 757,000 people take the U.S. citizenship oath — a five-year high.

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