Acquisition of U.S. Citizenship by Children Born Abroad
U.S. citizenship through parents and grandparents.
Many U.S. citizens residing outside of the United States are not familiar with U.S. citizenship laws governing the acquisition of citizenship by children of U.S. citizens. These laws have been amended by the U.S. Congress numerous times, and therefore are not easy to navigate as they apply different rules on different cases.
If your parents are U.S. citizens residing outside of the United States or if you are a U.S. citizen interested in bringing your children to live with you in the U.S., this article will provide you with a short review of U.S. citizenship acquisition laws and will answer some common questions on this subject.
For case-specific questions, please contact our office.
When does a person automatically become a U.S. citizen?
A person born in the United States or its territories, subject to the United States jurisdiction, is a U.S. citizen at birth. A person born outside of the United States may also be a U.S. citizen at birth if she satisfies the applicable requirements explained below.
Does a child of two United States citizen parents born outside of the United States acquire citizenship at birth?
The general rule is that a child acquires citizenship at birth, if at the time:
Both of the child's parents are U.S. citizens; and
At least one parent had/has resided in the United States or one of its outlying possessions.
A person born abroad who is a U.S. citizen at birth is not required to file an Application for Certificate of Citizenship and may file for U.S. Passport with the Department of State through the U.S. Consulate at their place of residence.
What if only one parent is a U.S. citizen at the time of birth?
The answer is that it deepens. If only one parent is a U.S. citizen at the time of birth, the child acquires citizenship if the U.S. citizen parent meets the specific residence or physical presence requirements in the United States. These requirements depend on the applicable law at that time of the child's birth.
Example: Jane was born in the U.S. in 1949. When she was 17 years old, she relocated with her parents to France, where she still resides. In 1973 Jane married John, a citizen of France. In 1988 their daughter, Dana, was born in Paris. Dana now wants to know her status.
Answer: Dana is a U.S. citizen. Her mother, Jane, a U.S. citizen by birth, resided in the U.S. for more than five years, two out of which after fourteen. Accordingly, under the applicable rules for Dana's date of birth, she acquired citizenship through her mother. To obtain a Certificate of Citizenship under this rule, she will need to file Form N-600K Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322 of the INA.
Can a child born to U.S. Citizens grandparents become a citizen?
Sometimes, children born out of the United States to U.S. citizen parents do not satisfy U.S. citizenship acquisition requirements through their parents (often because the U.S. citizen parent did not fulfill the residency requirement). However, the child might still meet the criteria for citizenship acquisition through a grandparent.
It is important to note that this option is only available for those who reside outside of the United States and are under the age of 18 at the time of application for Naturalization Certificate.
The child can acquire citizenship through grandparents, if at the time of birth:
Have at least one U.S. citizen parent, whether by birth or naturalization (including an adoptive parent);
Be under 18 years of age;
Be residing outside the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent, or if the U.S. citizen parent is deceased, in the legal and physical custody of a person who does not object to the application;
Have a U.S. citizen grandparent who was physically present in the United States for a period or multiple periods, totaling not less than five years (at least two of which were after the U.S. citizen grandparent's 14th birthday); and
Be temporarily present in the United States after lawful admission to complete the Form N-600K process and maintain that legal status.
If the grandparent has died, the grandparent must have been a U.S. citizen and met the physical presence requirements at the time of his or her death.
For a Certificate of Citizenship under this rule, you will need to file Form N-600K Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322.
What if the child was born abroad and now resides in the U.S.?
In 2000, the U.S. Congress passed the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. The Act contains two provisions that allow foreign-born, biological, and adopted children of U.S. citizens to acquire U.S. citizenship if they satisfy specific requirements before age 18.
The Act applies to children who did not acquire U.S. citizenship at birth. Under the law, a child born outside of the United States automatically becomes a U.S. citizen when all of the following conditions have been met on or after Feb. 27, 2001:
The child has at least one parent, including an adoptive parent, who is a U.S. citizen by birth or through naturalization;
The child is under 18 years of age;
The child is a lawful permanent resident (LPR); and
The child is residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent.
Example: Naomi was born in Tel Aviv in 2007. Her mother is a U.S. citizen by birth, and her father has no U.S. status. In 2009, the family decided to relocate to the U.S. for employment purposes. In 2019, Naomi applied for Lawful Permanent Residency (green card) through her mother and became a Lawful Permanent Resident. Her parents now want to know her status.
Answer: Naomi is a United States citizen. As a Lawful Permanent Resident, under the age of eighteen, born after Feb. 27, 2001, and residing in the U.S. under her U.S. citizen mother's legal custody, she automatically became a U.S. citizen. She can now apply for a U.S. passport.
It is important to note that many different variables can affect an individual case. These examples are only meant to assist with a general understanding of the rules and do not constitute legal advice. To evaluate your case, please consult with an Attorney.
What happens when the parent becomes a U.S. citizen after a child is born?
In this article, we discuss citizenship acquisitions, which are the rules that govern children born to U.S. citizens. The term citizenship derivation refers to cases where the parent was NOT a U.S. citizen at the childbirth time but naturalized while the child was under eighteen. In such cases, a child might have driven citizenship through the parent's naturalization.
If one or both of your parents became U.S. citizens before you turned eighteen, please call our office for a consultation regarding citizenship derivation.
What is the difference between a U.S. Passport and a Naturalization Certificate?
A Certificate of Citizenship is documentation of citizenship status issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). To obtain one, you will need to file Form N-600 Application for Certificate of Citizenship or N-600K Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate (for those residing abroad) with USCIS.
A person who is at least 18 years of age may submit the Application for Certificate of Citizenship on their behalf. If the application is for a child who has not reached 18 years of age, the child's U.S. citizen parent or legal guardian must apply.
A U.S. Passport is a travel document issued by the Department of State. To apply for a U.S. passport, you will need to file a Form DS-11 Application for a U.S. Passport with the Department of State. A U.S. passport is good for ten years, after which you will need to file for a renewal.
If you were born outside the United States and your parents are U.S. citizens, you might also be or become one. Factors, including your birth date and your parent's prior residency in the U.S., will determine the applicable law for your case.
For more information we invite you to contact our law firm.
*This article has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information presented is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current and is subject to change without notice. Readers should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter
© Copyright 2020 by Revital Shavit Immigration law