In our increasingly globalized environment, families are more likely to run into complex legal issues regarding immigration, birth, and citizenship. Young, international families planning on raising a family will face some questions, such as:
- Where should I give birth to my child?
- If I am a naturalized citizen, will my child automatically become a U.S. citizen also?
- How can I make sure that my child is properly documented?
Acquiring Citizenship at Birth
In general, a child born outside of the United States may acquire or derive U.S. citizenship through their U.S. parent's citizenship or naturalization status. In order for the child to be eligible to gain U.S. Citizen status, there are two requirements for the parents.
- One parents must be a U.S. citizen at the time of birth, and
- Prior to the birth of the Child, the U.S. citizen parents had been physically present in the U.S. for a period totaling at least five years. This five-year period in the U.S. must have occurred after the parent was 14 years of age.
Some recently naturalized parents will have difficulty fulfilling the second, “physical presence” requirement. In order to calculate your time spent physically present in the U.S., count this time period in the aggregate. You may include time when you were not a U.S. citizen. There are certain cases in which time spent abroad will still be considered as time spent in the U.S., such as during service abroad with the U.S. armed forces. In special circumstances, the U.S. citizenship status of the child’s grandparent may also be used.
When having a child outside the U.S., parents should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon after the birth as possible to apply for a Consular Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States of America (CRBA). The CRBA can help document U.S. citizenship. If a parent seeks documentation that the child has indeed obtained U.S. citizenship, they must submit an application to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship (ACC) from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. If the ACC is approved, USCIS will issue a proof of U.S. citizenship in the form of a Certificate of Citizenship. The parents may also apply for a U.S. Passport with the Department of State to serve as evidence of the child’s U.S. citizenship.
Acquiring Citizenship After Birth
Sometimes, a U.S. naturalized parent was not in the United States for five or more years after they were 14, making the child ineligible to acquire citizenship at birth. It may still be possible for the child to obtain citizenship after birth.
The first way that the child can acquire U.S. citizenship after birth is for the child to be residing in the U.S. in the custody of their U.S. citizen parent. The parent must have entered the United States legally for permanent residence. The child must also still be under 18, and born after February 27, 2001. The second way that a child can acquire U.S. citizenship after birth is for the child’s parent to have died, and the surviving parent to have naturalized before the child turned 18.
In the case the child is living outside of the U.S. in the custody of a U.S. citizen parent, the parent can file fore their citizenship if the child is under 18 years of age. The child must be lawfully admitted, physically present, and maintaining a lawful status in the United States at the time the application is approved and at the time of naturalization.
Obtaining U.S. Citizenship for a child born outside the United States is one of the most complicated areas of immigration law. Make sure to register your child's birth with the embassy as soon as possible as the first step in establishing your child's claim to U.S. citizenship at birth.
For more information about immigration services at the Law Offices of Vaughan de Kirby, please read our book, the Complete Guide to the EB-5 Green Card.