Children born outside of the United States to U.S. citizen parents
The Child Citizenship Act was signed into law in 2000 and became effective on February 27, 2001. The law is not retroactive and a child can only benefit from this law if they were under the age of eighteen on the date the law became effective. Through the Child Citizenship Act, certain foreign-born children acquire U.S. citizenship automatically if they meet certain requirements. The law applies to both biological and adopted children of U.S. citizens.
To be eligible, a child must meet the following requirements:
- The child has at least one United States citizen parent (by birth or naturalization);
- The child is under 18 years of age;
- The child is currently residing permanently in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the United States citizen parent;
- The child has been admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident or has been adjusted to that status
If a child meets the above requirements, citizenship is acquired automatically without the need to apply for citizenship or to meet the prerequisites for naturalization such as demonstrating good moral character. The child becomes a U.S. citizen on the day that the last condition for acquiring citizenship is satisfied. If a parent wishes to obtain evidence of citizenship on behalf of their child, an application for a certificate of citizenship, Form N-600, can be filed with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services or an application for a U.S. passport can be filed with the Department of State. Adopted children can automatically acquire citizenship through their adoptive parents. However, stepchildren do not automatically acquire citizenship through their stepparent.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services allows for a presumption of legal custody by the U.S. citizen parent where a) the biological child currently resides with both natural parents who are married to each other, living in marital union, and not separated; b) the biological child currently resides with a surviving natural parent where the other is deceased; c) the biological child born out of wedlock has been legitimated and currently resides with the natural parent. In the case of an adopted child, legal custody will be based on the existence of a final adoption decree. In the case of divorced or legally separated parents, USCIS looks to the award of a court of law of the primary care, control, and maintenance of the child. USCIS will consider a U.S. citizen parent who has been awarded joint custody to have legal custody.
When the N-600 application for a certificate of citizenship is filed, the supporting evidence that should be submitted includes: the child’s birth certificate; marriage certificate of child’s parents if applicable; proof of termination of prior marriages of parents; U.S. citizenship of parent; documentation of legal custody in case of divorce; legal separation or adoption; green card of child; adoption decree if adopted; evidence of any name changes for parties involved; any other additional documentation that might be helpful. The filing fee is $240.00. Approximately three to four months later, USCIS will then schedule an appointment for an interview which both the parent and child should attend. The interview is usually just a formality during which an officer will review the original documents to make sure that everything is in order. Assuming that everything is in order, the child should leave the interview with the certificate of citizenship. Alternatively, a parent can apply for a child’s U.S. passport by submitting the original versions of the documents listed above to the Department of State. The original documents will be returned along with the passport in a matter of only a few weeks.