Child Citizenship Act, Derivative Citizenship and Naturalization Eligibility

Naturalization & Citizenship Laws

Naturalization is the process by which a foreign-born person, who is not already a citizen of the United States, may become a U.S. citizen.  The process involves an application to naturalize (N400), a civics exam to establish knowledge of basic U.S. history, a written and oral exam to establish knowledge of the English language, and a discretionary determination by the USCIS that the applicant is a person of good moral character.

While lawful permanent residents enjoy many benefits of living and working in the U.S. through being granted admission or adjustment for permanent residence in the U.S., they do not have the right to participate in certain political processes in the U.S., such as voting in national or state elections or serving as a juror in a jury trial, and a lawful permanent resident may be deported by a process of administrative removal proceedings under certain circumstances.  A U.S. citizen, however, cannot be removed or deported unless it is found that information or documentation provided during a naturalization process was fraudulent or materially misrepresented.

In order to be eligible to apply to naturalize in the United States, there are certain requirements that must be met.  This page details three different paths that lead to U.S. citizenship according to the foreign person’s situation. 

  • Permanent residents who have had permanent residence for at least 5 years.
  • Permanent residents married to U.S. Citizens.
  • Children of U.S. Citizens.  

Applicants Who Have Been Permanent Residents for 5 Years

Applicants who have been permanent residents for at least 5 years must also comply with the following requirements, the first 5 of which are also shared for naturalization of spouses of U.S. Citizens:

  • Be 18 years or older.
  • Reside continuously in the U.S. from the date of submitting your application until the time of naturalization.
  • Lived within the same state or jurisdiction for at least 3 months prior to filing the N-400.
  • Must be able to speak, write, and read in English and have an understanding of U.S. civics and history.
  • Must show good moral character (discussed in detail below).
  • Additional requirements include:

    1. Have continuously resided in the U.S. as a green card holder for 5 consecutive years immediately preceding the date of filing the N-400.  (See Maintaining Residency below for more information).
    2. Have been physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months of the preceding 5 years prior to filing, and continue to be physically present for at least ½ the days between the time of filing the N-400 until the time of interview and Oath Ceremony.

    Married to a U.S. Citizen.

    Spouses of U.S. citizens granted permanent residence regardless of how the permanent residence was received have very similar requirements that must be met, 5 of which directly overlap with the path that does not relate to marriage to a U.S. citizen. Besides being a lawful permanent resident, the applicant must meet the following criteria:

    1. Be in marital union with the U.S. citizen for at least 3 years prior to filing and until examination of the N-400.
    2. Continuously resided as a permanent resident for 3 years in the U.S. (See Maintaining Residency below for more information).
    3. Be physically present in the U.S. for at least 18 months out of the 3 years preceding the filing of the application, and continue to be physically present for at least ½ the days between the time of filing the N-400 until the time of interview and Oath Ceremony.
    4. The applicant must also meet the same mentioned requirements listed above as 1 through 5 requirements that 5 year permanent residents seeking naturalization must meet.

    Expedited Naturalization INA 319(b)  [Back To Top]

    Permanent resident spouses of certain U.S. citizens who are regularly stationed abroad may qualify for expeditious naturalization under Section 319(b) of the INA.  The term regularly stationed abroad is defined as a U.S. citizen who is an employee of certain American institutions of research, public international organizations, American-owned firms or corporations engaged in the development of foreign trade and commerce for the U.S.,  religious denomination or interdenominational organizations with a presence in the U.S. to serve in a minister or priestly function, or the U.S. government, including the military, or an individual under contract to the US government, so long as the citizen spouse is going to be stationed abroad for 1 year or more, the foreign spouse is present in the U.S. at the time of the interview for the naturalization, and the applicant shows evidence of intent to depart the US within 45 days of naturalizing to join U.S. citizen spouse.

    Expeditious Naturalization relieves the naturalization applicant from waiting the required time-frame as one of the typical requirements for a naturalization applicant.  Under expedited naturalization, there is no time requirement for the permanent resident to prove his or her continuous residence as a permanent resident or maintenance of permanent residence.

    Maintaining Residency

    • Maintaining continuous permanent residence through N-470

    In certain circumstances, a permanent resident can preserve continuous residence for naturalization purposes even if he or she will live outside the U.S. for a job for longer than a year. To qualify for a preservation of your continuous residence, the applicant must file an N-470 prior to leaving the U.S., and the employment abroad must be in certain positions for the U.S. government, private sector, or religious institutions. A grant of the N-470 does not address whether the applicant also needs to or would be advised to request a re-entry permit (discussed below).

    • Maintaining right to admission as a permanent resident: Re-Entry Permit

    Generally, a permanent resident may not be absent from the U.S. for more than six (6) months, and if he or she is absent for more than six (6) months, there is a rebuttable presumption that he or she has abandoned lawful permanent residence.  This means that the permanent resident may provide evidence to the contrary that he or she did not intend to abandon permanent residence.  However, if the absence from the U.S. has been over one year, and does not meet certain exceptions, permanent residence is automatically terminated. 

    Any foreign national seeking to be admitted into the U.S. bears the burden to establish admissibility, including permanent residents.  If a lawful permanent resident intends to take a trip abroad with the possibility or likelihood that an absence of one year or more will ensue, the permanent resident is required to obtain permission for re-entry into the U.S.  Under some circumstances, even if an intended trip abroad is anticipated to last no more than six (6) months, it can be advisable to request a Re-entry permit prior to departure in case circumstances require a longer absence than expected and the permanent resident does not want to or cannot return prior to twelve (12) months elapsing. 

    Without this permission, the permanent resident may not be allowed to reenter after an extended trip or he or she may have the green card physically taken by Customs and Border Protection at the Port of Entry, and be placed into removal proceedings so that an immigration judge may determine whether the permanent resident abandoned his or her permanent residency due to the lengthy absence and other factors available for consideration. In order to avoid the possibility of a prolonged administrative removal proceeding, and the possibility of being perceived to have abandoned permanent residence and thereafter removed, the permanent resident should file an application for Re-Entry Permit on Form I-131 to obtain the necessary travel document for reentry so permanent residency is not jeopardized.

    Note that permanent residence and continuous residence are two issues, and raise two different questions or concerns to be considered prior to a naturalization application.

    If a permanent resident wishes to apply for naturalization but has had any absence of more than six months outside the U.S. since the time of being granted permanent residence and particularly during the required time-frame for naturalization eligibility, he or she should seek legal assistance to determine whether he or she is eligible to naturalize.  The permanent resident should consult with an immigration attorney on the following questions (1) whether permanent residence was terminated, (2) whether the permanent resident abandoned his or her permanent residence due to the absence, and (3) whether continuous residence can be established. 

    Note that filing for Naturalization can lead to the initiation of removal proceedings before an immigration judge if the USCIS determines permanent residence was terminated or not maintained due to absences from the U.S.   

    Good Moral Character [Back To Top]

    The above pathways to U.S. citizenship for permanent residents require that the applicant also establishes good moral character for the statutory period of years that apply to them (for example: preceding 5 years for all permanent residents or 3 preceding years if the permanent resident is married to a U.S. citizen during that time). Note, however, the USCIS is allowed to review all activities or incidents of the applicant’s past, in their discretion, to make an overall assessment of moral character.

    In the cases where continuous or physical permanent residence is not a requirement, the foreign born individual will still have to show he or she possess good moral character.

    The standard for good moral character is the standard of the average citizen in the community. It does not mean outstanding character or above average morality. A single lapse of conduct also will not necessarily bar a person from a finding of good moral character, however, it may require the applicant to wait at least the statutory time-frame from the time of the incident, conviction or end of probation or parole, as the case may warrant, before being eligible to apply for naturalization.

    Good moral character is easier defined by acts that bar a finding good moral character. There are several statutory bars to good moral character.  A statutory bar means that, regardless of other factors, if a person committed one of the following acts, he or she will not be able to establish good moral character during the statutory period. For example, individuals convicted of the following criminal acts will bar a person from establishing good moral character for the statutory period:

    • Controlled substance violations, except for possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana;
    • 2 or more offenses for which 5 years or more of total prison or jail time was sentenced;
    • 2 or more gambling offenses;
    • Crimes involving moral turpitude such as fraud;
    • “False testimony” given during the statutory period; 
    • Incarceration, as a result of conviction, for aggregate period of 180 days or more , other than if incarceration took  place outside the US due to a conviction for a purely political offense.

    Other statutory bars are written such that the applicant can never establish good moral character, such as a conviction of murder at any time; or a conviction of an “aggravated felony” as defined under the INA on or after November 29, 1990.
    Other activities, regardless of whether the person was caught, arrested, or convicted, that involve moral character require the applicant to disclose and face discretionary approval or denial for failure to show good moral character include:

    • Illegal gambling;
    • Convicted of or involvement with prostitution;
    • Failure to file required tax returns;
    • Unlawfully smuggling individuals across international borders;
    • Habitual drinking or use of drugs;
    • Refusing to care for dependents or pay court ordered child/spousal support;
    • Adultery or polygamy;
    • Willful and Knowing Refusal or Failure to Register for Selective Service;
    • Unwillingness to swear an oath to bear arms on behalf of the U.S., if requested to do so

    An applicant must reveal his or her full criminal history, whether the crime or violation occurred in or outside the U.S.  The information is first provided to USCIS on the form N400, along with certified documentation about the event(s) or offense(s) if applicable.  The applicant must report his or her criminal history, regardless of whether the applicant was ever arrested or convicted.  While there is a petty offense exception for certain conviction or admission to crimes, the definition of petty offense is quite specific and limits the applicability to only one offense for which the maximum penalty possible for the crime does not exceed imprisonment for one year, and if there is a conviction, the term of imprisonment does not exceed six months, regardless of suspension.  Note that a record that is expunged does not alleviate the requirement to report the incident and provide certified documentation of the event.

    USCIS retains discretion to also use other criminal behavior against an applicant in finding good moral character, even if the person was not necessarily convicted or the crime did not involve moral turpitude.  Certain offenses, such as Driving under the Influence, or repeated offenses that do not involve moral turpitude can still be cause for discretionary denial. However, in these situations an applicant may show that extenuating circumstances led to the offense or that rehabilitation has since occurred, which may allow the applicant to rebut USCIS’ finding.  These decisions are made on a case-to-case basis.

    Age and Long-Term Permanent Residence Permit Waiver of Knowledge of English  [Back To Top]

    A Permanent Resident is exempt from the English requirement and can take the civics test
    and have the interview held in his or her native language (with a translator present at interview) if:
    • The applicant is 50 years or older and has lived in the United States for at least
    20 years as a lawful permanent resident; or
    • The applicant is 55 years or older and has lived in the United States for at least
    15 years as a lawful permanent resident.

    The applicant must meet these requirements on the date he or she signs and submits the naturalization application.

    Special Consideration for Long-Term Permanent residents – Limited Civics Exam

    Special consideration is given to naturalization applicants who are age 65 and older and who have been living in the United States as lawful permanent residents for 20 years or more. The applicants who satisfy these requirements do not have to take the regular civics test based on a possible 100 questions. Instead, they must prepare to answer questions from a shorter list of 20 questions in the language they choose (with a translator present at interview).

    Medical Disability That Prevents Knowledge of English or Civics Test Materials

    A naturalization applicant may be granted a waiver from the English and/or civics tests if the applicant has a disability that prevents him or her from learning or remembering the required material. To request a disability waiver from the tests, the applicant, the applicant’s attorney or the applicant’s legal guardian must submit a properly completed Form N-648 so that USCIS can approve a Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions.  [make link to different material I wrote already for details about the N-648; page is titled Naturalization: General Eligibility Requirements]


    “Continuously” is a term of art used within the immigration context. (See sections below for discussion of Maintaining Residency under Continuous residence and Re-entry Permit.)

    Knowledge of English, ability to read or write, and requirements to show basic understanding of U.S. civics and history, may be waived under certain circumstances. See [link page titled Naturalization: General Eligibility Requirements, also link # header Age and Long-Term Permanent Residence Permit Waiver of Knowledge of English written at the end of this page]

    “Continuously” is a term of art used within the immigration context. (See sections below for discussion of Maintaining Residency under Continuous residence and Re-entry Permit.)

    Note that current and certain veterans of the U.S. Armed Services are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship under special provisions of the law. Those who are currently serving must still meet certain requirements to become a U.S. citizen but there are no residency and physical presence requirements in the U.S. Additionally, those who served during peacetime or during wartime, but who have been honorably discharged, may be eligible for a different naturalization process that has a different proof and eligibility requirement than mentioned herein. If the applicant has had any period of service in a branch of the U.S. military, inquiry should be made as to eligibility for naturalization pursuant to either expedited naturalization or through the provisions under INA 328 and 329.

    Permanent resident also includes a conditional permanent resident.

    The U.S. Supreme court determined that “false testimony” under INA Section 101(f)(6) is by definition oral, given under oath, and with the purpose to obtain an immigration benefit. See Kungys v. United States, 485 U.S. 759, 780-81 (1988). Giving false testimony can be in relation to the applicant’s own family U.S. immigration matters, admission to or evidence of past fraud in the immigration process regarding the applicant’s status, or false testimony for potential future fraud purposes such as listing a person as a child never before claimed for the purpose to gain benefits for that child in the future.

    If an applicant realizes that he or she has failed to file a required tax return, he or she may amend or file late required taxes, and submit evidence of it in order to receive consideration. Seek legal assistance if the applicant has missing, incorrect or taxes owed on required filings.

    Smuggling anyone is a grounds for removal, however a waiver exists if the person smuggled is the spouse, parent or unmarried child under 21.

    Selective Service registration is required for any male present in the U.S. between the ages of 18-26, unless present in accordance to a valid nonimmigrant status. If naturalization applicant is unsure as to whether he registered, was required to register, or can now register, see Selective Service System website at www.sss.gov. If a male permanent resident is over the age of 26 at the time of filing for naturalization, a review must still occur of whether registration was required or made during the ages of 18-26. For all male naturalization applicants who were present in the U.S., other than in a valid nonimmigrant status, between the ages of 18 and 26, who did not register for selective service, please contact an immigration attorney to discuss naturalization eligibility. Failure to register does not necessarily mean that naturalization will be denied but the issues need to be discussed as to whether and when an applicant may be eligible to naturalize.

    While the willingness to bear arms, serve in non-combat duties, or work under civilian direction for the U.S. government, if requested to do so, establishes an applicant’s proper attachment to the U.S. Constitution, there have been some cases where the USCIS has granted citizenship to an applicant if he or she provides proof of religious affiliation or other strongly held beliefs that don’t allow the taking of an oath promising to do these types of services. If a naturalization applicant cannot truthfully check off the “yes” answers to the question whether he or she is willing to bear arms, serve in non-combatant duties or work under civilian direction, it would be prudent to seek legal assistance in deciding whether there are religious or other strongly held beliefs that can be evidenced to serve as reasoning to waive this requirement.

    Naturalization for Children  [Back To Top]

    Naturalization for children is almost a misnomer.  A person under 18 may not apply to naturalize to become a U.S. citizen.  A child who is 18 or older, is an adult for naturalization purposes, and must establish eligibility for naturalization like any other adult applying for naturalization, to include permanent residence in the U.S., required physical presence during the preceding 5 years, knowledge of English and civics test material, and good moral character during the requisite 5 years. If the applicant is over 18, and married to a U.S. citizen for the preceding 3 years, then the applicant must establish everything according to the above information pertaining to a spouse of a U.S. citizen. 

    However, a parent may file an Application for Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-600) for a child who is under 18 so as to obtain proof of U.S. citizenship for the child. The parent may also choose to apply for a U.S. passport with the Department of State for their child in order to obtain proof of their child’s U.S. citizenship.  It is often advised that even if the U.S. passport is secured first, a Certificate of Citizenship should be obtained also, so that the original evidence requirements for a passport application do not have to be continuously provided throughout the child’s life each time the child requires a renewed U.S. passport.

    Acquisition of Citizenship

    Some children born outside the U.S. are automatically considered U.S. citizens due to the citizenship of one or more parent, depending on when the child was born and which law was in effect at the time of the birth.  To put it another way, there are some children born abroad who are derivative U.S. citizens at birth, whereas there are other children who are considered to “acquire” U.S. citizenship upon the completion of certain requirements prior to the child reaching age 18.  A derivative U.S. citizen does not need to do anything in order to obtain citizenship, other than prove information about the parent(s) such as a parent had resided in U.S. or a parent had met physical presence requirements in the US prior to the child’s birth and whether the parent was married or not at the time of child’s birth.  These evidentiary materials relate specifically to information and evidence that occurred prior to the child’s birth abroad, so that the child seeking proof of U.S. citizenship must prove that the required information about the parents occurred prior to the child’s birth.

    The difference, then, for a child claiming acquisition of U.S. citizenship is that the child must fulfill all requirements for the law in place at the time the child was born, prior to reaching age 18, in order to be considered a U.S. citizen. So acquisition of citizenship has required steps that occur after the child is born, and are not automatic at birth.

    While at one time, it was helpful to keep the two categories separate so that citizenship could be determined, the two separate terms are now no longer used by USCIS since the passage of the Child Citizenship Act in 2000.  Instead, the determination of citizenship is now generally termed as acquisition of citizenship, regardless of whether the facts being shown concern activities that must have occurred prior to the birth of child born abroad, versus activities that must occur after the birth abroad.

    Child Citizenship Act

    Certain children of a U.S. citizen who are not considered U.S. citizens at birth may acquire citizenship under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. This act took effect as of February 27, 2001, so that any child age 18 and older as of February 27, 2001 cannot receive a benefit under CCA and must be determined a citizen under former law, INA §321, discussed below.

    Under the CCA, a child not yet age 18 on February 27, 2001, must meet each requirement prior to reaching age 18, regardless of order:

  • Have at least one U.S. Citizen parent.
  • Must be in the legal and physical custody of the US citizen parent.
  • Be admitted to the U.S. as an immigrant for lawful permanent residence.
  • If the child is adopted, the adoption must be full and final.

  • For those children born abroad who were over age 18 as of February 27, 2001, but who may have a claim to U.S. citizenship, they must prove certain requirements according to the law of the time of the child’s birth. The variables to review for children born outside the U.S. to either one or two U.S. citizens parents are: when the child was born, which law was in effect at the time of birth, which parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of birth, whether the parents of the child were married to each other at the time of the birth, and whether the parent trying to pass along US citizenship had and met any residence requirements in the U.S. prior to the birth of the child.  There are charts that help decipher which children, during which years, under which law, with what physical presence requirements, may allow the foreign born child to be recognized as already having U.S. citizenship.  This chart can be found at USCIS’ website.

    Consular Report of Birth Abroad  [Back To Top]

    If a child of a U.S. citizen is residing outside the U.S., the US citizen parent(s) should complete a consular report for a birth abroad application to have the child’s U.S. citizenship recognized.  It is advisable to have the CRBA submitted as early as possible.  Note that the CRBA may only be completed prior to the child’s 18th birthday.

    _________________________________________________________
    i:
     “Continuously” is a term of art used within the immigration context. (See sections below for discussion of Maintaining Residency under Continuous residence and Re-entry Permit.)
    ii:  Knowledge of English, ability to read or write, and requirements to show basic understanding of U.S. civics and history, may be waived under certain circumstances. See [link page titled Naturalization: General Eligibility Requirements, also link # header Age and
    iii:  Long-Term Permanent Residence Permit Waiver of Knowledge of English written at the end of this page]
    “Continuously” is a term of art used within the immigration context. (See sections below for discussion of Maintaining Residency under Continuous residence and Re-entry Permit.)
    iv:  Note that current and certain veterans of the U.S. Armed Services are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship under special provisions of the law. Those who are currently serving must still meet certain requirements to become a U.S. citizen but there are no residency and physical presence requirements in the U.S. Additionally, those who served during peacetime or during wartime, but who have been honorably discharged, may be eligible for a different naturalization process that has a different proof and eligibility requirement than mentioned herein. If the applicant has had any period of service in a branch of the U.S. military, inquiry should be made as to eligibility for naturalization pursuant to either expedited naturalization or through the provisions under INA 328 and 329.
    v:   Permanent resident also includes a conditional permanent resident.
    vi:  The U.S. Supreme court determined that “false testimony” under INA Section 101(f)(6) is by definition oral, given under oath, and with the purpose to obtain an immigration benefit. See Kungys v. United States, 485 U.S. 759, 780-81 (1988). Giving false testimony can be in relation to the applicant’s own family U.S. immigration matters, admission to or evidence of past fraud in the immigration process regarding the applicant’s status, or false testimony for potential future fraud purposes such as listing a person as a child never before claimed for the purpose to gain benefits for that child in the future.
    vii:  If an applicant realizes that he or she has failed to file a required tax return, he or she may amend or file late required taxes, and submit evidence of it in order to receive consideration. Seek legal assistance if the applicant has missing, incorrect or taxes owed on required filings.
    viii:  Smuggling anyone is a grounds for removal, however a waiver exists if the person smuggled is the spouse, parent or unmarried child under 21.
    ix:  Selective Service registration is required for any male present in the U.S. between the ages of 18-26, unless present in accordance to a valid nonimmigrant status. If naturalization applicant is unsure as to whether he registered, was required to register, or can now register, see Selective Service System website at www.sss.gov. If a male permanent resident is over the age of 26 at the time of filing for naturalization, a review must still occur of whether registration was required or made during the ages of 18-26. For all male naturalization applicants who were present in the U.S., other than in a valid nonimmigrant status, between the ages of 18 and 26, who did not register for selective service, please contact an immigration attorney to discuss naturalization eligibility. Failure to register does not necessarily mean that naturalization will be denied but the issues need to be discussed as to whether and when an applicant may be eligible to naturalize.
    x:  While the willingness to bear arms, serve in non-combat duties, or work under civilian direction for the U.S. government, if requested to do so, establishes an applicant’s proper attachment to the U.S. Constitution, there have been some cases where the USCIS has granted citizenship to an applicant if he or she provides proof of religious affiliation or other strongly held beliefs that don’t allow the taking of an oath promising to do these types of services. If a naturalization applicant cannot truthfully check off the “yes” answers to the question whether he or she is willing to bear arms, serve in non-combatant duties or work under civilian direction, it would be prudent to seek

    Naturalization for Children [Back To Top]

    Naturalization for children is almost a misnomer.  A person under 18 may not apply to naturalize to become a U.S. citizen.  A child who is 18 or older, is an adult for naturalization purposes, and must establish eligibility for naturalization like any other adult applying for naturalization, to include permanent residence in the U.S., required physical presence during the preceding 5 years, knowledge of English and civics test material, and good moral character during the requisite 5 years. If the applicant is over 18, and married to a U.S. citizen for the preceding 3 years, then the applicant must establish everything according to the above information pertaining to a spouse of a U.S. citizen. 

    However, a parent may file an Application for Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-600) for a child who is under 18 so as to obtain proof of U.S. citizenship for the child. The parent may also choose to apply for a U.S. passport with the Department of State for their child in order to obtain proof of their child’s U.S. citizenship.  It is often advised that even if the U.S. passport is secured first, a Certificate of Citizenship should be obtained also, so that the original evidence requirements for a passport application do not have to be continuously provided throughout the child’s life each time the child requires a renewed U.S. passport.

    Acquisition of Citizenship

    Some children born outside the U.S. are automatically considered U.S. citizens due to the citizenship of one or more parent, depending on when the child was born and which law was in effect at the time of the birth.  To put it another way, there are some children born abroad who are derivative U.S. citizens at birth, whereas there are other children who are considered to “acquire” U.S. citizenship upon the completion of certain requirements prior to the child reaching age 18.  A derivative U.S. citizen does not need to do anything in order to obtain citizenship, other than prove information about the parent(s) such as a parent had resided in U.S. or a parent had met physical presence requirements in the US prior to the child’s birth and whether the parent was married or not at the time of child’s birth.  These evidentiary materials relate specifically to information and evidence that occurred prior to the child’s birth abroad, so that the child seeking proof of U.S. citizenship must prove that the required information about the parents occurred prior to the child’s birth.

    The difference, then, for a child claiming acquisition of U.S. citizenship is that the child must fulfill all requirements for the law in place at the time the child was born, prior to reaching age 18, in order to be considered a U.S. citizen. So acquisition of citizenship has required steps that occur after the child is born, and are not automatic at birth.

    While at one time, it was helpful to keep the two categories separate so that citizenship could be determined, the two separate terms are now no longer used by USCIS since the passage of the Child Citizenship Act in 2000.  Instead, the determination of citizenship is now generally termed as acquisition of citizenship, regardless of whether the facts being shown concern activities that must have occurred prior to the birth of child born abroad, versus activities that must occur after the birth abroad.

    Child Citizenship Act  [Back To Top]

    Certain children of a U.S. citizen who are not considered U.S. citizens at birth may acquire citizenship under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. This act took effect as of February 27, 2001, so that any child age 18 and older as of February 27, 2001 cannot receive a benefit under CCA and must be determined a citizen under former law, INA §321, discussed below.

    Under the CCA, a child not yet age 18 on February 27, 2001, must meet each requirement prior to reaching age 18, regardless of order:

  • Have at least one U.S. Citizen parent.
  • Must be in the legal and physical custody of the US citizen parent.
  • Be admitted to the U.S. as an immigrant for lawful permanent residence
  • If the child is adopted, the adoption must be full and final.

  • For those children born abroad who were over age 18 as of February 27, 2001, but who may have a claim to U.S. citizenship, they must prove certain requirements according to the law of the time of the child’s birth. The variables to review for children born outside the U.S. to either one or two U.S. citizens parents are: when the child was born, which law was in effect at the time of birth, which parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of birth, whether the parents of the child were married to each other at the time of the birth, and whether the parent trying to pass along US citizenship had and met any residence requirements in the U.S. prior to the birth of the child.  There are charts that help decipher which children, during which years, under which law, with what physical presence requirements, may allow the foreign born child to be recognized as already having U.S. citizenship.  This chart can be found at USCIS’ website.

    Consular Report of Birth Abroad

    If a child of a U.S. citizen is residing outside the U.S., the US citizen parent(s) should complete a consular report for a birth abroad application to have the child’s U.S. citizenship recognized.  It is advisable to have the CRBA submitted as early as possible.  Note that the CRBA may only be completed prior to the child’s 18th birthday.

     


     

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