Citizenship of a Child Born Abroad

A child born outside of the United States may be able to obtain citizenship through their parents at the time they are born, or even after.  Of course, this depends on a number of different factors, such as whether the parents of the child were married at the time of the birth.  The law distinguishes between being able to acquire citizenship at the time of birth and deriving citizenship from one or more parent after birth, but before reaching the age of 18.  This article will discuss the general ways how either of these situations may apply to you or your child.

Generally, a person born outside of the U.S. acquires citizenship at birth if, at least one parent is a U.S. citizen, at least one U.S. citizen parent lived in the U.S. prior to the birth of the child, and the parents are married.  If the parents are not married, the U.S. citizen parent must meet certain residence or physical presence requirements in the U.S.  If the child was born before November 14, 1986, the U.S. citizen parent had to have had spent at least five years in the U.S. prior to the birth of the child, two of which were after his or her 14th birthday.

For a child to derive citizenship from his or her parent after birth, but before his or her 18th birthday, at least one parent needs to be a U.S. citizen, and the child needs to be residing in the U.S. and in the legal custody of the U.S. citizen parent pursuant to lawful admission as a permanent resident.  For children born between December 24, 1952 and February 26, 2001, the child must have been residing in the U.S. as a Green Card holder in the U.S. and both parents need to have been naturalized before the child’s 18th birthday.

As can be seen, the requirements can be complicated and depend on many different factors, including whether the parents were married at the time the child was born, what date the child was born, if the child was adopted, and which parent was a U.S. citizen.  The eligibility requirements discussed above are not a complete list of ways to derive or acquire citizenship.  If you believe you or your child may be a U.S. citizen, speak to a knowledgeable attorney that can assess your situation and proceed accordingly.