The simplest way citizenship is attained is by location of birth. Children born in the United States or certain U.S. territories are automatically U.S. citizens.
What if my child was born abroad?
Certain children born abroad may be citizens by birth if they have a U.S. citizen parent who has, at some point, lived in the United States prior to the child’s birth.
This type of citizenship by birth depends heavily on a number of factors including whether one or both parents are U.S. citizens, where the child was born, the character and duration of the parent’s stay in the United States prior to the child’s birth, whether the parents were married, whether the child is adopted, and whether the parents served in the military. See INA 301.
Specifically, where one parent is a U.S. citizen and the other is neither a U.S. citizen or national, the U.S. citizen parent must have been physically present in the United States prior to the child’s birth for at least five years, two of which were after the age of fourteen to confer citizenship.
How can I attain citizenship for my child if I am a U.S. citizen who never lived in the United States prior to my child’s birth?
If you and your child plan to live in the United States your child may automatically become a U.S. citizen if your child (1) was under 18 when you became a citizen and (2) resided in the U.S. as a permanent resident under your legal and physical custody.
Crucially, your child cannot enter the U.S. under a visitor visa and automatically acquire citizenship. Neither will short trips to the U.S. in a bid to establish citizenship suffice. Residence in the U.S. is required for citizenship under INA 320.
What if my child and I do not plan to live in the United States?
Under INA 322, citizenship is still possible for a child living outside the U.S. in the custody of a citizen parent.
Under this pathway to citizenship, the child must be under 18 and lawfully admitted and temporarily present in U.S. Additionally, the parent must have become a citizen and acquired sufficient physical presence in U.S. at some point before the child turned 18. This method of obtaining citizenship even provides options for those children whose U.S. citizen parents are deceased.
If you are a U.S. citizen seeking clarity on your child’s status, please schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys. We can assess your child’s citizenship status and eligibility and guide you toward the appropriate course of action for formalizing your child’s citizenship.