Children of U.S. citizen parent(s) born outside of the U.S. can acquire citizenship either at birth under INA §301 & §309 or prior to reaching age 18 under INA §320 and §322. We are here to help you!
Whether a person acquired citizenship at birth is determined by reference to the applicable statutory provisions and conditions that existed at the time of the person’s birth. Statutory provisions have been modified extensively over the years.
KLF will provide you clarity to understand which statute and which revision of that statute applies in order to qualify your claim to citizenship.
NOTE: The qualifications on this page provide only the current law only so please speak with the attorney at KLF regarding your individual case.
KLF has extensive experience with naturalization and citizenship issues. KLF gives you a veritable expert on what you need to obtain your goals. Using counsel will set you on the correct path and with the right supporting documentation. Citizenship laws can get confusing so having an expert immigration attorney with you should you run into a misguided officer will really help.
The time to hire an attorney is before you apply.
KLF can streamline the process, file your application properly and completely, prepare you for the interview, and attend it with you.
While a person born abroad who acquires U.S. citizenship at birth is not required to file an Application for Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-600); it is most advisable to apply for documentation of such status. You may also apply for a U.S. passport with the Department of State to serve as evidence of U.S. citizenship.
A person who is at least 18 years of age may submit the N-600 Application for Certificate of Citizenship on his or her own behalf. If the application is for a child who has not reached 18 years of age, the child's U.S. citizen parent or legal guardian must submit the application.
On March 26, 2020, the Citizenship for Children of Military Members and Civil Servants Act (CCMMCSA) was enacted into law.
As of March 26, 2020, U.S. citizen parents who are military or U.S. government employees or spouses of military or U.S. government employees, and are stationed outside the United States, can apply for a Certificate of Citizenship for children residing outside the United States. A child born abroad even though residing outside the U.S. acquires automatic citizenship under INA § 320 in cases where the child is a lawful permanent resident (LPR) and is in the legal and physical custody of his or her U.S. citizen parent who is:
No longer must their children, if eligible under the new INA 320(c), reside in the United States. The U.S. residency requirement is exempted for such children. Except for this residency requirement, all generally applicable requirements under INA 320(a) and (b) for automatic acquisition of citizenship apply. In cases involving members of the U.S. armed forces, the child and the U.S. citizen parent (if the U.S. citizen parent is the spouse of the armed forces member) must be authorized to accompany and reside abroad with the armed forces member pursuant to the member's official orders.
Upon meeting the requirements and traveling to the United States to complete the process, the child will obtain a Certificate of Citizenship. This change applies to eligible children who were under the age of 18 on March 26, 2020. All statutory requirements must be met before the child reaches the age of 18, including, if applicable, the issuance of the official orders for the child (and, if applicable, the U.S. citizen parent) to accompany and reside with the U.S. armed forces member who is stationed outside the United States.
The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA) amended the INA to cover foreign-born children who did not automatically acquire citizenship under INA 320 and who generally reside outside the United States with a U.S. citizen parent.
A genetic, legitimated, or adopted child who regularly resides outside of the United States is eligible for naturalization if all of the following conditions have been met:
A child born abroad through Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) may be eligible for naturalization under INA 322 based on a relationship with his or her U.S. citizen gestational mother under INA 322 if:
There are certain exceptions to these requirements for children of U.S. citizens in the U.S. armed forces accompanying their parent outside the United States on official orders.
Who Can Apply on the Child’s Behalf
A child’s U.S. citizen parent must meet the following physical presence requirements:
In most cases, the citizenship process for a child residing abroad cannot take place solely overseas. The child must:
Note that Section of 322 works in addition to INA 320.
Acquires citizenship at birth if at the time of birth:
Acquires citizenship at birth if at the time of birth:
*Time abroad counts as physical presence in the U.S. if the time abroad was:
Again, date of birth governs which version of 309(a) applies.
Children born out of wedlock claiming citizenship through a U.S. citizen father follow the general requirements as do children born in wedlock. This applies where:
One of the following criteria is met before the child reaches 18 years of age:
In addition, the residence or physical presence requirements under INA §301 continue to apply to children born out of wedlock who claim citizenship through their fathers.
Some examples of financial support documents that the USCIS may consider include:
The rules that determine whether a child born out of wedlock outside of the United States derives citizenship at birth from his or her U.S. citizen mother vary depending on when the child was born.
Child Born On or After December 23, 1952 and Before June 12, 2017A child born between December 23, 1952 and June 12, 2017 who is born out of wedlock outside of the United States and its outlying possessions acquires citizenship at birth if:
Child Born On or After June 12, 2017A child born on or after June 12, 2017, who is born out of wedlock outside of the United States or one of its outlying possessions acquires citizenship at birth if:
Effect of Sessions v. Morales-Santana Decision -- The Equal Protection Act requires the same physical presence requirements for the mother as exists for the father. Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Sessions v. Morales-Santana, the physical presence requirements for children born out of wedlock were different for a child acquiring citizenship through a U.S. citizen mother than for those acquiring through a U.S. citizen father. An unwed U.S. citizen mother could transmit citizenship to her child if the mother was physically present in the U.S. for 1 continuous year prior to the child's birth. An unwed U.S. citizen father, by contrast, was held to the longer physical presence requirement of 5 years (at least 2 years of which were after age 14) in the U.S. or one of its outlying possessions. On June 12, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court held, in Sessions v. Morales-Santana, that the different physical presence requirements for an unwed U.S. citizen father and an unwed U.S. citizen mother violated the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. The U.S. Supreme Court indicated that the 5 years of physical presence (at least 2 years of which were after age 14) requirement should apply prospectively to all cases involving a child born out of wedlock outside the United States to one U.S. citizen parent and one foreign national parent, regardless of the gender of the parent. The U.S. Supreme Court decision effectively eliminated, prospectively, the 1-year continuous physical presence requirement that previously applied to unwed U.S. citizen mothers, and replaced it with the higher physical presence requirement that previously applied to unwed U.S. citizen fathers. After Sessions v. Morales-Santana, the 1-year continuous physical presence requirement remains in effect only for those children born prior to June 12, 2017 outside of the United States to unwed U.S. citizen mothers.
A child born before 6/12/2017 acquires at birth if the U.S. citizen father first meets INA 309(a). By the terms of 309(a), INA 301 then applies allowing either parent to establish that he or she has had a residence in the U>S. prior to the child's birth.
If the father did not satisfy INA 309(a), the child may acquire through the mother under appropriate 309 and 301 provisions.
A child born on or after 6/12/2017whose father does not satisfy INA 309(a) will benefit from legal counsel. Adjudicators are instructed to get guidance when they encounter a child whose father did not satisfy INA 309(a) but whose mother or father or whose mother resided in the U.S. at any time prior to the child's birth.