What if a child’s parents are U.S. citizens but the child was born outside of the United States? Does that mean the child is already a citizen or do they still need to apply for naturalization?
The answer: it depends
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), there are ways for citizen parents to convey their citizenship to their children born outside the country, namely:
- At birth: Generally, if at least one parent is a citizen and has resided in the U.S. for a period of time, their child born outside of the country is a citizen at birth and does not have to apply for naturalization. In this case, they would need to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship instead.
- After birth but before turning 18: Those children born abroad to a citizen parent, whether by birth or through naturalization, can apply for citizenship if they meet the conditions set by the USCIS. This includes physical presence requirements and lawful status, among others.
So, whether one has to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship or Naturalization depends on whether they are born a citizen or obtained citizenship after birth.
Factors determining if one is a citizen at birth or after birth
There might be confusion about which category a child falls under since the two categories have similar conditions. To determine whether a child is a citizen at birth or after birth, the following factors can be considered:
- The child’s date of birth
- The parents’ citizenship and marital status
- The parents’ physical presence and residence before the child’s birth
- If the child was born outside of marriage
- If the child is a legitimate child or legally adopted
Unique circumstances surrounding one’s birth can cause confusion as to their citizenship status. Fortunately, U.S. laws have a guide regarding the conveyance of citizenship from citizen parents to children born outside of the country. This can significantly help citizen parents who are looking into their children’s naturalization.