The Child Citizenship Act & How It Impacts Children Born to American Parents Abroad
Each year, thousands of Americans give birth to children outside of the United States. Although United States Immigration Law is ruled by the principle of “right of soil” meaning citizenship is determined by one’s place of birth, there are special considerations that come into play when an American citizen has a child abroad. The Child Citizenship Act (CCA) which went into effect on February 27, 2001, established the criteria for foreign born children, including adopted children, to obtain U.S. citizenship. In most cases, children who are less than 18 years of age and have at least one parent who is an American citizen (by birth or naturalization) will be able to obtain U.S. citizenship.
If you are expecting a child and living abroad or simply taking a vacation overseas during your pregnancy, it’s important that you contact the local embassy or consulate to verify current law and make sure you meet all of the requirements necessary to obtain citizenship for your new addition. Under the CCA which seeks to simplify the immigration process, a foreign born child who has at least one parent who is a United States citizen automatically acquires citizenship upon entry into the country as an immigrant provided that he enters the country before his 18th birthday. No further paperwork is necessary. Once here, the parent may request a Certificate of Citizenship and a U.S. passport.
For American parents who wish to remain abroad and raise their children outside of the United States, citizenship of foreign-born children can only be acquired through application. In this case, the American parent would need to contact the local embassy and submit the following documents:
- Photographs of the child
- The child’s birth certificate
- The parent’s birth certificate or naturalization certificate
- The parents’ marriage certificate (if applicable)
- Evidence of termination of previous marriages (if applicable)
- Evidence of a full and final adoption (if applicable)
- Evidence of all legal name changes (if applicable)
- Form N-600/N643 Supplement A (if applicable)
It’s important to note that the CCA does require the U.S. citizen parent of a child living abroad to have five years of physical presence in the U.S. with at least two years occurring after age 14, in order to apply for citizenship on behalf of the child. In some instances, where the parent does not meet this requirement, the physical presence of the citizen’s parent (the grandchild of the child in question) may be used.
Since the laws are subject to change, it’s important that you consult a U.S. immigration attorney prior to giving birth abroad. A knowledgeable attorney can help you understand your options and identify the best course of action to obtain American citizenship for your child.