How can my child obtain US citizenship?
There are a number of ways for children under 18 to obtain US citizenship other than by birth. In some cases, they are naturalized when their parents are, and in some cases, when certain conditions are met, they can become citizens automatically. As with many laws dealing with citizenship and naturalization, the laws dealing with children have a long and complex history. However, much of this complexity was eliminated when the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 went into effect.
What is required of a child to become a US citizen?
Under the Child Citizenship Act, there are three primary requirements. First, at least one parent must be a US citizen, whether by birth or by naturalization. Second, the child must be under 18, and third, the child must be living in the US in the custody of the citizen parent and be a permanent resident. Both natural and adopted children are treated the same under this law.
The Child Citizenship Act provides automatic citizenship to qualifying children, once all the requirements are met. No naturalization process is required, and the child can obtain proof of citizenship either by filing an application for a Certificate of Citizenship with the USCIS or an application for a US passport with the State Department.
Children who do not qualify for automatic citizenship under this law may still obtain naturalization. They must have one citizen parent, whether through birth or naturalization, and the parent must meet certain residency requirements (typically having lived in the US for a minimum of five years, two of them after age 14). The child must be in the physical and legal custody of the citizen parent, and must be lawfully in the US, although they are not required to be a permanent resident. The application can be filed from abroad, but the child must be in the US before he or she will be naturalized.