Citizenship via Birth Abroad

Most of us are familiar with the concepts of obtaining U.S. by being born in the U.S. or by way of naturalizing after residing in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident for a period of 3 or 5 years. But there are a variety of other ways an individual can become a U.S. citizen, including, under the right circumstances, being born outside the U.S. to one or more U.S. citizen parents.

The rules and requirements to determine who becomes a citizen at birth while abroad have changed many times over the past century. The law in effect at the time the individual in question was born will generally determine whether they are born a U.S. citizen.

Kids born abroad

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A Child Born Outside the U.S. to Two U.S. Citizen Parents Who Are Married at Time of Birth

An individual born outside the U.S. to a U.S. citizen parents who are married to each other is born a U.S. citizen pursuant to Section 301(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), so long as one of the parents had maintained a U.S. (or possession) residence prior to the individual’s birth.

A Child Born Outside the U.S. to a U.S. Citizen and non-U.S. citizen Who Are Married at Time of Birth.

An individual born outside the U.S. to a U.S. citizen and a non-U.S. citizen is a U.S. citizen at birth if the U.S. citizen parent was physically present in the U.S. or one of its possessions, before the child’s birth for a prescribed period as set forth by the law then in effect. For a child born on or after November 14, 1986, the parties must be able to document that the U.S. citizen parent was physically present in the United States or a specified possession for five years before their child was born, and with 2 or more of those years being after the U.S. citizen parent was age 14. For a child born between December 24, 1952 and November 13, 1986, proving acquisition of U.S. citizenship at birth will require the parties to document that the U.S. citizen parent was physically present in the United States or a possession for at least 10 years before the child’s birth, with 5 of those years being after turning 14.

A Child Born Outside the U.S. to a U.S. Citizen Mother and non-U.S. citizen Father Who Are Not Married at Time of Birth:

An individual born outside the U.S. to a U.S. citizen mother and non-U.S. citizen father who are not married at the time, and on or before June 11, 2017, will be born a U.S. citizen pursuant to INA 309(c) but only if the mother was a U.S. citizen when her child was born AND was physically present in the U.S. or possession for an uninterrupted period of 1 year or or more before the child’s birth. For children born to this category of parents on or after June 12, 2017, are born U.S. citizens if the parties can document that the mother was a U.S. citizen when her child was born and physically present in the U.S. or possession, for no less than 5 year, 2 of which are after they turned 14 years of age.

A variety of other requirements are at play for children born abroad and out of wedlock to a U.S. citizen father and non U.S. citizen mother, with some variance of eligibility requirements depending on the date of the child’s birth.

Among the best first steps to be taken for establishing and documenting U.S. citizenship for a child born abroad is to file a Record of Birth Abroad at the nearest U.S. consular post. Other means of documenting the U.S. citizenship for children born abroad include applying for a Certificate of Citizenship with U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Citizenship and Immigration Services as well applying directly for a U.S. passport at a U.S. consular post abroad or at a U.S. Passport Office in the U.S.

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For the most accurate information and impactful advocacy when it comes to questions regarding the acquisition of birth abroad, contact a lawyer who has worked on such cases, such as Richard Hanus of the Law Offices of Richard Hanus. Indeed, learning the limits of the law and the exact mechanisms for accomplishing your goals is the best first step when it comes to tackling issues in this often emotional area of the law and legal process.