dreamstime_m_90069648Certain individuals born outside the United States may acquire United States’ citizenship at birth based on their mother’s or father’s U.S. citizenship.  There are highly detailed requirements that must be met for a person to successfully prove a claim of “derivative citizenship.”  It is dependent on the child’s date-of-birth, the child’s parents’ marital status, the citizenship of each parent, and also the length of time that the child’s mother and/or father resided in the United States.

The determination of whether a person derived U.S. citizenship is dependent on the law in existence at the time of their birth.  These laws have changed dramatically over the years, so it is important to contact an experienced immigration attorney to determine if you have indeed derived U.S. citizenship.

Here is a brief synopsis of the law as it currently exists.

Birth Abroad In Wedlock to U.S. Citizen Parent and Alien Parent: A person born outside of the United States automatically acquires U.S. citizenship at birth if the following conditions are met at the time of their birth:
• One parent is a U.S. citizen;
• The U.S. citizen parent was physically present in the United States for at least 5 years prior to the child’s birth, including at least 2 years after 14 years of age. The U.S. citizen parent may be able to include their time abroad as physical presence in the U.S. if they were honorably serving in the U.S. military, employed with the U.S. government, or were a dependent unmarried son or daughter of the above.

Birth Abroad In Wedlock to Two U.S. Citizen Parents: A person born outside of the United States automatically acquires U.S. citizenship at birth if the following conditions are met at the time of their birth:
• Both parents are U.S. citizens;
• At least one parent has resided in the U.S. or one of its outlying possessions prior to the child’s birth.

Birth Abroad Out of Wedlock to U.S. Citizen Mother and Alien Father: A person born out of wedlock outside of the United States automatically acquires U.S. citizenship at birth if the following conditions are met at the time of their birth:
• The child was born after December 23, 1952;
• The child’s mother was a U.S. citizen at the time of the child’s birth; and
• The child’s U.S. citizen mother was physically present in the U.S. or outlying possession for one continuous year prior to the child’s birth.

Birth Abroad Out of Wedlock to U.S. Citizen Father and Alien Mother: A person born out of wedlock outside of the United States automatically acquires U.S. citizenship at birth if the following conditions are met at the time of their birth:
• The U.S. citizen father was physically present in the United States for at least 5 years prior to the child’s birth, including at least 2 years after 14 years of age. The U.S. citizen father may be able to include their time abroad as physical presence in the U.S. if they were honorably serving in the U.S. military, employed with the U.S. government, or were a dependent unmarried son or daughter of the above.
• A blood relationship is established between the U.S. citizen father and the child;
• The child’s father was a U.S. citizen at the time of the child’s birth;
• The child’s father (unless deceased) has agreed in writing to provide financial support for the child until the child reaches 18 years of age; and
• While the child is under the age of 18, one of the following occurs:
o The child is legitimated;
o The father acknowledges paternity; or
o The paternity of the child is established by a court.

Again, please note that the law that determines whether a person has acquired U.S. citizenship at birth is the law in effect at the time of the person’s birth.  Therefore, it is important to discuss your case with an experienced immigration attorney so that they may review the law as it existed at the time of birth.

Consular Report of Birth Abroad
A person who qualifies for derivative U.S. citizenship may file an application for a ‘Consular Report of Birth Abroad.’  This application must be filed before a person turns 18-years-old, and if approved, is clear proof of U.S. citizenship.

Reeves Miller Zhang & Diza – Full-Service Immigration Law Firm
It is true that the overwhelming majority of people born outside of the U.S. are not U.S. citizens.  However, if either your mother or your father was a U.S. citizen, you may just be one of the lucky few.  Contact us today to discuss if you acquired U.S. citizenship at birth.

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