It is entirely possible for a person to be a U.S. citizen, without them even knowing it. That may sound strange, but it is does happen because U.S. citizenship is acquired automatically under the right circumstances. Since it is acquired automatically, it does not require any action to be taken on the part of the foreign national.
A child born outside of the United States automatically becomes a U.S. citizen when all of the following conditions have been satisfied:
• This child has at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen. This parent may be a U.S. citizen by either birth or naturalization;
• The child is less than 18-years-old;
• The child has been granted lawful permanent resident status (green card); and
• The child is residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of their U.S. citizen parent.
For automatic acquisition of U.S. citizenship to apply through the Child Citizenship Act described above, the child must have been born on or after February 27, 2001, or they must have been under 18-years-old as of that date. If you believe you may have automatically acquired U.S. citizenship at birth or before this date, it is recommended you consult an experienced immigration attorney to discuss the specifics of your case.
Adoption vs. Step-Child
A child who has been officially adopted may qualify for automatic acquisition of U.S. citizenship if they meet all of the above requirements. However, a step-child of a U.S. citizen who has not been formally adopted does not qualify. Step-children would have to apply for naturalization to become a U.S. citizen.
Legal and Physical Custody
A parent is said to have legal custody over their child if they have authority over their child and are responsible for their well-being. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) presumes that a child is living in a parent’s legal custody in the following circumstances:
• The child is living with both biological parents, who are living in “marital union;”
• The child is living with his or her only living biological parent; or
• The child is living with one of his or her divorced or legally separated parents, and the custodial parent has been granted legal custody of the child.
Application for Certificate of Citizenship
As stated above, children who meet all of the of the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act are automatically granted U.S. citizenship. However, they are not automatically given proof of their U.S. citizenship. Rather, they must apply for a Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-600) with the USCIS. The applicant must submit all required documentation with the application.
A child may submit their own application if they have already turned 18-years-old. However, if they are still under the age of 18, the application must be submitted by the child’s parent.
Reeves Miller Zhang & Diza – Full-Service Immigration Law Firm
Becoming a U.S. citizen is a wonderful thing. Now imagine how great it would be if U.S. citizenship was granted to you automatically, without you having to take any action at all. It is certainly possible for a select group of people. Contact us today to find out if you qualify for automatic acquisition of U.S. citizenship.