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U.S. Citizenship for children born outside of the United States

THE LAW AND YOU

WRITTEN BY: Narisara P. Jongjarearn -Tasanont, Attorney at Law

The law treats children born outside of the United States differently for purposes of acquiring automatic citizenship based on many factors such as whether the parents are married or not married and whether one or both parents are U.S. citizens.  To know whether a child will acquire U.S. citizenship at birth we have to look at the citizenship, marital, and residency status of the parents.

When a married couple has a child who is born outside the United States, the child may be a U.S. citizen as long both parents are U.S. citizens when the baby is born and at least one of the parents had a residence in the United States before the baby was born.

But when a married couple has  a child who is born outside the United States and only one parent is a U.S. citizen, then we must consider the amount of time that citizen parent lived in the United States.  For children born after November 14, 1986, the citizenship parent must have lived in the United States for at least 5 years, 2 of those years must have been after age 14, in order for the child to acquire U.S. citizenship through his/her parent.

For children born between December 24, 1952 and November 13, 1986, the U.S. citizen parent must have lived in the United States for a period of 10 years, 5 of which must have been after age 14 in order to transmit citizenship to his/her child.

Regarding parents who had children without being legally married or out of wedlock, the rules are different.  For fathers who are U.S. citizens who have a child outside of marriage, that child may acquire citizenship if certain requirements are met.  First a blood relationship must be established, the father must have been a US citizen before the child’s birth, the father must have lived in the United States for 5 years before the child was born, 2 of those years after age 14, the father must agree in writing and under oath to support the child financially until the child turns 18, and while the child is under age 18, the father must legitimize the child in the child’s country of residence, acknowledge paternity in writing and under oath, or have paternity established in a  competent court of law.  That’s quite a bit of a procedure to go through but it’s these steps that ensure that everything is handled fairly and in a way to prevent fraud.

Now for mothers who are U.S. citizens who have a child out of wedlock, the rules aren’t as onerous as for fathers.  All that is required is that the mother is a U.S. citizen prior to the child’s birth and that the mother lived in the United States for one continuous year anytime before the child’s birth.

If you believe that your child qualifies to have his or her citizenship by virtue of the parents U.S. citizenship, I can help you with the process and give you consultation on what types of evidence would help your case.

Narisara P. Jongjarearn-Tasanont works out of her law office in Los Angeles. She is also the Executive Director of the Thai American Citizens Alliance.  She is an active member of the State Bar of California, and the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association.  You can contact her at 323-664-7131 or 323-704-6355 with your immigration questions. The contents of this article are not intended as individualized legal advice.

 

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