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Automatic Citizenship for Children


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

Today’s topic deals with the issue of automatic citizenship or citizenship by operation of law.  Many parents want to know if their children will automatically become a U.S. citizen when they themselves become a U.S. citizen.  It seems that with all the people who have become naturalized citizens, this question gets asked quite often.

The Child Citizenship Act (CCA) states that any child with a permanent resident card who is under age 18 who has at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen whether by birth or naturalization will acquire U.S. citizenship by operation of law.  This means that the child must be under age 18 when the parent becomes a U.S. citizen.  The child must also have a permanent resident card.  It is not necessary that both parents are U.S. citizens, only one parent must be a U.S. citizen.

If your child is living in the United States with a green card, your child will be a U.S. citizen by operation of law.  In cases where the child is living abroad, the child will acquire automatic citizenship upon admission into the United States as an immigrant.  However, there is no documentation that is given to the parent or child to establish the child’s status as a U.S. citizen.

So if you are a parent who has just become a U.S. citizen and you have a child who is under age 18 and who has entered the United States as an immigrant with a permanent residence card, your child will automatically be considered a U.S. citizen, but the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service will not automatically provide you with documentation of your child’s U.S. citizenship status.

You may however, apply for a certificate of citizenship for your child.  This certificate will serve as evidence of your child’s U.S. citizenship status.  Additionally, you can request to have a U.S. passport for your child.  I always advise parents to get a certificate of citizenship in addition to the passport.

I feel that it is better to have another form of proof, especially if the passport gets lost or stolen. The certificate would save a lot of time and trouble of collecting all the documentary evidence needed in order to get a replacement passport.  With the certificate of citizenship, if the passport gets lost or stolen, the child can easily reapply for a passport with the certificate of citizenship. A passport card to carry on the person is also a good idea, especially during these times.

If you have low income, we may be able to do a fee waiver for this form and that would save you on the government fees.

Parents with children over age 18 when they become a U.S. citizenship do not qualify for automatic citizenship.  If your over age child/children want to become a U.S. citizen, they must apply for naturalization and meet the eligibility requirements that currently exist for adult lawful permanent residents.

If you qualify, my office can prepare this application for you.  To make an appointment for citizenship or any other immigration matter, please call 323-664-7131 or 323 704-6355.  We can schedule an appointment for you any day of the week at our office in Los Angeles.

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 323-704-6355 to make an appointment for a consultation. The contents of this article are not intended as individualized legal advice.


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