Child's Eligibility for Citizenship
When I become a U.S. citizen, how does that help my children who are legal permanent residents?
Your children under 18 years of age automatically become citizens, but, you must fill out the N-600 Form in order to receive a Certificate of Citizenship and register the change in their status with the USCIS.
How do I determine my child's citizenship?
A child who is born in the United States, or born abroad to a U.S. citizen who lived in the United States for the required period of time prior to the child's birth, is considered a U.S. citizen at birth.
A child who is:
- Born to a U.S. citizen who did not live in (or come to) the United States for the required period of time prior to the child's birth, or
- Born to one U.S. citizen parent and one alien parent or two alien parents who naturalize after the child's birth, or
- Adopted (stepchildren cannot derive or acquire citizenship through their stepparents) and is permanently residing in the United States,
Can become a U.S. citizen by meeting the following requirements:
o The child was lawfully admitted for permanent residence*; and
o Either parent was a U.S. citizen by birth or naturalization**; and
o The child was still under 18 years of age; and
o The child was not married; and
o The child was the parent's legitimate child or was legitimated by the parent before the child's 16th birthday (children born out of wedlock who were not legitimated before their 16th birthday do not derive U.S. citizenship through their father); and
o If adopted, the child met the requirements of section 101(b)(1)(E) or (F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and has had full and final adoption; and
o The child was residing in the U.S. in the legal custody of the U.S. citizen parent (this includes joint custody); and
o The child was residing in the U.S. in the physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent.
If you and your child meet all of these requirements, you may obtain a U.S. passport for the child as evidence of citizenship. If the child needs further evidence of citizenship, you may submit an "Application for Certificate of Citizenship" (Form N-600) to USCIS to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship.
(Note: A child who meets these requirements before their 18th birthday may obtain a passport or Certificate of Citizenship at any time, even after they turn 18.)
*Note - Children who immigrated under the "IR-3" or "IR-4" categories must have had an immigrant petition filed on their behalf before their 16th birthday. All adoptions for any other type of immigrant benefit, including naturalization, must be complete by the child's 16th birthday, with one exception: A child adopted while under the age of 18 by the same parents who adopted a natural sibling who met the requirements.
**Note - The "one U.S. citizen parent" rule applies only to children who first fulfilled the requirements for automatic citizenship (other than at birth abroad) on or after February 27, 2001. In order to qualify for automatic citizenship (other than at birth abroad) on or before February 26, 2001, both of the child's parents must have been U.S. citizens either at birth or through naturalization - both parents if the child had two parents; the surviving parent if a parent had died; the parent with legal custody if the parents were divorced or legally separated; or the mother only, if the child had been born out of wedlock and the child's paternity had not been established by legitimization.
If I am a U.S. citizen, but my child does not meet the requirements listed, can I still apply for citizenship for my child?
A child who is regularly residing in the United States can become a citizen of the United States only by meeting the requirements listed in the answer to the question above. If a child regularly resides in the United States and is not a lawful permanent resident, he or she cannot acquire citizenship automatically until he or she is granted lawful permanent residence. If a child who has been lawfully admitted for permanent residence fails to qualify for citizenship, he or she may apply for naturalization after reaching 18 years of age by filing Form N-400, provided that they have the required 5 years of lawful permanent residence.
U.S. citizens with children by birth or adoption (stepchildren do not qualify) who do not regularly reside in the United States may apply for citizenship for a child if all of the following conditions are met:
- The child is under 18 years of age; and
- The child is not married; and
- The child regularly resides outside the United States; and
- The child is temporarily present in the United States pursuant to a lawful admission and is maintaining such lawful status; and
- The child is in legal and physical custody of a parent who is a U.S. citizen; and
- The child is the U.S. citizen's legitimate child, or was legitimated before the child's 16th birthday (children born out of wedlock who were not legitimated before their 16th birthday may be eligible for this procedure through his or her mother); and
- If adopted, the child meets the requirements of section 101(b)(1)(E) or (F) of the INA and had a full and final adoption; and
- Either of the following is true:
- The citizen parent has lived at least 5 years in the U.S., and at least 2 of which were after the citizen parent's 14th birthday; or
- If the child's citizen parent has not lived in the U.S. for at least 5 years, 2 of which were after that parent's 14th birthday, the citizen parent currently has a parent (the child's grandparent) who:
§ Is also a U.S. citizen; and
§ Lived in the United States for 5 years, at least 2 of which were after the citizen grandparent's 14th birthday; and
§ Is living or deceased at the time of the adjudication of the application and the taking of the Oath
If conditions are met, the citizen parent can apply for citizenship and a Certificate of Citizenship on behalf of the child using an "Application for Citizenship and Issuance of a Certificate under Section 322" (Form-N600K). Both the citizen parent and the child must appear at an interview with a USCIS officer in the U.S. The child must meet all of the required conditions at the time they take the Oath of Allegiance.
(Note: The Oath may be waived if the child is too young to understand it.)