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Can a Child Claim Citizenship Based on Parents' Status?

25th February 2011
By Paul Anderson in Immigration Law
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Very few are aware of the fact that children born outside the US to US citizen parents can claim US citizenship through their parents' status if they meet certain requirements. This also depends on the laws that existed at the time the child was born. Another important aspect is that if you were born in the United States, you automatically are a US citizen.

Form N-600:

Children born in the US can just apply for a US passport as a proof of their US citizenship status. If you want to document your US citizenship status based on citizen parentage, you can file Form N- 600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship with the USCIS. There are many eligibility requirements to be met before applying for child citizenship. One criteria requires a combination of at least one parent being a U.S. citizen when the child was born and having lived in the U.S. or its possessions for a certain period of time. Children born outside the US may also claim citizenship after birth based on their parents' citizenship or naturalization.

As mentioned earlier, you can automatically become a U.S. citizen when certain conditions are met. You should be under the age of 18 and at least one parent of yours should be a U.S. citizen, whether by birth or naturalization. You should reside in the United States in the legal and physical custody of your U.S. citizen parent and be subject to lawful admission for permanent residence. But how do you know if you qualify under child citizenship? Basically, to qualify as a “child” for the purpose of getting a certificate of citizenship through parents' status, the applicant should not be married. Children born out of wedlock should be “legitimated” before the age of 16 and when in the legal custody of the legitimating parent. But a stepchild who was not adopted will not qualify as a “child” under this category. If you meet the above mentioned requirements before turning 18, you automatically get US citizenship without having to file an application. However, to document this citizenship status, you have to file Form N-600 with the USCIS,. Per the Child Citizenship Act (CCA), persons who were 18 years of age or older as of February 27, 2001 do not qualify under child citizenship. Persons above the age of 18 as on February 27, 2001, may qualify to apply for a citizenship certificate under the law in effect before the enactment of the CCA.

What if you lived outside the United States?>
Biological or adopted children who regularly reside outside the US may qualify for citizenship. However, they must meet certain requirements to get a citizenship certificate. In this category, at least one parent of the child should be a U.S. citizen or, if deceased, the parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of death. Additionally the US citizen parent should have been physically present in the US or its outlying possessions for at least 5 years, at least two of which were after reaching the age of 14. And certainly, the applicant should be under the age of 18 years. Apart from these, the applicant should be residing outside the US in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent and finally, the applicant is temporarily present in the US after having entered lawfully and is maintaining lawful status in the United States.
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