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US citizenship for children

28th December 2011
By Jessica Potter in Immigration Law
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US citizenship has always been a factor of attraction for many immigrants. This is due to the package of benefits and privileges that it bestows upon them. It is also for this reason that many illegal immigrants remain in the USA and give birth to a child, so that the child will get to enjoy the benefits. Since US citizenship laws automatically confers citizenship status to a child that is being born on the US soil, the immigrants take to this route.

Citizenship application for a child who is in the US

Birthright citizenship is the term that is used to indicate the citizenship acquired by a child, by virtue of its birth in the US. This is one of the basic US laws that deals with the automatic granting of citizenship. The jurisdiction extends to the US territories also – Puerto Rico, Guam, US Virgin Islands and Northern Mariana Islands. Apart from this, a child can automatically become a US citizen when it has satisfied all the below mentioned conditions.
• At least one parent of should be a US citizen (by birth or naturalization)

• The child should be below 18yrs of age
• The child should be residing in the US and in the legal, physical custody of the US citizen parent, based on a lawful admission for permanent resident status.
This is based on section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality act (INA). An adopted child has to satisfy a separate set of eligibility criteria before it can file in its US citizenship form.

Citizenship application for a child who is living outside the US

Section 322 of the INA lists down the eligibility requirements for children who are residing outside the US. It is similar to those children who are in the US but have a few additional conditions.

At least one parent of the child should be a US citizen. In case the parent is not alive during the time of application, then he/she should have been a citizen at the time of their death. The parent should have maintained a physical presence for at least 5 yrs in the US or its outlying possessions and 2 yrs of it should be after the age of 14. The child should be a minor (less than 18 yrs of age) and in the physical, legal custody of the US citizen parent. The child should also have attained the status of a permanent resident.

An adopted child who is living outside the US can qualify to become a US citizen if it satisfies additional requirements than those listed above.

Who can qualify as a ‘child’?

A person who is unmarried and who was born out of wedlock will come under the child category. The person should have been legitimated when h/she was below 16 yrs of age and should be in the legal custody of that parent. One thing to be noted here is that, a step child cannot file in to get citizenship just as a normal or an adopted child.

Citizenship application process for the child

When a child has satisfied all the conditions of Section 320 of the INA, he /she will need to only file in Form N-600 to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship. This can be done during any time of the lifetime of the child. Form N-600K has to be filed if the child is outside the US and should be done by the US citizen parent on behalf of the child. In case the parents are dead, the citizenship application can be filed in by a legal guardian (should be a US citizen) within 5 yrs of the parents’ death. Also the child, who comes under this section of the law, should become a US citizen before its 18th birthday. If the entire citizenship process is not over by then, then the child has to get naturalized as a US citizen by filing in Form N-400.

The filing fee for N-600 is $600 and it is $550 for an adopted child. It is the same for N-600K also.

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