Child citizenship review


By Atty. Johnson Lazaro

A Child born or adopted abroad can become a U.S. citizen.  Here’s how.  At least one parent of the child must be a U.S. citizen by either birth or naturalization; The child must be under age 18; and The child must be residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent after having been lawfully admitted to the United States as an immigrant or permanent resident after adjustment of status.

It’s important to understand that permanent residency is required.  So a child, who intends to continue to live abroad, may not qualify.  Orphans who have been fully adopted abroad are citizens at the moment they are admitted as immigrants.  For these children, you don’t need to obtain a “green card” because they are citizens when they enter.  What will be needed is a certificate of citizenship.

When adopting a child abroad, you need to remember a few rules.  The child must be adopted before his or her 16th birthday and be in the legal custody of and residing with the adoptive parents or parent for at least two years. If the child is a natural sibling of a qualifying adopted child,  he or she can get benefits as an adopted child if the adoption takes place prior to the sibling’s 18th birthday. Again, all conditions must be met before the child’s 18th birthday to get the benefits of Child Citizenship Act.  Remember that stepchildren are not covered by this law because they are not deemed to be children for purposes of this immigration law.

You have legal custody of the child if you possess a court order granting legal custody or joint legal custody of a child. This will satisfy the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act for “legal custody.” In the case of an adopted child, legal custody is determined by a final adoption decree, and in the case of a divorce, the same rules apply with respect to a court order of legal custody or joint legal custody (covered in the regulation).

Children acquiring citizenship automatically under this law do not have any documentation showing their citizenship status. While they acquire citizenship without any application, they have to make a separate application if they want to have documentary proof of their citizenship status. Generally, these children must apply for a certificate of citizenship or a U.S. passport. In either case, a government processing fee must be paid.

The Child Citizenship Act (CCA) also amended the rules that allow a U.S. citizen parent (or parents) to apply for citizenship for children who did not automatically acquire citizenship at birth and who are residing abroad with the citizen parent(s). These children may acquire citizenship by naturalization even though they do not reside within the United States.

Finally the law provides that a qualifying U.S. citizen parent or U.S. citizen grandparent (the grandparent must be the parent of the U.S. citizen parent), or a U.S. citizen legal guardian may apply for naturalization on behalf of a child born outside the United States and residing outside the United States The application process begins with the filing of the form N-600K.

Johnson Lazaro has been practicing law for over 25 years. For questions please call 866-237-9555 or Email:   This article should not be taken as legal advice.  This is not meant to create a lawyer-client relationship.