Whether you’re an immigrant parent or a US citizen, securing US citizenship for your child can prove to be a challenging task. While the process itself may not take long, the US immigration laws concerning citizenship of children have undergone plenty of changes in the past few decades. You’re bound to have some questions – How do I apply for US citizenship for my child? Can a child under 18 apply for US citizenship? The answers can be a little confusing.
Methods of securing US citizenship for your child
The US immigration policy includes three different methods through which immigrant parents or US citizens can apply for US citizenship for their non-citizen child/children. These are:
1. Citizenship by application under INA Section 322
Section 322 of the INA provides avenues for a child that did not receive US citizenship at birth. The US citizen parents can gain citizenship for their child by applying to the USCIS. In case of the death of the US citizen parent, the child’s US citizen legal guardian or US citizen grandparent can apply for citizenship on the child’s behalf.
These are the criteria for a naturalizing parent to gain a Certificate of Citizenship for his/her child:
- At least one parent needs to be a US citizen, usually through naturalization.
- The child needs to be below the age of 18.
- The child needs to be lawfully present in the US.
- The US citizen parent making the application should have physical and legal custody of the child.
- The applicant US citizen parent should have spent at least 5 years in the US, including at least two years after having reached the age of fourteen.
Note that you don’t have to have been a US citizen for a five-year period to apply for your child’s citizenship. If you’re applying on behalf of your adopted child, he/she should have been adopted at an age of under 16 years and should fulfil all the Certificate of Citizenship requirements.
If your child qualifies for a Certificate of Citizenship under INA section 322, you will need to submit a duly filled out Form N-600k together with satisfactory evidence to support your child’s and your own eligibility for US citizenship.
2. Acquisition of citizenship
If one or both of a child’s biological parents are US citizens and the child was born in a different country, the child can automatically be eligible for US citizenship and no separate application is needed. If the US citizen parent (or parents) meets the criteria of time spent on US soil prior to the child’s birth, the child automatically acquires US citizenship.
The criterion regarding the time spent in the US varies with the parent’s immigration status. If both parents were US citizens before the child’s birth, they’re required to provide evidence that at least one of them had been residing in the US or its territories before the child’s birth. If only one parent is a US citizen, the US citizen parent is required to provide evidence of his/her physical presence in the US or its territories for a period of at least one year.
If the child’s non-US citizen parent is a foreign national or an alien, the US citizen parent needs to provide evidence that supports his/her physical presence in the US for a period of five years, two of which should have been spent within the US after the parent turned fourteen.
If your child was born out of wedlock after the date December 24, 1952, of a US citizen mother, you’re required to submit proof that the child’s mother had been residing in the US or a US territory for at least a year. If the child’s mother did not have US citizenship, the US citizen father is required to provide irrefutable evidence of his blood relationship with the child and his US citizenship status at the time that the child was born.
He’s also required to agree to financially support the child until he/she is 18 years old. In addition, the father has to submit proof of his presence in the US or its territories and agree to legal recognition of his relationship with the child.
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3. Derivation of citizenship
If you’re an immigrant who’s eligible for naturalization and your child was born outside of the US borders, your own application for naturalization can derive citizenship for your child. Adopted children and lawfully adopted stepchildren can also derive US citizenship provided they satisfy the eligibility criteria listed in the US Child Citizenship Act of 2000.
According to the act, a child who was under 18 years of age on or after February 27, 2001, can derive citizenship through their parents’ naturalization if the following criterion is met:
- At least one parent should be a lawful citizen of the US.
- The child should be unmarried.
- The child must be under 18 years of age on the date that one or both his/her parents acquire US citizenship.
- The child should have legally entered the US as a permanent resident.
- The child should be physically staying with a US citizen parent who has his/her legal custody.
In case of adoption, your child needs to be lawfully adopted before being eligible for derivation of citizenship. For deriving US citizenship for a stepchild, the naturalizing parent is required to officially adopt the child.
If your child seeks a Certificate of Citizenship as the documented proof of his/her citizenship status, both you and your child are required to fill and submit Form N-600 to USCIS. You’ll have to send in these documents:
- Two-color, passport-style photographs of your child
- Your child’s birth certificate
- A copy of your child’s Green Card
- Your marriage certificate
- Proof of residence in the US
Now that you’re equipped with all the information needed to secure US citizenship for your child, all that’s left to do is compile all the evidentiary documents. A little care and attention to detail will see you to your goal of quality life in the cherished company of your child.
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