CHILD CITIZENSHIP ACT OF 2000
Is my foreign-born child automatically a U.S. citizen?
Under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, which became effective on February 27, 2001, many foreign-born children of U.S. citizens automatically became U.S. citizens. This new law greatly streamlines the process by which foreign-born children of U.S. citizen parents can become U.S. citizens when they did not acquire citizenship at birth.
The Child Citizenship Act, which applies to both adopted and biological children of U.S. citizens, amends Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA") to provide for the automatic acquisition of U.S. citizenship when certain conditions have been met. Specifically, these conditions are:
- One parent is a U.S. citizen by birth or through naturalization;
- The child is under the age of 18;
- The child is residing in the United States as a lawful permanent resident alien and is in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent; and If the child is adopted, the adoption must be final.
Under the previous law, internationally adopted children of a U.S. citizen did not automatically become citizens upon their admission into the United States as immigrants. Parents of these children were compelled, after having already completed the rigorous immigrant visa process, to apply to the Immigration and Naturalization Service for a Certificate of Citizenship. This process could take months, if not years.
Similarly, some foreign-born biological children of U.S. citizen parents were unable to acquire U.S. citizenship at birth because their parents did not meet the legal requirements for transmission of citizenship. While the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 does not alter these transmission requirements, it does provide for the automatic conferral of U.S. citizenship on these children once the first three criteria listed above have been met.
Children under age 18 who already fulfilled the above four conditions as of February 27, 2001 will acquire U.S. citizenship automatically. Children who have not yet fulfilled these conditions will acquire U.S. citizenship on the day that the last of these criteria have been met, provided the child is still under 18 at the time.
This new law is important not only because it eases the process the U.S. citizen parent must go through in order to gain U.S. citizenship for his/her foreign-born child, but also because it seeks to address the problem faced by families when a foreign-born child becomes subject to removal from the United States. Under prior law, foreign-born adopted children, in particular, could be subject to removal if they did not acquire U.S. citizenship after being brought to the United States - even if they had lived since infancy in the United States. While this Act will not remedy past cases in which such children were deported, it will ensure that this unfortunate possibility will be eliminated for most noncitizen adopted children under the age of 18 and all noncitizen children adopted by U.S. citizens into a household in the U.S. in the future.
On February 27, 2001, some 75,000 children already residing in the United States with their U.S. citizen parents automatically became U.S. citizens with the entry into effect of this Act. Thousands more children will automatically become U.S. citizens every year as they enter the United States with their U.S. adoptive parents.
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