Children born abroad to U.S. citizens are not automatically entitled to citizenship. If a child is born abroad, the legal citizenship status of one or both of their genetic parents determines the child’s entitlement for U.S. citizenship. Additionally, whether or not the child’s parents were married at the time of the child’s birth impacts the level of documentation required to acquire citizenship for the child.
Under the guidelines of section 301(c) of the INA, a child born outside of the United States to married U.S. citizen parents qualifies for citizenship if the parents were legally married prior to the child’s birth. If both citizens are deemed the legal parents of the child during or before the time of birth, the child qualifies for citizenship.
For children born abroad to married parents (of which only one parent is a citizen) the child’s parent must have lived in the United States for a period longer than five years, two of which occurred after the age of fourteen. If the child was born between December 24, 1952 and November 14, 1986, stricter guidelines apply regarding the acceptable citizenship of the single citizen parent.
Children who are born out of wedlock, or born to parents who are not married at the time of the child’s birth, are classified under separate guidelines. A child born out of wedlock to a U.S. citizen mother is considered a citizen if the mother resided in the U.S. for over a year before the child’s birth.
If a child is born abroad to a U.S. citizen father and non-citizen mother, who are not legally married at the time of birth, the father is required to provide “clear evidence” of his relationship to the child. Section 309 (a) lists requirements for both proof of a blood relationship to the child and a written agreement of financial support for the child. To acquire citizenship for the child born out of wedlock, the U.S. citizen father must also provide proof of a relationship before the child turns 18.
Rules governing citizenship is complex and needs careful research and understanding. Those with questions about Citizenship for their Foreign Born Children should discuss it with qualified immigration attorney.