Acquisition of Citizenship Rules

Acquisition of Citizenship Rules

Determining acquisition of citizenship is a four-step process: (1) determine if the parents were married or not (in wedlock or out of wedlock), (2) determine the correct time period, (3) determine which parent(s) were citizens at the time of the child’s birth, and (4) determine the U.S. citizen parent’s physical presence requirement. The correct period corresponds to the date of the child’s birth.

Children Born IN Wedlock:

Child Was Born on or After November 14, 1986

  • Both parents were United States citizens:
  • At least one parent must have resided in the United States, or its territories, at any time before the child’s birth.
  • One parent was a United States citizen:
  • The citizen parent must have been physically present in the United States for five years, at least two of which were after the age of fourteen, before the child’s birth.

On or After December 24, 1952-Before November 14, 1986

  • Both parents were United States Citizens:
  • A least one parent must have resided in the United States, or its territories, at any time before the child’s birth.
  • One parent was a United States citizen:
  • The US citizen parent must have been physically present in the United States, or its territories, for ten years, at least five of which occurred after the age of fourteen, before the child’s birth.

If all of the above occurred, then the child automatically acquired citizenship at birth.

Please note that there are additional rules for children born prior to May 24, 1934, from May 24, 1934-January 13, 1941, and from January 13, 1941-December 24, 1952.

Child Born OUT OF Wedlock to Two US Citizen Parents

If both parents are US citizens, the child can acquire citizenship through either parent and must only meet the requirements for acquisition of one parent (does not need to fulfill both).

On or After June 12, 2017

  • Citizenship through US Citizen Father:
  • The child must have been legitimated or acknowledged before turning 18. The legitimation laws of the father’s country (or state) of residence governs.
  • Must establish a biological relationship;
  • Father must have agreed, in writing, to financially support the child until s/he turns 18 (unless the father is deceased);
  • The child must not be married;
  • Either parent must have resided in the United States, at any time, before the birth of the child.

On or After November 14, 1986-Before June 12, 2017

  • Citizenship through US Citizen Mother:
  • Mother must have been continuously present in the United States, or its territories, for at least one year before the birth of the child.
  • Citizenship through the US Father:
  • The child must have been legitimated or acknowledged before turning 18. The legitimation laws of the father’s country (or state) of residence governs.
  • Must establish a biological relationship;
  • Father must have agreed, in writing, to financially support the child until s/he turns 18 (unless the father is deceased);
  • The child must not be married;
  • Either parent must have resided in the United States, at any time, before the birth of the child.

Child Born OUT OF Wedlock to US Citizen Mother

On or After June 12, 2017

  • Mother was the US Citizen:
  • The Mother must have been physically present in the United States or its territories for at least five years, at least two of which occurred after the age of fourteen, before the birth of the child.

On or After December 24, 2952-Before June 12, 2017

  • Mother was the US Citizen:
  • Mother must have been continuously present in the United States, or its territories, for at least one year at any time before the birth of the child.

Please note that there are additional rules for children born prior to May 24, 1934, and between May 24, 1934- December 24, 1952.

Child Born OUT OF Wedlock to US Citizen Father and Foreign Mother

On or After November 14, 1986

  • US Citizen Father and Foreign Mother:
  • The child must have been legitimated OR acknowledged by the father prior to him turning 18. The legitimation laws of the father’s country or state of residence will govern.
  • Must establish a biological relationship;
  • Father must have agreed, in writing, to financially support the child until s/he turns 18 (unless he is deceased);
  • The child must not be married;
  • Father must have been physically present in the United States, or its territories, for five years, at least two of which were after the age of fourteen, before the birth of the child.

On or After December 24, 1952-Before November 14, 1986

  • US Citizen Father and Foreign Mother:
  • The father must have legitimated the child before turning 21. The legitimation laws of the father’s place of residence will control;
  • The child must have been legitimated before November 14, 1986;
  • The child must not be married;
  • Father must have been physically present in the United States, or its territories, for ten years, at least five of which were after the age of fourteen, before the birth of the child.

Please note that there are additional rules for children born prior to May 24, 1934, from May 24, 1934-January 13, 1941, and from January 13, 1941-December 24, 1952.

If your child was born abroad and you believe that your child has acquired citizenship, please contact an immigration attorney who is trustworthy and knowledgeable! Our attorneys at Landerholm Immigration, APC, have experience processing both simple and complex acquisition cases. Please feel free to call us at 510-488-1020 to see how we can help!

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