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What Is Derivative Citizenship and How Does It Work?

3.25 minute read
"It is generally believed that children of naturalized United States citizens are automatically granted US citizenship due to their parents. However, the truth is far from it. Children of US citizens who are 18 years or older can apply for US citizenship through the naturalization process. But minor children are not eligible for this process."
Written by My Visa Source Team
Published on:  Aug 28, 2021
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It is generally believed that children of naturalized United States citizens are automatically granted US citizenship due to their parents. However, the truth is far from it. Children of US citizens who are 18 years or older can apply for US citizenship through the naturalization process. But minor children are not eligible for this process.

However, that does not mean minor children can not become US citizens. There are certain criteria for children to automatically gain US citizenship when their parents naturalize. This is known as derivative citizenship for children. 

How Can Children Obtain US Citizenship?

Child Citizenship Act: Lawful permanent residents of the US apply for US citizenship through the naturalization process, by filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. 

However, minor children (under the age of 18) are not eligible for this process. The Immigration and Naturalization Act provides the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 under Section 320 that states that children under the age of 18 will automatically derive US citizenship from their naturalized parent if the following conditions are met:

  • One of the child’s parents is a US citizen by birth or naturalization
  • The child is currently residing in the US in the legal custody of their US citizen parent
  • The child is a lawful permanent resident under the age of 18

Meeting all 3 conditions will make the child a US citizen, irrespective of what order the conditions were met. This law covers adoptive as well as biological children. However, it does not apply to stepchildren. 

This law came into effect on February 27, 2001. Therefore, all persons under the age of 18 on or after that date, who meet the eligibility requirements can derive US citizenship from their parents. However, it does not apply to children who were 18 years or older as of February 27, 2001.

What Can Be Used As a Proof of US Citizenship for Children? 

Children don't need to obtain documents that prove their citizenship, however, it is safe to do so anyway. Official documents help to avoid future complications and legal hassles. 2 documents can be presented as proof of US citizenship for children:

  • Certificate of Citizenship
  • US Passport

A US passport is a better and less expensive document since it also functions as a travel document.

Obtaining a Certificate of Citizenship for children requires you to file Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Obtaining a US passport, on the other hand, requires you to prove US citizenship, which can either be done by submitting a Certificate of Citizenship or by providing the following documents with a passport application:

Proof of Relationship to a US Citizen Parent: 

This can usually be done by submitting a certified copy of the foreign birth certificate. In cases where a birth certificate is not adequate proof, then other documents like medical or DNA tests can be submitted. Adoption papers and final adoption decree can be submitted for adopted children. All documents must be in English or, if in a foreign language, must be accompanied by a certified translation to English.

Proof of Child’s Permanent Residence: 

You must submit proof that the child has been living in the United States as a permanent resident in the legal and physical custody of the US citizen parent. This can be done by submitting the child’s Green Card or an I-551 stamp endorsed in the child’s foreign passport.

The following documents can be requested to prove that the child has been living in the legal and physical custody of the US citizen parent:

  • School, employment and medical records
  • Parent’s tax returns that reflect that the child is dependent
  • Attestations by the church or other religious organizations
  • Affidavits of third parties knowing of the legal and physical presence

Proof of Child’s Age: It must be proven that the child is under the age of 18 when all conditions are met. 

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