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.