citizenship statutes go back to the beginning of the U.S. (although it has and continues to change. During
the second session of the first Congress, the first act to establish a
uniform law of naturalization included a derivative citizenship
Throughout the history of the U.S., different laws have imposed
different requirements in order to derive U.S. citizenship through the
naturalization of the parents.In general, every subsequent statute repealed in whole or in part the equivalent provisions of the prior statute. Judicial and administrative interpretations have found the citizenship statutes to confer benefits prospectively.
In general, statutes governing the
derivation of U.S. citizenship have always required a combination of
qualifying events to take place before the child turns a certain age.
The law that determines which requirements apply to a person is the law
that was in effect at the time the "last qualifying act" took place,
i.e. when the last material prerequisite was met.
The minimum requirements shared by all
derivative citizenship statutes up to the year 2000 were the
naturalization of one parent and the acquisition of lawful permanent
residence by the child. The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 removed the requirement of the
naturalization of the parent, expanding derivation to those children of a
U.S. citizen parent (whether native born or naturalized) if the
children commenced residence in the United States by a certain age. In this respect, it was easier.
The order in which the events required
for derivation took place is generally immaterial, provided they all
took place before the child turned a certain age. Thus, children who become lawful permanent residents after the
naturalization of their parents could derive citizenship to the same
extent as those who become lawful permanent residents before their
however, that for
derivative citizenship claims predicated upon parents who are legally
separated, the order of events may nevertheless be relevant and sometimesw if only one parent gets naturalized, the requirements of derivation are not met. The Board of Immigration Appeals held
that the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 is not retroactive for persons
who meet all of the requirements but who were eighteen years or older on
February 27, 2001, the effective date of the act.