Overview of meaning of 'Naturalization' for purposes of Derivative Citizenship

Brian David Lerner

Written by  Pro

Immigration Attorney

Contributor Level 18

Posted almost 4 years ago. 1 helpful vote


Under the pre-Child Citizenship Act case law, any form of naturalization, be it by the Agency, a court, or by operation of law under treaty or statute, could be the basis for derivative citizenship. This includes both the vesting of citizenship upon women when they married U.S. citizens, and collective naturalization when a territory became a state. Naturalization of a noncitizen national is also the basis for derivation of citizenship, even under those statutes where derivative citizenship was worded in terms of naturalization of noncitizens. Until 1941, derivative citizenship could also be based on what, for want of a better phrase, will be referred to as constructive resumption of citizenship. Under the Act of 1907, and under common law, U.S. citizen women who married foreigners automatically expatriated themselves. U.S. citizen women who divorced noncitizens were deemed to be "resuming" U.S. citizenship for derivative citizenship purposes. In 1922, however, Congress repealed that expatriating provision of the 1907 act and thereafter women who married a foreigner no longer forfeited their U.S. citizenship. As a consequence, when those women returned to the United States, they no longer "resumed" their U.S. citizenship, since they had not lost it. Children born abroad to those women were not U.S. citizens at birth because before 1934, only children born abroad to U.S. citizen fathers and children born out-of-wedlock acquired U.S. citizenship at birth abroad. According to a literal interpretation of the law, children of women who married noncitizens after 1922 would not acquire U.S. citizenship upon their return to the U.S. since their mothers never lost their U.S. citizenship and thus were not "resuming" citizenship upon their return to the United States. The Attorney General in the case of Fernando de Coll y Picard expressed the view that there was no basis for distinguishing women who had been expatriated from those who had not in terms of conferring benefits upon their children. Therefore, women who returned to the United States after divorcing a noncitizen were deemed to be resuming U.S. citizenship for purposes of their children's right to derive citizenship, even when such women married after 1922 and never expatriated themselves. This is known as the "De Coll" doctrine and it was in effect until 1941.

Additional Resources

Immigration Attorney

Immigration Lawyer Brian D. Lerner

Rate this guide

Related Topics

Citizenship: How to become a US citizen

In order to become US citizens and enjoy the benefits that citizenship grants, immigrants must go through the naturalization process.

Scott Thomas Helsper

Citizenship Through NaturalizationI

Naturalization is the process in which a person not born in the United States becomes a U.S. citizen. For more than 200 years, the United States has remained strong because of its citizens... more

Can't find what you're looking for? Ask a Lawyer

Get free answers from experienced attorneys.


Ask now

24,770 answers this week

2,938 attorneys answering