Derivative Citizenship - Am I a United States Citizen?
What Requirements do I Need to Satisfy to Derive U.S. Citizenship from One or Both of my Parents?Under certain circumstances, a child born outside the United States may derive United States citizenship through his U.S. citizen parent(s) or grandparent(s). In such a case, the child is considered a U.S. citizen from birth.
For derivative citizenship purposes, we apply the law that was in effect at the time of the child's birth and not any subsequent changes. In order to derive U.S. citizenship at birth, the parent must be a U.S. citizen at the time of the child's birth and often needs to satisfy physical presence or residence requirements. The transmitting parent does not need to be a U.S. citizen during the physical presence or residence requirement periods, only at the time of the child's birth.
What if I was Born Out of Wedlock (Illegitimately)?For children born out of wedlock (illegitimately) there are different requirements depending upon whether the U.S. citizen parent is the child's mother or father. In cases where an illegitimate child is born abroad to two U.S. citizen parents, it is generally easier, though not always, to satisfy the transmission requirements though the U.S. citizen mother than the U.S. citizen father.
What if my U.S. Citizen parent does not have sufficient residence for me to derive citizenship?In cases where the U.S. citizen parent does not have the requisite residence to transmit U.S. citizenship to the child, the child may still qualify for derivative U.S. citizenship provided the U.S. citizen parents' parent (the child's grandparent) had sufficient residence to transmit citizenship (i.e. the U.S. citizen grandparent "steps into the shoes" of the U.S. citizen parent). The fact that the parent or grandparent is no longer alive does not affect eligibility.
What is my Parent Previously Lost his U.S. Citizenship?Prior U.S. law provided that certain U.S. citizens born abroad would lose their U.S. citizenship if they did not satisfy residence requirements in the U.S. before a certain time period expired. In other words, the U.S. citizen had to reside in the United States for a specified period to time or would lose their U.S. citizenship. Congress removed these requirements in 1994. The law now provides that any U.S. citizen who lost his U.S. citizenship as a result of failing to satisfy the retention requirements may reacquire his U.S. citizenship by taking an oath of allegiance to the United States
Where Do I Go From Here?Follow the links below to find your specific situation and determine if you or someone you know derived U.S. Citizenship at birth. Derivative Citizenship cases, while seemingly simple on their face, can be some of the toughest immigration cases to prove. Retaining an experienced immigration attorney who is familiar with the applicable law and application process can save many hours of time and avoid unnecessary expense, disappointment and heartbreak.
Additional resources provided by the author
- I was Born Outside The U.S. to two Citizen Parents. Am I a U.S. Citizen?
- I was Born Outside the U.S. to a Citizen Parent and an Alien Parent in Wedlock. Am I a Citizen?
- I was Born Outside the U.S. to a Citizen Mother and Alien Father Out of Wedlock. Am I a Citizen?
- I was born Outside the U.S. to a Citizen Father and Alien Mother Out of Wedlock. Am I a Citizen?