Skip to main content

Deriving Citizenship through Grandparents

An individual can obtain U.S. citizenship in one of three ways: by birth, by application for naturalization, or they can derive citizenship from their parents and grandparents.

A parent can apply for their child’s citizenship if:

  • the parent is a U.S. citizen;

  • the U.S. citizen parent has been physically present in the U.S. for at least 5 years (at least 2 of which occurred after the parent reached the age of 14);

  • the child is under the age of 18; and

  • the child is residing outside of the U.S. in the physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent, but is temporarily in the U.S. in a lawful immigration status.

The physical presence requirement is often difficult for U.S. citizen parents to meet. The situation arises most often with an individual who was born in the U.S., but moved to a foreign country at a young age with their family. These parents form families of their own outside of the U.S., but wish for their children to be U.S. citizens.

Fortunately, the law allows these children to satisfy the five-year physical presence requirement through their grandparents. If the U.S. citizen parent has a citizen parent (grandparent of child seeking to become a citizen) who has spent at least five years physically present in the U.S. (2 of which occurred after they reached the age of 14) then the child can use the grandparent’s physical presence to derive citizenship.

If you wish for your child to become a U.S. citizen and you do not meet the physical presence requirement, contact an experienced immigration attorney to determine if your child is eligible.

Although the author is a Board-certified attorney, this communication is intended as general information and not specific legal advice. This communication does not create an attorney-client relationship. Consultation with an experienced immigration attorney is the best way to address individual concerns.

Rate this guide


Recommended articles about Immigration

Can’t find what you’re looking for?


Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer