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Citizenship Through Parents

If you were born in the U.S. and your parents are U.S. citizens, you qualify for citizenship as well. If your parents are U.S. citizens and you are under 18 years of age, you also may qualify for citizenship.

In this case, the following individuals are considered to be parents:

  • Genetic father
  • Genetic mother
  • Non-genetic gestational mother, if she is recognized as parent at the time of birth by law in the region where she gave birth

Citizenship at Birth for Children Born Outside the U.S. and its Territories

For information on who qualifies as a “child” for citizenship purposes, see USCIS Policy Manual guidance on Children of U.S. Citizens.

You would qualify as a Child Born Outside the U.S. and its Territories if one of the following statements applies to you:

If you were born outside the U.S. and your parents were married at time of birth --

  • Both parents are U.S. citizens at the time of birth, and at least one parent lived in the U.S. or territories prior to the birth.
  • One parent is a U.S. citizen at the time of birth and you were born on or after November 14, 1986. The parent who is a citizen has been physically present in U.S. or territories for at least five (5+) years prior to your birth. No more than two (2) of those years should occur after their 14th birthday.
    • The physical presence requirement for U.S. citizen parent allows for time spent abroad during the period in question if:
      • Parent was doing service in the U.S. armed forces
      • Parent was working for the U.S. government
      • Parent was working with an international organization specified by USCIS
      • Parent was traveling as an unmarried family member of another person who meets the above conditions

If you were born outside the U.S. and parents were not married at time of birth --

  • Your legal mother or genetic mother was a U.S. citizen at the time of your birth, and you were born after December 23, 1952. The mother was also physically present in the U.S. or territories for at least one year prior to the birth.
  • Your genetic father was a U.S. citizen at the time of your birth, and you were born on or after November 14, 1986. You have convincing records that you are blood related to your father, and records that he has agreed to financially support you until you reach 18 years of age. If your father has passed away, the financial support agreement is not needed. While you are under 18 years old, the following items must occur (in no particular order):
    • You are “legitimated” to be legally residing wherever you are staying.
    • Under oath, your father claims paternity for you, or the courts establish his paternity by adjudication.
  • The parent who is a citizen has been physically present in U.S. or territories for at least five (5+) years prior to your birth. No more than two (2) of those years should occur after their 14th birthday.
    • The physical presence requirement for U.S. citizen parent allows for time spent abroad during the period in question if:
      • Parent was doing service in the U.S. armed forces
      • Parent was working for the U.S. government
      • Parent was working with an international organization specified by USCIS
      • Parent was traveling as an unmarried family member of another person who meets the above conditions

Automatic U.S. Citizenship After Birth - But Before the Age of 18

If you were born outside the U.S. one of the following statements must apply to you if you are to become a citizen before the age of 18 –

  • On February 27, 2001 you were under 18 years of age. At least one of your parents is a U.S. citizen, and you are currently living in the country with them under their legal custody as you are petitioning for permanent residence.
  • Between December 24, 1952 - February 26, 2001, you were under 18 years of age, AND
    • Both of your parents naturalized before your 18th birthday, and you are a Green Card holder living in the U.S.
    • In the event that one parent passed away, your surviving parent was naturalized before your 18th birthday.
    • If your parents legally separated, then the parent with legal custody over you was naturalized before your 18th birthday.
    • If you aren’t able to establish paternity and your parents weren’t married when you were born, then your mother was naturalized before you reached 18 years of age.

If you were adopted by a U.S. citizen –

  • You are living in the U.S. with a U.S. citizen parent, in their legal custody.
  • After February 27, 2001 but before your 18th birthday, you are able to demonstrate that one of the following statements applies to you:
    • You were adopted before your 16th or 18th birthday, and you have been living with the U.S. citizen parent under their legal custody for at least two (2+) years.
    • You entered the U.S. under IR-3 as an orphan or IH-3 as an adoptee who was adopted abroad.
    • You entered the U.S. under IR-4 as an orphan or IH-4 as an adoptee, and you completed the process with your adoptive parent(s) before your 18th birthday.

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