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Citizenship

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Who is a U.S. citizen?

You can be a citizen by birth or through naturalization. You are a U.S. citizen if you are born in the United States.

When does a child born outside of the United States to a U.S. parent have automatic U.S. citizenship?

A child born outside of the United States automatically becomes a U.S. citizen when at least one parent is a U.S. citizen by birth or naturalization, the child is less than 18 years old, and the child is residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the citizen parent pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residence (green card status).

When does a child born outside of the United States to a U.S. parent have to apply for naturalization?

If the child is born to at least one U.S. citizen parent outside of the United States, that parent may apply for naturalization on behalf of the child who has not acquired citizenship automatically under the Act. This will generally mean that the child is living outside of the United States. The child will be issued a certificate of citizenship on proof that:

  • at least one parent (or, at the time of his or her death, was) is a citizen of the United States, whether by birth or naturalization;
  • the U.S. citizen parent has (or, at the time of his or her death, had) been physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for at least 5 years, 2 of which were after age 14 or has (or, at the time of his or her death, had) a citizen parent who meets this requirement;
  • the child is less than 18 years old;
  • the child is in the legal and physical custody of the applicant residing outside of the United States; or
  • the child is temporarily present in the United States pursuant to a lawful admission, and is maintaining such lawful status.

If the citizen parent has died during the preceding 5 years, a citizen grandparent or citizen legal guardian can apply for citizenship on a child's behalf by meeting all of the above requirements.

What is the Child Citizenship Act of 2000?

The Child Citizenship Act (CCA) is a significant and important change in U.S. nationality laws. Under the CCA, most foreign-born children adopted by U.S. citizens automatically acquire U.S. citizenship on the date they immigrate to the United States.

Which adopted children qualify for automatic citizenship under the CCA?

A child will automatically acquire U.S. citizenship on the date that all of the following requirements are satisfied:

  • At least one adoptive parent is a U.S. citizen;
  • The child is less than 18 years old;
  • The adoption is full and final; and
  • The child is admitted to the United States as an immigrant.

Do I have to apply separately to the USCIS for my adopted child's citizenship?

No. If your child satisfies the CCA requirements, he or she automatically receives U.S. citizenship by operation of law. If the adoption was completed abroad, your child automatically becomes a citizen on the day he or she is admitted to the United States as an immigrant. If you complete the adoption after your child has been admitted to the United States as an immigrant, he or she automatically becomes a citizen on the day you complete the adoption.

I am a U.S. citizen living abroad and have adopted a French child. Is he eligible for automatic citizenship?

No. For a foreign-born child living outside the United States to acquire citizenship, the U.S. citizen parent must still apply for naturalization on the child's behalf and the child will need to be in the United States temporarily to complete naturalization processing and take the oath of allegiance.

The eligibility requirements for foreign-born children living overseas are more complex:

  • The child must have at least one U.S. citizen parent (by birth or naturalization).
  • The U.S. citizen parent must have been physically present in the United States for at least 5 years, at least 2 of which were after the age of 14. Or the U.S. citizen parent must have a citizen parent who has been physically present in the United States for at least 5 years, at least 2 of which were after the age of 14.
  • The child must be less than 18 years old.
  • The child living outside the United States must be in the U.S. citizen parent's legal and physical custody.
  • The child must lawfully enter the United States temporarily.
  • The child must meet the requirements applicable to adopted children under immigration law.

Will my adopted foreign-born child have to take the oath of allegiance to become a citizen?

Yes, the child must take the same oath of allegiance administered to adult naturalization applicants. If your adopted child is too young to understand the oath, you may obtain a waiver.

What forms do I file to obtain proof of my adopted foreign-born child's citizenship?

If you want a Certificate of Citizenship for a biological child, file USCIS Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship. If you want a Certificate of Citizenship for an adopted child, file USCIS Form N-643, Application for Certificate of Citizenship in Behalf of an Adopted Child. If you are applying for a Certificate of Citizenship for a biological or adopted child who currently lives outside the United States, you may also need to file Form N-600/N-643, Supplement A, Application for Acquisition of Citizenship Through a Grandparent, with the Form N-600 or Form N-643.

I am filing for a Certificate of Citizenship for my adopted child who lives abroad. What documents do I have to submit with the form?

If your child has not immigrated to the United States (does not have a "green card"), you should submit photographs of your child, the applicable fee, your child's birth certificate, your birth certificate or naturalization certificate, your marriage certificate (if applicable), evidence of termination of previous marriages (if applicable), evidence of a full and final adoption (if applicable), evidence of all legal name changes (if applicable), and USCIS Form N-600/N643 Supplement A (if applicable).

Can I have dual citizenship?

Sometimes. Dual nationality means that you are a citizen of two countries at the same time. You may acquire foreign nationality by birth in a foreign country or through an alien parent. This does not affect your U.S. citizenship. You may also acquire dual nationality if you are naturalized in another country without intending to relinquish your U.S. nationality and are found not to have lost U.S. citizenship. The U.S. government does not endorse dual nationality as a matter of policy because of the problems that it may cause. Claims of other countries upon dual-national U.S. citizens often place them in situations where their obligation to one country is in conflict with the laws of the other.

U.S. law does not mention dual citizenship or require a person to choose one citizenship over another. Also, if you are automatically granted another citizenship, you do not risk losing U.S. citizenship. But if you acquire a foreign citizenship by applying for it, you may lose U.S. citizenship. To lose U.S. citizenship, you must apply for the foreign citizenship voluntarily, by free choice and with the intention to give up U.S. citizenship.

What are some of the ways I can lose my U.S. citizenship?

The Immigration and Naturalization Act lists the ways you will lose your citizenship. These include:

  • obtaining naturalization in another country;
  • taking an oath, affirmation or other formal declaration to another country;
  • entering or serving in the military of another country engaged in hostilities against the United States or serving as a commissioned or noncommissioned officer in the military of another country;
  • accepting employment with a foreign government if you have the nationality of that country or you declare allegiance in accepting the position;
  • renouncing formally U.S. citizenship before a U.S. Consular officer outside the United States;
  • renouncing formally U.S. citizenship within the United States in a time of war; and
  • conviction for an act of treason.

Will I lose my U.S. citizenship if I hold a government office for a foreign government?

Possibly. The State Department determines whether a person located outside the United States is a U.S. citizen or national. No law prohibits a U.S. citizen from running for an elected office in a foreign government. But a U.S. citizen who assumes foreign public office may come within the Loss of Nationality Statute. Under the law, accepting, serving in, or performing duties of in a foreign government is a potentially expatriating act. The U.S. citizen must either be a national of the foreign country or take an oath of allegiance for the position. The law requires that the expatriating act by the U.S. citizen must be done "with the intention of relinquishing U.S. nationality."

If you seek public office in a foreign state, the State Department will not assume that you intend to retain your U.S. citizenship and will investigate your intent toward U.S. citizenship. The Department will consider statements and inferences from your conduct in determining your intent to remain a U.S. citizen. Intent is determined on a case-by-case basis.

Will I lose my U.S. citizenship if I serve in a foreign country's military?

If you are a resident or citizen of a foreign country, you may be subject to that country's compulsory military service. Your enlistment in a foreign country's military may subject you to loss of U.S. nationality. You must voluntarily and with the intention of relinquishing U.S. citizenship enter or serve in a foreign-armed force engaged in hostilities against the United States or serve in any foreign country's military as a commissioned or noncommissioned officer. Military service in foreign countries usually does not cause loss of citizenship because an intention to relinquish citizenship normally is lacking. But, service as a high-ranking officer, or in a policy-making position, might be viewed as an intention to relinquish your U.S. citizenship.

Do I have to pay U.S. taxes if I lose my U.S. citizenship?

Generally, any person who loses U.S. citizenship within 10 years immediately preceding the close of the taxable year, whose principle purpose in losing citizenship was to avoid taxation, is subject to continued taxation. You presumed to have a principle purpose of avoiding taxation if your average annual net income tax for a 5-year period before loss of citizenship is more than $100,000, or your net worth upon the loss of U.S. nationality is $500,000 or more. You should contact the U.S. Internal Revenue Service if you have any questions about this issue.

I want to renounce my U.S. citizenship. How do I do this?

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, you will lose your nationality by voluntarily making a formal renunciation of nationality before a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States in a foreign state with the intent to relinquish your U.S. nationality. You must appear in person before a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer, in a foreign country (normally at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate) and sign an oath of renunciation. You cannot renounce your citizenship by mail, through an agent or while in the United States.

The intent to relinquish U.S. citizenship does not exist if you plan or claim a right to continue to reside in the United States, unless you demonstrate that residence will be as an alien documented properly under U.S. law.

Can I change my mind after I renounce my U.S. citizenship?

No, it is an irrevocable act. But if you renounced your citizenship before you were 18 years old, you can file an appeal within 6 months of turning 18.