Most U.S. citizens acquire their citizenship by being born within the United States. Children born outside the United States to one or two U.S. citizen parents can also acquire U.S. citizenship at birth if certain conditions are met. Other persons may acquire U.S. citizenship later in life due to naturalization (either intentional or automatic.) Please choose the links below for details on these and other related issues.
Can My Child Be a Citizen of More Than One Country?
Each country determines who is and who is not a citizen of that country in accordance with its own laws. Therefore, some persons may acquire citizenship under the laws of more than one country, either from the moment of their birth or upon taking certain actions. It is important to recognize that some countries limit or prohibit their citizens from being citizens of another country, while others do not.
The United States does not legally prohibit dual nationality, but in practice does not recognize the second nationality of a U.S. citizen. This is significant to U.S. citizens who also hold foreign passports in that they must always enter the United States as U.S. citizens (e.g.: using a U.S. passport). For example, a U.S. citizen who is also recognized by the Bahamian government as a Bahamian citizen cannot obtain a visa in his Bahamian passport nor can he enter the United States visa-exempt on his Bahamian passport and a police certificate. For advice about possible loss of U.S. and dual citizenship click here.
Detailed information on issues relating to dual nationality is available on the State Department’s website.
Stepchildren of U.S. Citizens
Children born outside the United States can only acquire U.S. citizenship at birth based on a blood relationship to a parent who is a U.S. citizen at that time.
U.S. immigration law, however, does accord U.S. citizens the right to seek immigration benefits (i.e. a green card, with the possibility of eventual naturalization) for a step-child who was still under the age of 18 on the day the U.S. citizen legally married the child’s parent. The U.S. citizen begins this process by filing an I-130 Petition with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). For further information, please see the DHS’ Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services website.
U.S. citizen step-parents who are legally resident in The Bahamas or the Turks and Caicos Islands but who intend to relocate to the United States in the near future may also contact the Immigrant Visa Unit of the Embassy for assistance at VisaNassau@state.gov; please include “Attn Immigrant Visa Unit” in the subject line.
Certificate of Citizenship
Can a child residing abroad apply for the Certificate of Citizenship?
A child residing abroad can apply for citizenship by filing the N-600k Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322. This application can be filed at any USCIS office or sub-office in the United States. Children presently outside the US can obtain US citizenship if five requirements are met.
- The child must have one US citizen parent, whether by birth or naturalization;
- The US citizen parent must have resided in the US for at least five years, at least two of which must have been after age 14, or have a US citizen grandparent who meets this residency requirement;
- The child must be under age 18;
- The child must be residing outside the US in the physical and legal custody of the US citizen parent; and
- The child must be temporarily admitted to the US in lawful status and must maintain that status until taking the oath of citizenship
There are some cases in which a permanent resident of the US living outside the US may still be considered to reside in the US. However, because this is a highly technical legal issue, the USCIS and the State Department normally require the child to be physically residing in the US. Additionally, a child with permanent resident status who lives outside the US will be allowed to re-enter as a permanent resident and qualify under the CCA.
What documentation is necessary when filing for the Certificate of Citizenship for a child living abroad?
When the child is residing abroad, the following must be submitted in making the application for citizenship:
- Form N-600K;
- Photos of the child;
- The child’s birth certificate;
- Evidence of the US citizen parent’s citizenship (birth or naturalization certificate);
- Marriage certificate (if applicable);
- Evidence of termination of prior marriages (if applicable);
- Evidence of US citizen parent’s (or grandparent’s) residence in the US;
- Evidence of the child’s lawful admission to the US and continuing lawful status;
- Evidence of a final adoption (if applicable);
- Evidence of name change if applicable