Acquisition of United States Citizenship at Birth

Some children born abroad to United States citizen parents automatically become United States citizens at birth. The parent(s) of such a child may complete a “Consular Report of Birth Abroad” or apply for a passport for the child. Children who automatically acquire United States citizenship at birth do not need to go through the naturalization process, because they are already citizens at birth.

A child automatically obtains United States citizenship at birth if he or she is born abroad “in wedlock” (i.e. to parents who are married to each other) to two United States citizen parents, so long as at least one of the parents resided in the United States or one of its territories or possessions prior the child’s birth.

A child born in wedlock to a United States citizen and a foreign national obtains United States citizenship at birth if he or she meets the following requirements:

  1. For children born between December 24, 1952 and November 13, 1986, the U.S. citizen parent must have been physically present in the United States or one of its territories for 10 years prior to the person’s birth, at least five of which were after the age of 14. The U.S. citizen parent must be the genetic or the gestational parent and the legal parent of the child under local law at the time and place of the child’s birth to transmit U.S. citizenship; or
  2. For children born after November 13, 1986, the U.S. citizen parent must have been physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for five years prior to the person’s birth, at least two of which were after the age of 14.

A child born out of wedlock to a United States citizen father and a foreign national mother on or after November 14, 1986 obtained United States citizenship at birth if he or she met the following requirements:

  1. A blood relationship between the child and the father is established by clear and convincing evidence;
  2. The father was a United States citizen at the time of the child’s birth;
  3. The father (unless deceased) has agreed in writing to provide financial support for the child until he or she reaches the age of 18 years; and
  4. While the child is under the age of 18 years:
    1. the child is legitimated under the law of his/her residence or domicile;
    2. the father acknowledges paternity of the person in writing under oath; or
    3. the paternity of the person is established by adjudication of a competent court; and
  5. The United States citizen father was physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for five years prior to the person’s birth, including at least two of which were after the age of 14.

A child born out of wedlock to a United States citizen father and a foreign national mother between November 14, 1971 and November 14, 1986, whose paternity was not established by legitimation prior to November 14, 1986, also obtained United States citizenship at birth if he or she met the requirements detailed above.

A child born out of wedlock to a United States citizen father and a foreign national mother between November 15, 1968 and November 13, 1971 may derive United States citizenship from either the process described above for children born after November 14, 1986, or from the old versions of INA 309(a) and INA 301, described in detail below. A child born out of wedlock to a United States citizen father and a foreign national mother prior to November 15, 1968 must fulfill the criteria described below. A child born between 1971 and 1986 whose paternity was established by legitimation prior to November 14, 1986 must also fulfill the criteria described below. The “old” versions of INA 309(a) and INA 301 required as follows:

  1. The United States citizen father, prior to the child’s birth, must have been physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for ten years, five of which were after the age of 14; and
  2. The paternity of the child must have been established by legitimation prior to the child reaching the age of 21.

A child born out of wedlock to a United States citizen mother and a foreign national father between December 24, 1952 and June 11, 2017 obtained United States citizenship at birth if the United States citizen mother was a United States citizen at the time of the person’s birth and if the mother was physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for a continuous period of one year prior to the person’s birth.

A child born out of wedlock to a United States citizen mother and a foreign national father on or after June 12, 2017 obtains United States citizenship at birth if the mother was a U.S. citizen at the time of the person’s birth and was physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for a period of five years, at least two of which were after the age of 14.

If you believe that you or a loved one may have acquired United States citizenship at birth and you are interested in learning more, please contact Tanner Law Offices at 717-731-8114 for a consultation with one of our attorneys.