U.S. Citizenship for Minors: A Complete Guide
Understanding the path to U.S. citizenship for children under 18 can be complex. This guide offers clear, step-by-step instructions on navigating the citizenship process for minors, whether they were born abroad or are residing in the U.S.
If you’re a parent seeking citizenship for your child, or if your child is nearing the age of majority and considering naturalization, this comprehensive guide will help you comprehend the necessary steps. It includes how to file crucial forms like N-600 and N-400 and outlines the specific conditions under which a child automatically gains citizenship through their parents.
We’ll delve into various scenarios that might apply to your family, such as citizenship through naturalized parents, citizenship for children born overseas to U.S. citizen parents, and the procedures for children to acquire citizenship when their parents naturalize. Additionally, we’ll explore the importance of obtaining a Certificate of Citizenship and what it means for children who aren’t permanent residents.
Automatic U.S. Citizenship for Children Born Abroad
Children born abroad to U.S. citizen parents may be entitled to U.S. citizenship automatically. This status depends on several factors, including the parents’ citizenship status, their residence history in the U.S., and the laws in effect at the child’s birth. This automatic citizenship is conferred through a principle called ‘acquisition of citizenship’ and does not require any special application process as long as the conditions are met.
Filing for a Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-600)
If a child does not automatically acquire citizenship at birth or while they are under 18, the next step is to file Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship. This form serves as a request for official recognition of a child’s citizenship status. Upon approval, the child is issued a Certificate of Citizenship, a crucial document that serves as proof of the child’s right to all the benefits and responsibilities of a U.S. citizen.
Naturalization and Its Impact on Minor Children (Form N-400)
When a green card holder becomes a naturalized U.S. citizen, their minor children—those under 18 and living in lawful permanent resident status in the U.S.—may automatically become U.S. citizens as well. This process is known as ‘derivation of citizenship,’ and it allows these children to gain citizenship without going through the standard naturalization process. However, specific legal requirements must be met, and it’s important for parents to understand how to secure proof of their child’s citizenship status following their own naturalization.
Understanding Citizenship Laws Pertaining to Naturalized Parents
Citizenship laws for children of naturalized parents can be intricate. These laws have evolved over time, and the child’s eligibility for citizenship may depend on the law that was in place at the time the parent(s) naturalized. Parents need to be well-informed about these historical laws, especially if the naturalization occurred many years ago, to ensure they take the right steps toward confirming their child’s citizenship.
The Citizenship Journey for Green Card Holder Minors
Children who are green card holders may be on a path to U.S. citizenship through their parents’ naturalization process. If they are under 18 when their parent becomes a U.S. citizen and meet all the legal criteria, they may automatically acquire citizenship. If they do not automatically become citizens, they may apply for naturalization once they reach 18, provided they meet the eligibility requirements, including continuous residence and physical presence in the U.S.
Seeking Legal Advice for Unique Immigration Situations
Each immigration case is unique, and sometimes the standard rules do not apply straightforwardly. In such cases, it’s wise to seek professional legal advice. An immigration lawyer can offer guidance tailored to your specific situation, help navigate complex legal waters, and provide support with the documentation and application processes to ensure the best possible outcome for the child’s citizenship status.
Children below age 18 cannot file Form N-400 for naturalization and they need to turn 18 in order to apply for U.S. citizenship. If you the parent or your spouse is a U.S. citizen, your child will automatically become a U.S. citizen.
If your child was born outside the U.S. and you or your spouse were a U.S. citizen at the time, then you just need to file a petition for a citizenship certificate (Form N-600) for your child. If approved, your child will receive a certificate of citizenship which would help prove their citizenship status.
Similarly, if you are a naturalized U.S. citizen and if your child was a minor below age 18 when you received your naturalization certificate, your child can acquire citizenship from you and obtain a citizenship certificate by filing Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship.
If you are a Green Card holder and are applying for U.S. citizenship, your child can also become a U.S. citizen at the time you obtain your U.S. citizenship, provided you entered the name of your child under age 18 in the citizenship application Form N-400. Your child below age 18 will become a U.S. citizen when you become a naturalized U.S. citizen.
And you can apply for U.S. passports for yourself and your child and remain as U.S. citizens, anywhere in the country. However, if your child is not a minor below age 18 when you become a naturalized citizen then a separate application for naturalization must be filed for your child. Remember your child must be a green card holder and above age 18 to file an application for naturalization.
Your child can obtain a citizenship certificate even if you were not a U.S. citizen and if your spouse was a U.S. citizen and vice versa. In this case, your child’s birth certificate must contain the name(s) of his/her parent(s) who were U.S. citizens, when they were born.
Likewise, if you or your spouse or both became naturalized U.S. citizens before your child turned 18, he will automatically become a U.S. citizen. As the naturalization laws differ, you will have to be aware of the citizenship laws that were in effect at the time of your child’s birth.
Your child cannot automatically become a U.S. citizen, when you become a U.S. citizen, if he/she is not a permanent resident and if he/she is an undocumented immigrant.
Your child can acquire citizenship from you only after he/she becomes a lawful permanent resident. If your child does not meet the N-600 requirements, he/she can apply for U.S. citizenship only after turning 18, by filing Form N-400.
If your immigration case is unique and you need more information it is recommended to consult an immigration lawyer.