Eligibility for derivative citizenship from a United States citizen parent
The United States Congress in passing the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 [the Act] provides automatic citizenship for a child born outside of the United States when all the following conditions have been fulfilled:
(1) At least one parent of the child is a citizen of the United States, whether by birth or naturalization.
(2) The child is under the age of eighteen (18) years.
(3) The child is residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the citizen parent by a lawful admission for permanent residence.
To be eligible for citizenship under the Act a person must prove that all the above three conditions apply to him or her after February 26, 2001 (the date the law took effect). At the moment all three conditions are met the child is automatically a U.S. citizen.
Adoption of a step-child before the child turns sixteen (16) years
For the purposes of Act, a child means a biological or adopted child. An adopted child means any person who was fully and finally adopted while under the age of sixteen and who has been in the legal custody, and has lived with adopting parent(s) for at least two years. A step-child admitted for permanent resident cannot derive automatic United States citizenship from a non-adoptive United States citizen step-parent. But if the United States citizen parent fully and finally adopts him or her (a final adoption decree) before the age of 16 years and the child resided with the United States citizen adoptive step-parent for at least two (2) years then the person qualifies for derivative or automatic citizenship.
Certificate of U.S. Citizenship and why a document to prove U.S. citizenship is important
A person need not file any forms to get automatic citizenship. But a person is strongly encouraged to apply for a certificate of citizenship as the certificate is primary evidence of United States citizen. An alternative way to document United States citizenship is to apply for a U.S. passport.
In addition to the benefits of being able to vote, travel freely and petition for immediate relatives a United States citizen unlike a lawful permanent resident, cannot be lawfully deported, removed or excluded from the United States.
What form do I file?
To get a Certificate of Citizenship for a biological or adopted child the Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship with the filing fee for a biological child or the filing fee for an adoptive child (Check filing fee). There is no fee for a Form N-600 filed by a member or veteran of any branch of the United States Armed Forces. The member or veteran must attach proof of service otherwise the USCIS will charge a fee for filing Form N-600.
Applicants filing N-600s who live in Maryland must file the application at the Vermont Service Center.
Vermont Service Center
75 Lower Weldon St.
St. Albans, VT 05479-0001
Otherwise the applicant must file USCIS Field Office with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence.
Parents of children who meet the conditions for automatic acquisition of citizenship under the Child Citizenship Act may also apply for a passport from the Department of State, if they want to document the child’s status as a United States citizen. A passport application is usually a much easier and faster way of documenting citizenship.
Naturalization Process as a practical alternative
If a step-child does not qualify for automatic US Citizenship before 18 years of age he or she will have to satisfy the requirements for United States Citizenship through the Naturalization process using Form N-400.
The requirements for naturalization are:
- permanent resident in the US for at least 5 years (continuous residence);
- physical presence in the US (he has not been outside the US for more than a specified time);
- good moral character ( he has conducted himself in a legal and acceptable way);
- an understanding of English and US history and Government;
- an understanding of and support for the principles of the US Constitution; and
- residence for a specific amount of time in the state or USCIS district where he will file.