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Child Citizenship Act Regulations

by Gregory Siskind

The Child and Citizenship Act (CCA) of 2001 amended the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to provide US Citizenship to certain children born abroad. In 2004, the USCIS restructured the processing of Certificates of Citizenship for certain children adopted abroad.  These procedures target newly entering IR-3 children, children fully and finally adopted abroad, who are automatically US Citizens upon arrival in the US.  The changes made by the CCA significantly change nationality laws in the US by allowing automatic acquisition of citizenship and permanent protection from deportation for adopted children of US citizens. This article addresses frequently asked questions and issues surrounding the CCA and the streamlined processing for IR-3 children.


Which foreign-born children are eligible for automatic citizenship under the CCA?


A foreign-born child automatically acquires citizenship on the day that the following requirements are met:

  1. The child must have at least one US citizen parent, whether by birth or naturalization.  The parent need not have been a citizen at the time of the childís birth;
  2. The child must be under age 18; and
  3. If the child is adopted, a full and final adoption of the child; and
  4. The child must be admitted to the US as an immigrant or lawful permanent resident.

How does a child show Lawful Permanent Residence?


A child who has lawful permanent residence (LPR) will have a green card. Another way to show LPR status is the I-551 stamp in the childís passport. The I-551 stamp indicates the child enter the United States on an immigrant visa and/or has been admitted as a lawful permanent resident.


What happens when the child is adopted in the United States?


A child who enters the United States on an IR4 visa (to be adopted in the United States) will acquire American citizenship when the adoption is full and final in the United States.


In what cases will a parent(s) be required to provide evidence of legal custody of the child?


If the childís parents are divorced, evidence of legal custody needs to be provided.  If the child is an adopted orphan, evidence of this needs to be provided.  Finally, if the child was born out of wedlock, evidence of legitimization needs to be provided.

How can a parent show legal custody of a child?


There are three recognized ways the US citizen parent can have legal custody of the child.  First, a biological child lives with its natural parents, who are married is tantamount to legal custody for the natural parents.  Second, biological child lives with one parent and the other parent is deceased constitutes legal custody for the living parent.  Third, a biological child born out of wedlock but legitimized and residing with the natural parent gives that parent custody.  In the case of an adopted child, legal custody depends on the existence of a final adoption.  In cases where the natural parents are divorced, legal custody will depend on the terms of the divorce decree.


What is the application procedure for a child to acquire automatic citizenship?


Since the automatic citizenship is an operation of law on the day the child is admitted to the US, no application is necessary.


What documentation of citizenship is available under the CCA?


A child who is a citizen under the CCA permanently residing in the US can receive documentation by applying for the Certificate of Citizenship.  The necessary application is From N-600 Application for Certificate of Citizenship. The completed N-600 should be submitted to the USCIS office which has jurisdiction over the region of permanent residence along with the necessary fees. If the USCIS were to require evidence, it would likely be evidence of a final adoption and evidence that the child is a permanent resident of the US.  For a biological child, evidence of the parentís US citizenship, the childís permanent residence in the US, and evidence of the biological relationship should be submitted along with photos of the child.  


In addition to a Certificate of Citizenship, a US passport can be issued for the child by applying to the Department of State. For more information on how to apply for a passport, please visit


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 US.  Children presently outside the US can obtain US citizenship if five requirements are met.

  1. The child must have one US citizen parent, whether by birth or naturalization;
  2. 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;
  3. The child must be under age 18;
  4. The child must be residing outside the US in the physical and legal custody of the US citizen parent; and
  5. 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 childís birth certificate;
  • Evidence of the US citizen parentís citizenship (birth or naturalization certificate);
  • Marriage certificate (if applicable);
  • Evidence of termination of prior marriages (if applicable);
  • Evidence of US citizen parentís (or grandparentís) residence in the US;
  • Evidence of the childís lawful admission to the US and continuing lawful status;
  • Evidence of a final adoption (if applicable);
  • Evidence of name change if applicable
  • The custody requirements discussed above also apply in cases of children living abroad.

How fast can children with automatic citizenship receive the Certificate of Citizenship?


The USCIS implemented a streamlined process for newly entering IR-3 (indication of adoption abroad) children which ensures that these children receive the Certificate of Citizenship within 45 days of entering the US.


Are pending N-643 cases in the streamlined process?


The USCIS has implemented procedures to expedite pending N-643 cases. [1] Those individuals who have previously filed N-643 applications for Certificates of Citizenships should contact the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 and have the child's A-number and date of filing readily available.


Is automatic citizenship available for those individuals 18 years or older?


No.  Individuals who are 18 and over do not qualify for the benefits of the CCA. If such wish to become US Citizens, the may apply for naturalization following the same procedures and requirements currently existing for adult lawful permanent residents.

Can a child born abroad, but without citizenship, get a birth certificate (Consular Report of Birth Abroad or CROBA) from the Embassy or Consulate?

No. Only a child who acquired citizenship at birth can get a birth certificate from an embassy or consulate.


1Applications for documentation of citizenship using Form N-643 Certificate of Citizenship in Behalf of an Adopted Child were replaced by the N-600.

About The Author

Gregory Siskind is a partner in Siskind Susser's Memphis, Tennessee, office. After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, he received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago. Mr. Siskind is a member of AILA, a board member of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and a member of the ABA, where he serves on the LPM Publishing Board as Marketing Vice Chairman. He is the author of several books, including the J Visa Guidebook and The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. Mr. Siskind practices all areas of immigration law, specializing in immigration matters of the health care and technology industries. He can be reached by email at

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.