In certain situations, a person who was born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent and who has been living abroad for years may have acquired U.S. citizenship at birth without even knowing so. Sometimes, the clients have not even met their U.S. citizen parent/s.
Often times, we are asked a question on whether an adult person who was born abroad to a U.S. citizen mother or father can obtain U.S. citizenship.
The answer to this question is not simple. Persons born abroad to U.S. parent/s may have acquired U.S. citizenship at birth. This determination is based upon a variety of factors: the law in effect at the time of birth, the amount of time the American citizen parent/s have lived in the U.S. prior to the birth of the child, and, in some cases, the marital status of the biological parents.
If you were born abroad to a U.S. citizen and if you are eligible for U.S. citizenship, you may apply for a U.S. passport or for a Certificate of Citizenship. If you apply directly for a U.S. passport, the determination on whether you qualify for a U.S. citizenship will be processed at the same time with your passport application.
Below is the description on how you can qualify for a U.S. citizenship if you were born abroad, in wedlock, to U.S. citizen parent and alien parent. If you born out of wedlock, there are special rules that apply to you that are not covered by this article.
In order to be considered to have acquired citizenship at birth, the following requirements have to be met: 1) a citizen parent 2) prior to childís birth 3) had been physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for the required period of time that is determined based upon the date of childís birth.
If you were born on or after November 14, 1986, the required period of physical presence of your citizen parent is 5 years prior to childís birth, at least 2 of which after the citizen parent reached the age of 14.
So, at least 2 out of 5 required years have to be after the citizen parent is 14 years old. In other words, the required 5 years of physical presence may occur after the citizen parent reaches the age of 14.
If you were born on or after December 24, 1952 but before November 14, 1986, the required period of physical presence of your citizen parent is 10 years, with at least 5 of these years after the citizen parent reaches the age of 14.
If you were born before December 24, 1952, there are special retention requirements that apply to you that have to be analyzed carefully.
Good examples of evidence to show the requisite period of physical presence are school records, transcripts, leases, employment records, social security records, affidavits from family and friends, etc.
Since the law is complex in this area, the immigration officers who review N-600, Certificate of Citizenship Applications, may become confused and require you to present evidence of 10 years of physical presence in the U.S. by your citizen parent even though you are only required to prove 5 years of physical presence.
In a recent case handled by our law office, U.S. citizen father has spent most of his life in Mexico. His kids were born in Mexico and have never lived in the U.S. When the application for Certificate of Citizenship was submitted, the clients were asked to present proof of citizen fatherís physical presence in the U.S. for 10 years. The father had spent in the U.S. only 8 years while attending high school and college before the kids were born. The clients came to us after the case was filed and before the scheduled interview with the immigration. When we met with the clients, we found out that the kids were born after 1986, and therefore the citizen father had to prove only 5 years of physical presence in the U.S. prior to the birth of the kids instead of 10 years that the immigration officer requested. When we got engaged with the case and went to the interview at the local immigration office, we made sure that the officer acknowledges that only 5 years of physical presence have to be proven. The case was successful, and the kids have obtained their Certificates of Citizenship.
Even immigration officers are mistaken sometimes. If a situation described above happened to you, do not automatically assume that you do not qualify for U.S. citizenship. If you are not sure if you are eligible for U.S. citizenship, you can consult our law firm.
Jacob Sapochnick is the managing attorney of The Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick and is an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association; he has been invited to lecture on immigration law topics at various conferences in the United States and abroad. He has also published several articles on issues related to the field. Mr. Sapochnick, Esq. provides immigration law support to US Immigration clients worldwide. This includes assisting individuals and companies applying for Visas to work and live in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Mr. Sapochnick graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University, School of Law with a Bachelor of Law (Hons.) Degree. He also attended California Western School of Law in San Diego, CA and obtained his LL.M (Masters) degree in international and comparative law. Thereafter, he pursued his career, focusing on US business immigration law. Mr. Sapochnick assists foreign workers to live and work in the United States by understanding their situation, goals and objectives he obtains the appropriate work and investment visas. His clients range from multi-national companies to mid-sized and small companies, as well as individuals undergoing the U.S. immigration process.