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After Your Child Enters the United States

After your Child enters the US

All IR-3/IH-3, IR-4/IH-4 and IR-2 children are admitted as permanent resident aliens. 

Depending on your child’s visa classification, USCIS will mail to your child either a permanent resident card, known as a green card, or a Certificate of Citizenship.

A child who immigrates to the United States as the adopted child of a U.S. citizen automatically becomes a U.S. citizen if the adoption is full and final before the child’s 18th birthday, if the child is "admitted" as a permanent resident before his or her 18th birthday, and if he or she "is residing" in the United States in the citizen parent’s legal and physical custody.

IR-3/IH-3 Children

  • Generally, USCIS can readily verify whether a child admitted with an IR-3/IH-3 visa met the requirements for citizenship at the time of admission.  For this reason, instead of issuing a green card, USCIS issues a Certificates of Citizenship for newly arrived IR-3/IH-3 children.  There are five exceptions:

1. Your child is between 14 and 18 when he or she enters the United States

  • Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulation requires that a child between the ages of 14 and 18 personally take and subscribe to the oath of allegiance to the United States in order to receive a Certificate of Citizenship. Your child must also sign the oath of allegiance on a duplicate certificate to be kept in USCIS records
  • Your local USCIS field office will notify you by mail of the time and place for your child’s oath of allegiance
  • Your child became a citizen on the day he or she entered the United States with an IH-3 or IR-3 visa; however, your child must appear to take the required oath and sign the appropriate papers in order to receive their certificate.

2. Your child is 18 or older when he or she enters the United States

  • If your child is at least 18 years old when he or she entered with an immigrant visa, then USCIS will send the green card by mail
  • To become a U.S. citizen, your child must file a Form N 400, Application for Naturalization, with fee, and meet all requirements for naturalization
  • The most significant requirement for naturalization is that applicants:
    • must have been a permanent resident alien for a minimum of five years
    • must have lived in the United States for one-half of that period
    • must be a person of good moral character
    • must be able to speak, read and write English
    • must have a basic knowledge of American government and history

There are some exceptions to the five-year requirements, typically for spouses of U.S. citizens and for military personnel.

3. Your child has not established residency and is therefore not a United States Citizen

  •  Your child must actually be residing in the United States after entering with an immigrant visa in order to be a United States Citizen and to receive a Certificate of Citizenship
  •  A visit to the United States before returning overseas does not count as residence
  • Intent to permanently reside in the United States is not enough to establish residence in the United States either during or between visits
  • If your child did not actually reside in the United States, then USCIS will mail him or her a permanent resident card, known as a green card, rather than a Certificate of Citizenship
  • Your child must actually reside with a petitioning parent in the United States. 
  • If your child resides in the United States, but the original adoption was disrupted (before the child got citizenship), you must, as the new adoptive U.S. citizen parent(s), have two years legal custody of your child and have also physically resided with your child for two years before you may file Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship, with fee.

4. Your child entered the United States before USCIS began automatically issuing Certificates of Citizenship to IR-3 children.

  • The Child Citizenship Act was effective February 27, 2001, and many children became citizens on or after that date as an operation of law
  • However, unlike children who now enter the United States on immigrant visas, the case files of the children who entered with immigrant IR-3 immigrant visas would not necessarily have automatically come to our attention.  For those children, the filing fees have already been spent to create the green card.
  • If you do not already have a Certificate of Citizenship, but would like one on behalf of a child who entered after February 27, 2001, you should file Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship, with fee

5. The IR-3/IH-3 Visa Was Issued in Error

  • If your child entered the United States with an IR-3/IH-3 visa, the adoption should have been completed overseas.  This means that the adoption is recognized and final both in the child’s country and in the United States.  For the IR 3 visa, this also means that, if you are married, you and your spouse should BOTH have met your child before or during the adoption process.
  • If this is not the case, then the U.S. Embassy or consulate should have issued an IR-4/IH-4 visa, but issued the IR-3/IH-3 visa in error.  This type of error is uncommon.
  • Your child will be mailed a permanent resident card, known as a green card rather than a Certificate of Citizenship, as he or she did obtain lawful permanent residence in the United States, though not U.S. citizenship.  USCIS will send you a letter explaining this.
  • Once the adoption is full and final in the United States, you may apply for a Certificate of Citizenship by filing Form N-600.

IR-4/IH-4 Children

  • If your child was admitted to the United States on an IR-4/IH-4 visa, your child will receive a permanent resident card (green card)
  • Once you have taken any final steps that you need to take to complete the adoption process in the United States, you should file a Form N-600.  Refer to the form instructions for information about where to file
  • USCIS will issue a Certificate of Citizenship if your child meets the requirements for automatic citizenship (if your child is over 14 years old the child will take the oath of allegiance before obtaining the certificate)

IR-2 Children

  • USCIS will mail your child’s permanent resident card (green) card to you
  • If your child was admitted to the United States with an IR-2 visa, and you believe that the requirements for acquiring citizenship have been met, you may file a Form N-600 to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship.  Refer to the form instructions for information about where to file
  • USCIS will issue a Certificate of Citizenship if your child meets the requirements for automatic citizenship(if your child is over 14 years old the child will take the oath of allegiance before obtaining the certificate)

My Child's Certificate of Citizenship is lost/destroyed

  • You may choose to file a Form N 600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship, with fee. 
  • OR you may choose to obtain a U.S. passport for your child.  Information concerning United States passports and when they are required may be found on the U.S. Department of State website: www.travel.state.gov.  
Last Reviewed/Updated: 08/09/2011