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Chapter 4: Automatic Acquisition of Citizenship after Birth (INA 320)


A. General Requirements: Biological, Legitimated, or Adopted Child Automatically Acquiring Citizenship after Birth[1] See INA 320. See Nationality Chart 3.


A child born outside of the United States automatically becomes a U.S. citizen when all of the following conditions have been met on or after February 27, 2001:[2] February 27, 2001 is the effective date for these CCA amendments.



  • The child is under 18 years of age;


  • The child is an LPR; and



A stepchild who has not been adopted does not qualify for citizenship under this provision.


B. Legal and Physical Custody of U.S. Citizen Parent


Legal custody refers to the responsibility for and authority over a child. For purposes of this provision, USCIS presumes that a U.S. citizen parent has legal custody of a child and recognizes that the parent has lawful authority over the child, absent evidence to the contrary, in all of the following scenarios:[5] See 8 CFR 320.1.


  • A biological child who currently resides with both biological parents who are married to each other, living in marital union, and not separated;


  • A biological child who currently resides with a surviving biological parent, if the other parent is deceased;


  • A biological child born out of wedlock who has been legitimated and currently resides with the parent;



  • A child of divorced or legally separated parents where a court of law or other appropriate government entity has awarded primary care, control, and maintenance of the child to a parent under the laws of the state or country of residence.


USCIS considers a U.S. citizen parent who has been awarded “joint custody” to have legal custody of a child. There may be other factual circumstances under which USCIS may find the U.S. citizen parent to have legal custody to be determined on a case-by-case basis.


C. Acquisition of Citizenship Prior to Child Citizenship Act of 2000


The CCA applies only to those children born on or after February 27, 2001, or those who were under 18 years of age as of that date. Persons who were 18 years of age or older on February 27, 2001, do not qualify for citizenship under INA 320. For such persons, the law in effect at the time the last condition was met before reaching 18 years of age is the relevant law to determine whether they acquired citizenship.[7] See Chapter 3, United States Citizens at Birth (INA 301 and 309) [12 USCIS-PM H.3].


In general, former INA 321 applies to children who were already 18 years of age on February 27, 2001, but who were under 18 years of age in 1952, when the current Immigration and Nationality Act became effective.


In general, a child born outside of the United States to two foreign national parents, or one foreign national parent and one U.S. citizen parent who subsequently lost U.S. citizenship, acquires citizenship under former INA 321 if:


  • The child’s parent(s) meet one of the following conditions:

    • Both parents naturalize;

    • One surviving parent naturalizes if the other parent is deceased;

    • One parent naturalizes who has legal custody of the child if there is a legal separation of the parents; or

    • The child’s mother naturalizes if the child was born out of wedlock and paternity has not been established by legitimation


  • The child is under 18 years of age when his or her parent(s) naturalize; and


  • The child is residing in the United States pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residence at the time the parent(s) naturalized or thereafter begins to reside permanently in the United States.


As originally enacted in 1952, this section did not apply to adopted children of naturalized citizens.[8] See INA of 1952, Sec. 321(b), 66 Stat. at 245.  Beginning on October 5, 1978, however, INA 321 became generally applicable to an adopted child if the child was residing in the United States at the time the adoptive parent or parents naturalized and the child was in the custody of his or her adoptive parents pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residence.[9] See Sec. 5 of the Act of October 5, 1978, Pub. L. 95-417. The 1978 amendment limited this benefit to a child adopted while under 16 years of age. This restriction was removed in 1981 by the Act of December 21, 1981 (Pub. L. 97-116) but is also included in the definition of “child” in INA 101(c).


D. Application for Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-600)


A person who automatically obtains citizenship is not required to file an Application for Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-600). A person who seeks documentation of such status, however, must submit an application to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship from USCIS. A person may also apply for a U.S. Passport with the Department of State to serve as evidence of his or her U.S. citizenship.


A person who is at least 18 years of age may submit the Application for Certificate of Citizenship on his or her own behalf. If the application is for a child who has not reached 18 years of age, the child's U.S. citizen biological parent, adoptive parent, or legal guardian must submit the application.[10] See 8 CFR 320.3(a).


USCIS will issue proof of U.S. citizenship in the form of a Certificate of Citizenship if the Application for Certificate of Citizenship is approved and the person takes the Oath of Allegiance, if required to do so.[11] See Section G, Decision and Oath of Allegiance [12 USCIS-PM H.4(G)]. See Part J, Oath of Allegiance, Chapter 2, The Oath of Allegiance [12 USCIS-PM J.2].


E. Documentation and Evidence


The applicant must submit the following required documents unless such documents are already contained in USCIS administrative record or do not apply:[12] See 8 CFR 320.3(b).


  • The child's birth certificate or record.


  • Marriage certificate of child's parents, if applicable.


  • Proof of termination of any previous marriage of each parent if either parent was previously married and divorced or widowed, for example:

    • Divorce Decree; or

    • Death Certificate.


  • Evidence of United States citizenship of parent:

    • Birth Certificate;

    • Naturalization Certificate;

    • FS-240, Consular Report of Birth Abroad;

    • A valid unexpired United States Passport; or

    • Certificate of Citizenship.


  • Documents verifying legitimation according to the laws of the child's residence or domicile or father's residence or domicile if the child was born out of wedlock.


  • Documentation of legal custody in the case of divorce, legal separation, or adoption.


  • Copy of Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card or other evidence of lawful permanent resident status, such as an I-551 stamp in a valid foreign passport or travel document issued by USCIS.


  • Copy of the full, final adoption decree, if applicable:



    • For a Hague Convention adoptee, a copy of the notice of approval of Convention adoptee petition and its supporting documentation, or evidence that the child has been admitted for lawful permanent residence in the United States with the immigrant classification of IH-3 (Hague Convention Orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen) or IH-4 (Hague Convention Orphan to be adopted by a U.S. citizen).[15] If admitted as an IH-4, the parent(s) must have completed the adoption in the United States.


    • If the child was admitted as an LPR as an orphan or Hague Convention adoption[16] See INA 101(b)(1). (this evidence may already be in the child’s A-file).


  • Evidence of all legal name changes, if applicable, for the child and U.S. citizen parent.


An applicant does not need to submit documents that were submitted in connection with:


  • An immigrant visa application retained by the American Consulate for inclusion in the immigrant visa package; or


  • An immigrant petition or application and included in a USCIS administrative file.


If necessary, an officer may continue the application to request additional documentation to make a decision on the application. 


F. Citizenship Interview and Waiver


In general, an applicant must appear in person for an interview before a USCIS officer after filing an Application for Certificate of Citizenship. This includes the U.S. citizen parent or parents if the application is filed on behalf of a child under 18 years of age.[17] See 8 CFR 320.4. USCIS, however, may waive the interview requirement if all the required documentation necessary to establish the applicant's eligibility is already included in USCIS administrative records or if the required documentation is submitted along with the application.[18] See 8 CFR 341.2. See Section E, Documentation and Evidence [12 USCIS-PM H.5(E)].


G. Decision and Oath of Allegiance


1. Approval of Application, Oath of Allegiance, and Waiver for Children under 14 Years of Age 


If an officer approves the Application for Certificate of Citizenship, USCIS administers the Oath of Allegiance before issuing a Certificate of Citizenship.[19] See 8 CFR 320.5(a) and 8 CFR 337.1. See INA 337. See Part J, Oath of Allegiance, Chapter 2, The Oath of Allegiance [12 USCIS-PM J.2].


However, the INA permits USCIS to waive the taking of the Oath of Allegiance if USCIS determines the person is unable to understand its meaning.[20] See INA 337(a). See 8 CFR 341.5(b). USCIS has determined that children under the age of 14 are generally unable to understand the meaning of the oath. 


Accordingly, USCIS waives the oath requirement for a child younger than 14 years of age. If USCIS waives the oath requirement, USCIS issues a Certificate of Citizenship after the officer approves the application.


2. Denial of Application


If an officer denies the Certificate of Citizenship application, the officer must notify the applicant in writing of the reasons for denial and include information on the right to appeal in the notice.[21] See 8 CFR 320.5(b) and 8 CFR 103.3(a). An applicant may file an appeal within 30 calendar days after service of the decision (33 days if the decision was mailed).





Footnotes


1. [^] 

 See INA 320. See Nationality Chart 3.

2. [^] 

 February 27, 2001 is the effective date for these CCA amendments.

3. [^] 

 If the requirements of INA 101(b)(1)(E), or INA 101(b)(1)(F), or INA 101(b)(1)(G) are met.

4. [^] 

 See INA 320. See 8 CFR 320.2.

5. [^] 

 See 8 CFR 320.1.

6. [^] 

 If the requirements of INA 101(b)(1)(E), or INA 101(b)(1)(F), or INA 101(b)(1)(G) are met.

7. [^] 

 See Chapter 3, United States Citizens at Birth (INA 301 and 309) [12 USCIS-PM H.3].

8. [^] 

 See INA of 1952, Sec. 321(b), 66 Stat. at 245. 

9. [^] 

 See Sec. 5 of the Act of October 5, 1978, Pub. L. 95-417. The 1978 amendment limited this benefit to a child adopted while under 16 years of age. This restriction was removed in 1981 by the Act of December 21, 1981 (Pub. L. 97-116) but is also included in the definition of “child” in INA 101(c).

10. [^] 

 See 8 CFR 320.3(a).

11. [^] 

 See Section G, Decision and Oath of Allegiance [12 USCIS-PM H.4(G)]. See Part J, Oath of Allegiance, Chapter 2, The Oath of Allegiance [12 USCIS-PM J.2].

12. [^] 

 See 8 CFR 320.3(b).

13. [^] 

 See INA 101(b)(1)(E). See Chapter 2, Definition of Child for Citizenship and Naturalization, Section C, Adopted Child [12 USCIS-PM H.2(C)].

14. [^] 

 If admitted as an IR-4 because there was no adoption abroad, the parent(s) must have completed the adoption in the United States. If admitted as an IR-4 because the parent(s) obtained the foreign adoption without having seen the child, the parent(s) must establish that they have either “readopted” the child or obtained recognition of the foreign adoption in the State of residence (this requirement can be waived if there is a statute or precedent decision that clearly shows that the foreign adoption is recognized in the State of residence). See 8 CFR 320.1.

15. [^] 

 If admitted as an IH-4, the parent(s) must have completed the adoption in the United States.

16. [^] 

 See INA 101(b)(1).

17. [^] 

 See 8 CFR 320.4.

18. [^] 

 See 8 CFR 341.2. See Section E, Documentation and Evidence [12 USCIS-PM H.5(E)].

19. [^] 

 See 8 CFR 320.5(a) and 8 CFR 337.1. See INA 337. See Part J, Oath of Allegiance, Chapter 2, The Oath of Allegiance [12 USCIS-PM J.2].

20. [^] 

 See INA 337(a). See 8 CFR 341.5(b).

21. [^] 

 See 8 CFR 320.5(b) and 8 CFR 103.3(a).




Updates


Date Details
January 7, 2013
POLICY ALERT

Comprehensive Citizenship and Naturalization Policy Guidance

​USCIS is issuing updated and comprehensive citizenship and naturalization policy guidance in the new USCIS Policy Manual.

Read more »


Current as of July 1, 2014