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Children Born Abroad to American Parents – Immigration Lawyer New York
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Children Born Abroad to American Parents

By Michael H. Markovitch, Esq. on January, 23, 2024

Children born abroad can acquire U.S. citizenship through acquisition from a U.S. citizen parent or through derivation upon the naturalization of the parent(s). Children born in the United States are normally considered U.S. citizens on that basis alone . Ideally, the process of recognition of a child’s citizenship should be straightforward but, the child’s country of residence, the parent’s historic residence in the United States, or the status of the parent-child relationship can all affect eligibility, as can the U.S. immigration status of the parent (in the case of diplomats).


A child born outside of the United States generally becomes a U.S. citizenship at birth if that child has at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen, and the U.S. citizen parent meets certain residence or physical presence requirements in the United States prior to the person’s birth.


If a child does not automatically become a United States citizen at birth, he or she may still become a citizen before age 18 on the basis of his or her parent’s citizenship.


The laws for acquisition of citizenship at birth have changed often over the years. Therefore, determining when a child was born and which law for acquisition of citizenship was in effect at that time is very important. This is an extremely complicated area of immigration law, and this article provides general guidelines.


Current Requirements for Acquisition of U.S. Citizenship


Under current law, a person born outside of the United States generally may acquire citizenship at birth if that person has at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen and U.S. citizen parent meets certain residence or physical presence requirements in the U.S. prior to the person’s birth. The current law covers children born on or after November 14, 1986. The following is an overview of the requirements:


Child Born in Wedlock

  • Child with Two U.S. Citizen Parents At least one parent must have resided in the United States at any time before the child’s birth.
  • Child with One U.S. Citizen Parent and One U.S. National Parent The U.S. citizen parent must have been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of at least one year before the child’s birth.
  • Child with One U.S. Citizen Parent and One Foreign National Parent The U.S. citizen parent must have been physically present in the United States for at least 5 years, including at least 2 years after 14 years of age. Time abroad counts as physical presence in the United States if the time abroad was as a member of the U.S. armed forces in honorable status; under the employment of the U.S. government or other qualifying organizations; or as a dependent unmarried son or daughter of such persons.

For further information or questions you may have, please do not hesitate to contact The Law Offices of Michael H. Markovitch.

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