Acquisition of Citizenship Through Birth to U.S. Citizen Parents

Acquisition of Citizenship Through Birth to U.S. Citizen
Parents.

In many circumstances, even though a child is born outside the U.S., if at least one parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of the child’s birth, he or she automatically “acquires” U.S. citizenship. When this child marries and has children, those children may also acquire U.S. citizenship at birth.

The laws governing whether or not a child born outside U.S. boundaries acquires U.S. citizenship from his or her parents have changed several times. The law that was in effect on the date of the child’s birth determines whether he or she acquired U.S. citizenship from a parent or grandparent. If there is anyone in your direct line of ancestry7 whom you believe may be a U.S. citizen, it is worth your time to read what the U.S. laws were on the date of your birth and theirs.

Most laws controlling the passage of U.S. citizenship from parent to child require that the parent, the child, or both have a period of liying in the United States (“residence”). Sometimes the residence is required to be for a specified length of time (like five years) and sometimes it is not. When the law doesn ‘t say exactly how long the residence period must be, you can assume that even a brief time, such as a month, might be enough. The key element is often not the mount
of time but whether or not USCIS or the State Department believes it was a residence—in other words, that the person truly made a home here—and not a visit. If the period of stay has the character of a residence, the length of time doesn’t matter.

1. Birth Prior to May 24, 1934
If you were born before 1934, the law provided that only your U.S. citizen father (not mother) could pass citizenship on to you. The rules were very7 simple. In order to pass on U.S. citizenship, the father must hay7e resided in the U.S. at some time before the child’s birth. The law didn’t require any particular length of time or dates when the residence took place.

Technically, a day or a week would be enough if it could be regarded as a residence and not just a visit. Once a child obtained U.S. citizenship at birth through a U.S. citizen father, there were no conditions to retaining it. These rules also applied to so-called illegitimate children (children born to unmarried parents), provided the U.S. citizen father had at some time legally legitimated the child (acknowledged his paternal responsibility)- U.S. citizenship was then acquired at the time of legitimation, without regard to the child’s age.

This law has been challenged several times as discriminatory, with some courts holding that citizenship could also be passed by the mother to the children.

Congress finally addressed this issue in 1994 and amended the law, retroactively, to provide that either parent could pass his or her U.S. citizenship to children.

Consider that if you were born before May 24,1934, and either of your parents was a U.S. citizen, that citizenship might have been passed on to you. Consider also, that if either of your parents was born before May 24,1934, they may have acquired U.S. citizenship from either of their parents, which they then passed on to you under laws in existence at a later date. A check of the family tree may well
be worth your while.

2. Birth Between May 25, 1934, and January 12, 1941
If you were born between May 25, 1934, and January712, 1941, you acquired U.S. citizenship at birth if both your parents were U.S. citizens and at least one had resided in the U.S. prior to your birth. The law at this time placed no additional conditions on retaining U.S. citizenship acquired in this way.

You could also get U.S. citizenship if only one of your parents was a U.S. citizen, as long as that parent had a prior U.S. residence. If your U.S. citizenship came from only one parent, you too would have been required to reside in the U.S. for at least two years between the ages of 14 and 2S in order to keep the citizenship you got at birth. Alternately, you could retain citizenship if your noncitizen parent naturalized before you turned IS and you began li\ing in the U.S. permanently before age IS. Otherwise, your citizenship would be lost. If the one U.S. citizen parent was your father and your birth was illegitimate (took place while your parents weren’t married), the same rules applied provided your father legally legitimated you (acknowledged paternal responsibility7).

Citizenship was passed at the time of legitimation without regard to your age, so long as you had met the retention requirements.

3. Birth Between January 13, 1941, and December 23, 1952 If you were born between January713, 1941, and December 23, 1952, and both your parents were U.S. citizens and at least one had a prior residence in the U.S., you automatically acquired U.S. citizenship at birth, with no conditions to keeping it.

If only one parent was a U.S. citizen, that parent must hay7e resided in the U.S. for at least ten years prior to your birth, and at least five of those years must hay7e been after that parent reached the age of 16.
With a parent thus qualified, you then acquired U.S. citizenship at birth, but with conditions for retaining it. To keep your citizenship, you must hay7e resided in the U.S. for at least two years between the ages of 14 and 2S. Alternately, you could retain citizenship if your noncitizen parent naturalized before you turned IS and you began liying in the U.S. permanently before age IS. As a result of a U.S.

Supreme Court decision, if you were born after October 9,1952, your parent still had to fulfill the residence requirement in order to confer citizenship on you, but your own residence requirements for retaining U.S. citizenship were abolished — you need not have lived in the U.S. ac all.

If your one U.S. citizen parent was your father and your birth was illegitimate (took place while your parents weren’t married), the same rules applied provided you were legally legitimated (your father acknowledged paternal responsibility) prior to your 21st birthday and you were unmarried at the time of legitimation

4. Birth Between December 24, 1952, and November 13, 1986
If at the time of your birth, both your parents were U.S. citizens and at least one had a prior residence in the U.S., you automatically acquired U.S. citizenship, with no other conditions for keeping it.

If only one parent was a U.S. citizen when you were born, that parent must have resided in the U.S. for at least ten years, and at least five of those years must have been after your parent reached the age of 14.

If your one U.S. citizen parent is your father and your birth was llegitimate (took place while your parents weren’t married), the same rules apply provided you were legally legitimated (your father acknowledged paternal responsibility) prior to your 21st birthday and you were unmarried at the time of legitimation.

5. Birth Between November 14, 1986, and the Present
If at the time of your birth, both your parents were U.S. citizens and at least one had a prior residence in the U.S., you automatically acquired U.S. citizenship, with no conditions for keeping it.

If only one parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of your birth, that parent must have resided in the U.S. for at least five years and at least two of those years must have been after your parent reached the age of 14. Even with only one U.S. citizen parent, there are still no conditions to retaining your citizenship. If your one U.S. citizen parent is your father and your birth was illegitimate (took place when the parents weren’t married), the same rules apply provided you were legally legitimated (your father acknowledged paternal responsibility) prior to your ISth birthday. Additionally, your father must have established paternity prior to your ISth birthday, either by acknowledgment or by court order, and must have stated, in writing, that he would support you financially until your 18th birthday.

 

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