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How children born overseas acquire U.S. citizenship

Thanks to educational pursuits, employment opportunities and lifestyle portability, more U.S. citizens than ever are able to not just visit foreign nations for prolonged periods, but actually establish residences there. In fact, this new era of global living is doing little to hinder plans for raising a family, as many of these U.S. citizens are becoming proud parents while living abroad.

As much as the birth of a child is cause for celebration, questions naturally arise for U.S. born-parents as to whether the newest edition to their family automatically acquires citizenship and, if not, what needs to be done.

As it turns out, there isn't really a single answer to this inquiry regarding the acquisition of U.S. citizenship by a child born overseas. Rather, it all depends on the immigration status of the parents.

Both parents are U.S. citizens and married at the time of birth  

The Immigration and Nationality Act dictates that when a child is born abroad to two U.S. citizen parents, he or she automatically acquires U.S. citizenship if at least one of the parents lived in the U.S. or one its territories prior to the birth.

In order for the child to be treated as being born to married parents -- or in wedlock -- for the purposes of acquiring citizenship under the INA, the genetic and/or gestational parents must be legally married at the time of birth and treated as the legal parents of the child under local law.  

At least one parent is a U.S. citizen and the couple is married at the time of birth

The INA dictates that when a child is born abroad to one U.S. citizen parent and a foreign national parent, he or she automatically acquires U.S. citizenship. However, the U.S. citizen parent must have been physically present in the U.S. or one its territories for at least five years in their life prior to the child's birth, with at least two of these years being after their 14th birthday.

Similarly, in order for the child to be treated as being born in wedlock for the purposes of acquiring citizenship via the INA, the U.S. citizen parent must be a genetic and/or gestational parent, and treated as the legal parent of the child under local law.  

We'll continue discussing this topic in our next post.

If you have questions about this important issue or U.S. immigration law in general, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can provide the necessary answers and pursue solutions.

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