A child can, under particular situations, obtain U.S. citizenship automatically through the naturalization of a parent. Young green card holders cannot apply for U.S. citizenship through naturalization until they turn 21 years old. Waiting to apply for U.S. citizenship until they turn 21 years of age can be frustrating especially when they see their parents apply and get approved for a U.S. citizenship status. However, a foreign-born child can under specific circumstances, get U.S. citizenship automatically through the naturalization of a parent. It depends upon the immigration laws in place when certain key events in the parent’s or child’s life occurred. In most instances, young people need to have already held U.S. lawful permanent residence in order to receive U.S. citizenship from a naturalized parent. This procedure is not to be confused with the other process of gaining automatic U.S. citizenship even if they are born outside of the country to U.S. citizen parents. Check with an immigration attorney for clarification.
Outline of Applicable U.S. Citizenship Derivation Laws
Provided is a summary of various citizenship derivation laws that have been relevant throughout the years. All applicants will need to look at the law that was in place when their parents naturalized. Talk with an immigration attorney for details and exceptions:
- Parents naturalized before May 24, 1934 - applicants obtain U.S. citizenship if either parent naturalized prior to their 21st birthday and they were green card holders at the time. The child must have been a biological child, not adopted nor a stepchild
- Parents naturalized between May 24, 1934 and January 12, 1941 - A child is granted citizenship if both parents naturalized before their child’s birthday who had a green card at the time. If only one parent naturalized before their child turned 21, citizenship is automatically granted if the child already held a U.S. green card for five years at that time
- Parents naturalized between January 13, 1941 and December 23, 1952 - A child receives citizenship if he or she held a green card and both parents naturalized before the child’s 18th birthday; or one parent naturalized and the other had died, or their parents were legally separated and the parent with legal custody of the child naturalized
- Parents naturalized between December 24, 1952 and October 4, 1978 - A child is granted citizenship if he or she is unmarried, received a green card before his or her 16th birthday and both parents naturalized. Or if only one parent naturalized, a child can get citizenship if the other parent was dead or the parents were legally separated and the parent who has legal custody of the child received naturalization. The child must have been a biological child, not adopted or a stepchild
- Parents naturalized between October 5, 1978 and February 26, 2001 - A child obtains citizenship if one of the parents was a U.S. citizen when their child was born, never ceased to be a citizen, and the other parent was naturalized before their child’s 18th birthday; or the naturalization of both parents happened before their 18th birthday and the child was unmarried and held a valid U.S. green card
- Parents born in the U.S. or naturalized between February 27, 2001 and the present - Under present law, a child obtains citizenship if one of the parents was born in the U.S. or if one of the parents naturalized before their child’s 18th birthday and while the child was living in the U.S. under the legal and physical custody of that parent, provided the child already had a valid green card (lawful permanent residence). Both biological and adopted children qualify under this law. (See 8 U.S.C. 1431). This grants some children U.S. citizenship the moment they receive a green card through their U.S. citizen parent
Hiring an Immigration Attorney
When it comes to children receiving U.S. citizenship through naturalization it is best to talk with an immigration law expert. Visit your nearest immigration attorney. Gambacorta Law Office is one call away and can be contacted at 847 443 9303.