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Do children automatically obtain citizenship from a parent?

When children have parents who are already citizens, they may be able to obtain citizenship through their parents. They can do so at birth, after birth or before they turn 18.

There are rules that apply depending on the circumstances.

Who does the U.S. government define as a child?

The government defines a child as a person who is the legitimated, genetic or adopted son or daughter of a U.S. citizen. It may also be a son or daughter of a nongenetic U.S. citizen mother recognized as the child's legal parent.

Children who were not born in the United States may obtain citizenship through Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. A child who is born in a country outside the United States becomes a citizen of the U.S. automatically if he or she has at least one parent who is a citizen by birth or naturalization as of Feb. 27, 2001. The child must be 18 or younger, and he or she should be a lawful permanent resident. The child should also be living in the United States and be in the physical and legal custody of the parent with citizenship.

If you or your spouse are a parent and have citizenship, it's a good idea to look into obtaining citizenship for your child as well if you intend to remain in the United States. Citizenship provides protections and removes the threat of deportation in the future. Your attorney can help you understand the benefits of becoming a citizen, so you don't have to question your decision to move forward with your child's legal right to remain in this country.

Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, "Citizenship Through Parents," accessed May 30, 2018

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