How a child of a US citizen can become an American Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

The United States provides two main ways for a child to get US citizenship through their US citizen parents. The first is at birth while the second is after birth but before the child’s 18th birthday.

The rules also apply to children born outside the US, under specific sections of US law.

Who qualifies for this immigration benefit?

If a child is born overseas, to qualify as a US citizen, US laws require that at least one of their parents is a US citizen. Additionally, the law also requires that the US citizen parent had lived in the United States for a specific minimum period of time.

To be considered a child, for the purposes of US citizenship or US naturalisation, there are also specific criteria that must be met.

So, the person must be unmarried, and must be under 18 years old. The child must also fit into one of the following categories:

The genetic child of a US citizenThe legitimated child of a US citizenThe adopted child of a US citizen

In certain cases, if the child is of a non-genetic gestational US citizen mother who is recognised by the relevant jurisdiction as the child’s legal parent, then the child also be considered.

Children of US citizens living in the USA

Children who were born outside the US but now live in the North American country may acquire citizenship under the Immigration and Naturalization Act.

A child born outside of the US automatically becomes a US citizen when all of the following conditions have been met (under set time periods that the US law stipulates):

At least one parent, including an adoptive parent, is a US citizen by birth or through naturalisationMust be under 18 years of ageMust be a lawful permanent resident. This is crucial because several households have mixed status persons, so if undocumented for whatever reason (entered without inspection, visa overstay, came in with fraudulent documentation), the child cannot get this specific type of benefit.Must be residing in the United States with that US citizen parent and that parent has legal and physical custody of child.

It is important that a certificate of citizenship be obtained for the child because it is the best proof that the child received citizenship in this way.

While the US passport is accepted in certain areas, others, such as the military require that if a person obtained citizenship in this way, that they have additional proof, and the best proof is that certificate of citizenship.

Children of US citizens living overseas

Children who live outside of the US may obtain citizenship under another section of the Immigration and Naturalisation Act.

If a child lives outside of the United States with your US citizen parent, he or she could be eligible for naturalisation.

If wondering what living outside the US means, it means that the child’s regular residence is overseas, the child attends school overseas and might only visit the USA infrequently, if ever. 

However, to be eligible, the child has to meet specific requirements in US law.

These are that the child has at least one parent who is a US citizen by birth, by naturalisation or through a certificate of citizenship. If the US citizen is an adopted parent, this is also a qualifying parent.

Please note though that the US citizen parent or, in some cases, the US citizen grandparent, must meet certain physical presence requirements in the US. This means that the US parent (or grandparent) must have actually lived in the US for a specified period of time during certain years of their lives.

Another requirement is that the child is under 18 years of age. This is especially important because sometimes the US citizen and/or the child do not realise that all the requirements must be met, and the years tend to go fast.

It is common for a person to meet all the criteria except for the age criterion, and that cannot be rectified.

The child, even as he or she is residing outside of the US, must be in the legal and physical custody of the US citizen parent.

So, for example, the child can’t spend most of his or her life with the non-US citizen parent, even in another part of the country, and that non-US citizen was awarded the right in a court to make legal decisions about the child’s life.

US immigration law will also allow the child to become a citizen when he or she is in the legal and physical custody of a person who does not object to the citizenship application on his or her behalf. However, for this to be recognised, the US citizen parent must have died.

An example would be where the child is living with their mother who is not a US citizen and the US citizen father died (please remember that all the other criteria must be met).

Finally, the child must be lawfully admitted to the US. This means that the child came into the USA and was allowed entry with a valid visa. The child must also be physically present, meaning they are in the country at the time.

The child must also be maintaining a lawful status, meaning that whatever valid visa status they came into the country on, has not expired. All of these requirements and sub-requirements must be in place when the child’s application is approved and at the time of their naturalisation.

Based on the statistics of US immigration, a long time can pass from an application to an approval and so it is always important to weigh all the factors and to get an early start.

US citizen military families have specific US immigration rules that are applicable to their children when the member is living and or serving overseas, and so their children are with them. There is a provision for such children to become US citizens whilst still in an overseas country.  

*This article does not constitute legal advice and is intended for informational purposes only.

Nadine C Atkinson-Flowers is admitted to practice in the USA and Jamaica. Her US practice is in the area of immigration, while her Jamaican practice areas include immigration and general legal consultancy. She has been an attorney for over 15 years in Jamaica and has written articles for several legal publications. She is passionate about access to justice issues and volunteers with several legal, business, children and community service organisations in Jamaica and the US. She can be contacted at [email protected]. Also, check out her page on YouTube here.