An individual may become a citizen of the United States in one of four ways;

  • Birth in the US or one of its territories
  • Birth outside of the US but to parents who are citizens of the US
  • Naturalization
  • Through the naturalization of one’s parents

Succinctly put, a child must either be a citizen at birth (1 or 2 above) or become a citizen before the age of 18 (3 or 4 above), to qualify for citizenship through a parental relation. For greater clarity, the following provides more detail on how certain circumstances would grant US citizenship to a minor child.

1.) Children born within the US

Any child born within the territorial confines of the United States or any of its territories is ipso facto a citizen of the United States, regardless of the immigrant status of either one or both of his or her parents.


2.) Children of US citizen(s) born outside of the US

Both parents are citizens

If both parents are US citizens, but the child is born outside the US, the child is a citizen so long as:

  • The parents were married at the time of the child’s birth and
  • Either parent lived in the US or its territories prior to the child’s birth

One parent is a citizen

If the child is born on or after November 14, 1986 and either parent is a US citizen, the child will also be a US citizen provided:

  • The parents were married at the time of the child’s birth and
  • The US citizen parent spent at least five years of her or his life in the US prior to the birth of the child of which at least two years were after the US citizen parent’s 14thbirthday. The physical presence in the US requirement may also be met by
    1. Serving in the US Armed Forces,
    2. Being employed by the US government or
    3. Being employed by certain international organizations.

Note:for those born before November 14, 1986 but after October 10, 1952 to a US citizen parent, the requirements are the same as for a child born after November 14, 1986 EXCEPT the US citizen parent must have resided in the US for a minimum of ten years, five of which must have been after his or her 14th birthday.


3.) Children not born in the US who still qualify for automatic US citizenship

If the child is under 18 years of age and was born after February 27, 2001, he or she is a citizen provided that:

  • At least one parent is a US citizen
  • The child is under 18 and
  • The child is in the lawful physical custody of the US citizen parent

If the child was adopted by a US citizen parent, he or she is a US citizen provided that:

  • The child legally resides in the US with the US citizen parent
  • The child is under 18 years of age
  • The US citizen parent adopted the child before his or her 16th
  • The child was admitted as an orphan or Convention adoptee into the US and his or her adoption was completed in its entirety abroad or
  • The child was admitted as an orphan or Convention adoptee who was entering the US to be adopted and whose adoption was completed prior to his or her 18thbirthday.



Edited, Supplemented and Republished by Nigel E. Blackman, Esq. for

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