The children of naturalized U.S. citizens generally become citizens automatically. In other words, current law extends U.S. citizenship to the permanent resident children of parents that become citizens through naturalization. After filing Form N-400 and being granted U.S. citizenship, the parent can also apply for child citizenship in the form of a Certificate of Citizenship. Even if the parent forgot to file the application for the child, the child may obtain the certificate many years later. If the child is over the age of 18, he or she will have to fill out the form for themselves.
Child Citizenship Act of 2000
The Child Citizenship Act (CCA) went into effect on February 27, 2001, and changed the way immigration law treats children of naturalized citizens. With the enactment of CCA, a child is likely a U.S. citizen if all the following conditions are true (or were true) at the same time:
- The child is under 18 years of age;
- The child is a lawful permanent resident (green card holder);
- At least one of the parents is a U.S. citizen; and
- The U.S. citizen parent has shared or sole legal and physical custody of the child.
If all four of these things are true at the same time, the child “derives” citizenship from the parent in most cases. The U.S. citizen parent must be the biological parent of the child or a parent through a legal adoption of the child. Citizenship cannot be derived from a step parent relationship. Applying for child citizenship will also get more complicated if the father is the U.S. citizen and the child was born out of wedlock or is no longer married to the biological mother.
RECOMMENDED: Derivative Citizenship
The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 applies to child born on or after February 27, 1983. For children born prior to the CCA, a different law applies. Generally, both of the child’s parents had to naturalize before the he or she turned 18, unless the parents had legally separated and the custodial parent naturalized before the person turned 18. Death of a parent would also provide an exemption.
Proof of Your Child’s Citizenship
Assuming that the child meets the requirements of the law and has derived citizenship from a parent, he or she needs proof of status. In other words, the child automatically becomes a U.S. citizen, but the child is not automatically recognized by the government as a U.S. citizen. Most people obtain a Certificate of Citizenship, U.S. passport, or both. These documents are proof of your child’s U.S. citizenship.
Although there is no requirement to obtain this proof immediately, it is generally easier to do right away. Over time, people lose track of the necessary documentation to establish eligibility. When they decide to apply several years later, they find it difficult to find the correct supporting documents to make a claim to U.S. citizenship. In our business, we speak to people every week that have trouble documenting their citizenship because parents didn’t do it many years before. It’s smart to get a U.S. passport and a Certificate of Citizenship for your child. Having both can help protect your child from problems later in life. But you are not required to get both documents.
Certificate of Citizenship
After you submit an application, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can issue your child a Certificate of Citizenship. Your child cannot use the certificate for travel, but it is good for his or her entire life. A Certificate of Citizenship never expires. Later in life, the certificate is also important evidence to apply for certain benefits like Medicare.
A passport can also serve as proof of U.S. citizenship. It is also a very practical document because the child can use it for travel abroad. Applications for U.S. passports are less expensive than the Certificate of Citizenship, and passports are issued more quickly. However, passport books do expire after 10 years.
Apply for Child Citizenship Document
To apply for your child’s citizenship document, you’ll need to file Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship. You may download the file from the USCIS website or prepare it using CitizenPath’s attorney-reviewed software.
Generally, you need to send the following items as part of a claim to U.S. citizenship:
- USCIS filing fee (currently $1,170)
- Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship
- Two passport-style photos of child
- A copy of child’s birth certificate
- A copy of child’s permanent resident card
- A copy of the U.S. citizen parent’s birth certificate
- A copy of parent’s Certificate of Naturalization
- A copy of the parents’ marriage certificate
- Evidence of child’s legal and physical custody with the U.S. citizen parent
Again, children born out of wedlock or with parents who have separated may have additional requirements.
CitizenPath makes the process easier and guarantee’s USCIS will approve your application. In addition to your prepared form, CitizenPath provides you with a set of personalized filing instructions. Our filing instructions are customized to your answers in the application so you know what to do for your specific situation. The filing instructions provide detailed directions on supporting documents, how to organize your application, and where to mail it. Our customers start for free and pay only at the end once they confirm eligibility and complete the form. Learn more >>
Apply for Child’s Passport
To apply for a child’s passport, you’ll need to submit Form DS-11, Application for a U.S. Passport. You can find it online on the U.S. Department of State website. Additionally, some government facilities like public libraries and post offices have resources to help you.
Generally, you’ll need to same supporting documents as listed above for the N-600 application. If you’ve already obtained a Certificate of Citizenship for your child, your list of required documents will likely be:
- Application fee (currently $110)
- Form DS-11, Application for a U.S. Passport
- Copy of child’s Certificate of Citizenship
- U.S. citizen parent’s government-issued photo ID
- One passport-style photo of child
Replacing Parent’s Citizenship Documents
If the child is claiming citizenship after a parent’s naturalization, the N-600 application must include evidence that the parent became a U.S. citizen before the child turned 18. In most cases, this can be accomplished by submitting the child’s birth certificate and the parent’s Certificate of Naturalization. But what if the Certificate of Naturalization has been lost, stolen or destroyed?
When an original Certificate of Naturalization is no longer available, the parent can replace it by filing Form N-565, Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document. There is a USCIS fee for the N-565 application, and it can take 5-10 months to receive the new certificate.
If the parent has passed away, you cannot file Form N-565 on their behalf. There is a path to obtaining evidence through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Freedom of Information Act Request
Individuals may file Form G-639, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request to obtain copies of documents in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) files. If the child is requesting a parent’s immigration records, a death certificate must be submitted as part of the request. When making the request as alternative evidence for a Certificate of Naturalization, request a copy of the U.S. citizen parent’s “N-400 application and approval.” Assuming the parent’s naturalization was granted, USCIS will provide a copy of this documentation. You may use this as evidence of your parent’s U.S. citizenship and date that citizenship was granted. There is no USCIS fee for this form, but it may take 2-4 months to obtain the documentation.
CitizenPath provides simple, affordable, step-by-step guidance through USCIS immigration applications. Individuals, attorneys and non-profits use the service on desktop or mobile device to prepare immigration forms accurately, avoiding costly delays. CitizenPath allows users to try the service for free and provides a 100% money-back guarantee that USCIS will approve the application or petition. We provide support for the Application for Certificate of Citizenship (N-600), Citizenship Application (Form N-400), Application to Replace Citizenship Document (Form N-565), and several other immigration services.
Note to Reader: This post was originally published on January 14, 2020, and has been modified with improvements.