Generally you are a U.S. citizen if your parent became a U.S. citizen or was already a citizen before your 18th birthday. But immigration laws have changed over the years so before filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, consider the following information.
If you were born abroad to TWO U.S. citizens and at least one of your parents lived in the United States at some point in his or her life, then in most cases you are a U.S. citizen.
If you were born abroad to ONE U.S. citizen, in most cases, you are a U.S. citizen if ALL of the following are true:
- One of your parents was a U.S. citizen when you were born;
- Your U.S. citizen parent lived at least 5 years in the United States before you were born; and
- At least 2 of those 5 years in the United States were after your U.S. citizen parent’s 14th birthday. (Meanwhile, note that if you were born before November 14, 1986, you are a citizen if your U.S. citizen parent lived in the USA for at least 10 years and 5 of those years in the USA were after your citizen parent’s 14th birthday).
Obtaining U.S. citizenship based on the described circumstances is known as “acquisition of citizenship”. If you believe that you may be a U.S. citizen through acquisition, do not file N-400, Application for Naturalization. Your record of birth abroad, if registered with a U.S. consulate or embassy, is proof of your citizenship. You may also apply for a U.S. passport to have your citizenship recognized. If you need additional proof of your citizenship, you may file an Application for Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-600).
Another possible scenario is that a parent naturalizes after the child is born. You may be a U.S. citizen if your parent became a U.S. citizen through naturalization while you were still a child. Children under 18 years of age automatically acquire U.S. citizenship if the following three conditions have been fulfilled (they can occur in any order):
- At least one of the child’s parents is a U.S. citizen by birth or naturalization;
- The child is a permanent resident under 18 years of age;
- The child is residing in or has resided in the USA in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent.
As the laws governing U.S. citizenship for children have changed several times and the applicable law depends on the date of the child’s birth, your situation may require a legal analysis. Therefore, if you have any doubts you should consult with an experienced immigration attorney.