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Eligibility for Citizenship

If you were born in the United States, you are a U.S. citizen. When your parents are green card holders, or if one parent is a U.S. citizen and you were not born in the U.S., you may automatically be a citizen of the United States. Unfortunately, you likely do not have any documentation to prove your citizenship. There is a way to obtain the document you need to prove that you are a U.S. citizen. An experienced immigration attorney will assist you through the process of applying for a citizenship certificate.

What is Automatic Citizenship?

A child who is born to U.S. parents is a citizen of the United States, regardless of the place of birth. When a child meets the requirements of citizenship, they are automatically a citizen. The USCIS provides Form N-600, an application for a Certificate of Citizenship. This form allows you to obtain a certificate that proves you are a U.S. citizen.

There are various immigration laws that are in place at any given time in the United States. The laws that were in place when you were born are generally the laws that apply to your situation. Automatic citizenship is straightforward when at least one of your parents is a U.S. citizen. Citizenship can become more confusing when the situation is more complicated.

There are two main ways that automatic citizenship occurs, including citizenship by acquisition and derivative citizenship.

  • Citizenship by acquisition – When at least one parent is a U.S. citizen
  • Derivative citizenship – When a parent is a naturalized U.S. citizen, or when adopted by a U.S. citizen

Generally, a parent who is a U.S. citizen must have been present in the United States for at least five years (after the age of 14) for you to be a citizen by acquisition. In other words, a parent cannot live abroad indefinitely and still provide citizenship to a child born abroad. However, you may be able to establish citizenship based on a grandparent who is a U.S. citizen.

Eligibility Requirements

As a child born outside the U.S., you may be able to file an N-600 application to prove citizenship as long as you meet the eligibility requirements. If you are under the age of 18, a parent or legal guardian may submit the form on your behalf. If you are claiming derivative citizenship, you must show that the adoptive parent is a citizen or has been naturalized. The rules pertaining to derivative citizenship have changed over time, and therefore it is best to consult with a qualified immigration attorney to determine eligibility.

If you are claiming citizenship from your father, there are some important requirements. You must establish paternity through “clear and convincing” evidence. You must also show that your father was a U.S. citizen when you were born. You may be able to show evidence that your father accepted a legal obligation for your financial support before you were 18 years old. Alternatively, you may be able to prove that your father acknowledged paternity or paternity was established by a court while you were under the age of 18.

If you are establishing citizenship from your mother who is a U.S. citizen and you were born out of wedlock, you must ensure that you acquired citizenship based on the laws that were in effect. The laws changed on February 27, 2001. If you were older than age 18 on this date, the only way to acquire citizenship was through your mother, as long as paternity was not established. If you were younger than 18, the particular restriction does not apply.

The process of seeking a Certificate of Citizenship can be somewhat complex. It is helpful to get guidance from a knowledgeable Illinois immigration attorney to assist with the process. To learn more, contact us today at Sverdloff Law Group at (312) 238-9090.

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