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Law Grants Automatic Citizenship to Some Children Born Abroad

Most U.S. citizens acquire citizenship by being born in the U.S., or through a process called naturalization. However, there are certain people born abroad who can acquire citizenship automatically.

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 grants automatic citizenship to the biological and adopted children of parents who are U.S. citizens.

How to Get Automatic Citizenship

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 generally benefits children who were born outside the United States, are under 18 years of age and have at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen.

To qualify for automatic U.S. citizenship, a child must:

  • Meet the definition of “child” under immigration law.
  • Be under 18 years of age.
  • Have at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen by birth or through naturalization.
  • Reside in the United States under the legal and physical custody of the parent who is a U.S. citizen.
  • Be a lawful permanent resident.

If the child is legally adopted, he or she must meet all adoption requirements under immigration law.

“Because citizenship law has changed over the years, if the person is now over 18 years of age, USCIS looks to the relevant law that was in effect before the child turned 18 to decide if the person acquired U.S. citizenship,” said Mariana Gitomer, an officer with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

How to Prove You Are a Citizen

A qualified child does not need to file an application to establish U.S. citizenship, but the child will need a certificate of citizenship, which can be obtained by filing form N-600. This will ensure that all the requirements for citizenship have been met.

Once the form has been filed, an immigration officer will determine if an interview is necessary. If so, the applicant must meet with an officer and bring:

  • All original documents of the copies submitted when filing form N-600.
  • Any additional documents that will establish if the child qualifies for citizenship.
  • Certified translation of documents not originally in English.

How to Get More Information

These are the general requirements, but some unique situations may require additional steps. For more information contact the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 or visit www.uscis.gov.

How to Prepare for the Citizenship Interview

The citizenship interview is an important step toward becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen, but it can also be one of the most stressful ones. That’s because it involves a meeting with a federal agent, not to mention taking and passing an English language comprehension and a Civics test.

The best way to avoid stress is to be well prepared for the interview. Below you will learn how the interview is structured as well as tips and resources to help you prepare for this important meeting.

How the Interview Is Structured

The citizenship interview is given at various offices run by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS. The steps below will give you a general idea of how the interview is structured (the order may change depending on your local office):

  • Take the oath: Before starting the interview, the officer will place you under oath.
  • Review form N-400: The immigration officer will go over the application with you and ask you questions about your past, including which countries you’ve visited, where you live and which organizations you belong to. You will then be asked to sign a few documents.
  • English test: The officer will evaluate your English-speaking skills during the interview and will also test your ability to read and write in English. To pass you must answer correctly one out of three reading and writing questions.
  • Civics test: The civics test has 10 questions about the history and government of the United States. To pass, you must answer six correctly. The officer will stop asking you questions when you have answered six of them correctly.
  • Final instructions: The officer will give you instructions for attending a citizenship ceremony, the final step in the naturalization process. During the ceremony you swear allegiance to the United States.

Note: You have two chances to pass the tests. If you fail during your initial interview, you will be given a second opportunity 60 to 90 days later.

Exceptions for Taking the English Test

You might be exempt from taking the English test if you are:

  • At least 50 years old when filing your application and a legal U.S. permanent resident for at least 20 years.
  • At least 55 years old when filing your application and a legal U.S. permanent resident for at least 15 years.

Note: Applicants who are exempt from taking the English test must still take the Civics test, unless they request an exception based on a physical disability or a mental illness.

Tips on How to Prepare for the Interview

USCIS has several resources to help you prepare for the interview, including study materials for both tests. The agency also hosts periodic naturalization workshops across the country. USCIS.gov also has a section where you can find community resources that might help you prepare for the exams.

On the day of the interview you should:

  • Review your appointment letter carefully and follow all of the instructions. The letter says which additional documents you should bring. Your case might be delayed if you don’t bring them.
  • Arrive at least 15 minutes early so that you have enough time to go through security.
  • Answer truthfully to all of the questions. Lying to an immigration officer might disqualify you from becoming a citizen.

The Benefits of Becoming a U.S. Citizen

Every year some 700,000 people become U.S. citizens at naturalization ceremonies across the country.

By taking the Oath of Allegiance new citizens pledge to be faithful to the Constitution and to serve their new country when needed. In exchange they will enjoy many of the benefits and privileges of being a United States citizen, including the following:

Bringing Family Members

U.S. citizens can help overseas family members legally immigrate to the United States. In fact, the relatives of citizens are generally given priority by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Also, children under age 18 are automatically given U.S. citizenship when their parents become citizens.

Right to Vote

Direct participation in democratic elections is one of the most important privileges that this country offers its citizens. Only U.S. citizens have the right to vote in federal elections and to be candidates in most local, state and federal elections.

International Protection

The United States protects its citizens abroad through its embassies and consulates. The U.S. government assists citizens who are victims of crime overseas and provides assistance to U.S. citizens abroad in the case of international disasters or emergencies.

Access to More Jobs

The federal government is one of the biggest employers in the world and offers many job opportunities in a wide range of industries. Job openings are published on USA Jobs.gov. However, the majority of federal jobs require that the applicant be a U.S. citizen.

Participating in a Federal Jury

One of the most important civic responsibilities of citizenship is participating in a federal jury. Members of the jury help determine the innocence or guilt of the accused. Federal jurors are selected at random from databases such as voting and driver license lists.

More Student Aid

The federal government has different types of financial assistance for students, including scholarships and grants that are open exclusively to U.S. citizens.

Watch this video to learn more about the benefits of becoming a U.S. citizen.

The Benefits of Becoming a U.S. Citizen

Video transcript:

VOICE: Every year some 700,000 people become U.S. citizens at naturalization ceremonies across the country. By taking the Oath of Allegiance you pledge to be faithful to the Constitution and to serve your new country when needed. In exchange you will enjoy many of the benefits and privileges [CHEERING] of being a citizen of the United States.

OFFICIAL: Well one of the most obvious benefits is the ability to vote. Only U.S. Citizens are allowed to vote in federal elections and in most state and local elections.

VOICE: In addition, children of new citizens who are under the age of 18 are automatically given U.S. citizenship. They also enjoy special privileges when it comes to bringing other family members to the country.

OFFICIAL: Permanent residents can bring family members to the United States, but the benefit of being a U.S. citizen is that U.S. citizens get priority when they want to bring immediate family members permanently to the United States.

VOICE: The United States protects its citizens abroad through its embassies and consulates, and that is another benefit of taking the Oath of Allegiance. The U.S. Government offers assistance to victims of crime overseas and can also assist with information on what to do if there is an emergency in the country you are visiting or living.

Other benefits include working for the federal government, the right to be a member of a federal jury, and access to certain types of academic scholarships available only to U.S. citizens.

There are several requisites to becoming a US citizen. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Servicesí website has several resources that can help you with the process.

OFFICIAL: Two major things that you can do: one, go to our website where we have all kinds of study materials. Or you can also attend one of our naturalization workshops which we run at offices throughout the country.

VOICE: This video was produced by USA.gov in collaboration with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.