The U.S. state department estimates roughly 9 million U.S. citizens live overseas. Apart from learning a new language and adapting to an unfamiliar culture, the expat lifestyle can become even more complicated if you find yourself expecting a child on foreign land. Typically a child born in a foreign country with one parent being a U.S citizen is entitled to American citizenship. This precedent can vary depending on the country of residence and the constant modifications made to legal guidelines.
Taking a cue from the British, the United States operates similarly to the English common law rule of "right of soil." Essentially this means citizenship is determined by one's place of birth. In February of 2011, the United States enacted the Child Citizenship Act (CCA). Under the current precedent, a child who is under the age of 18, born outside the U.S. with at least one U.S. citizen parent automatically acquires U.S. citizenship upon entry into the country as an immigrant.
The fine print
Although the “Jus soli” law (right of soil) is rooted in laws as ancient as its Latin name, it has not made the process any less complicated. Modern-day globalism has further convoluted the concept. When attempting to navigate this law, it is essential to understand the intricacies. The scope of this decree is limited to children who permanently reside in the United States. Now, if the child is under 18, born outside of the United States and lives overseas, the U.S citizen parent must apply for the naturalization of their child. In addition to this requirement, other factors must be met:
- The U.S. citizen parent must have been physically present in the U.S. for five years before the child's birth, at least two of which need to be after the age fourteen.
- The child must be temporarily present in the U.S. for the naturalization process at which point they are required to recite the oath of allegiance. If the child is too young to understand or give the oath on their own, this requirement may be waived.
Contacting the local embassy or consulate is the best resource when attempting to decipher the laws regarding children born outside of the United States. Registering your child's birth with the embassy as soon as possible is the first step in establishing your child's claim to U.S. citizenship at birth.