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Is my child eligible for derivative citizenship?

As an immigrant parent in Riverside or Orange county in California who is planning to become a U.S. citizen, you may be interested in the ways that your child may become a U.S. citizen, as well. When you go through the naturalization process, there is a good chance that your child will derive or acquire citizenship automatically when you become a citizen. If all the conditions are met, then your son or daughter will not have to go through the naturalization process separately from you.

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, whether or not your child is eligible for derivative citizenship depends on his or her age, and also a couple of specific definitions that the agency uses. When you become a citizen, your child must be under the age of 18 in most cases. Also, you must meet the agency’s definition of “parent,” and your son or daughter must fall under the appropriate definition of “child.”

If you are on your child’s birth certificate as the parent, the USCIS typically assumes you are the genetic parent and approves the relationship. For the father of a child born out of wedlock, the process is not quite as simple because the child must be legitimated, which legalizes the parent-child relationship. As the father, you must show that you had custody of your child when he or she was legitimized, that this occurred before the child was 16, and the place where you lived at that time recognized the legitimation.

A child who is adopted may be eligible for derivative citizenship, as well. Conditions include the following:

  •          The former parent-child relationship was terminated legally.
  •          You became the legal parent based on the laws in the country where the adoption took place.
  •          The process was concluded before your child was 16 years of age.
  •          Your child was in your legal custody at the time of adoption.

Due to the complicated laws regarding legitimation and issues such as Assisted Reproductive Technology, there are exceptions that may affect a child’s eligibility for derivative citizenship in more complex cases. Although this information is intended for educational purposes, it should not be taken as legal advice.

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