Children Born Outside US Can Gain Citizenship Derivatively Through Parents

When a child is born outside the United States it seems logical that the child would not be granted automatic US citizenship. However, if the child is born to one or two US citizen parents, the child may be granted US citizenship derivatively.

tree-climbing-2-874401-mDerivative citizenship is a way to obtain citizenship through U.S. citizen parents if the child is not a U.S. citizen when born. If the child gains citizenship derivatively, citizenship is granted automatically even if the child does not have a US birth certificate or other documentation confirming citizenship. The child can later file an N-600 to receive a certificate of citizenship.  Derivative citizenship is a complicated concept that calls for many requirements to be met. Derivative citizenship contains several intricacies to account for many different situations that occur when a child is born outside the U.S. Determining if derivative citizenship applies to a specific situation requires careful consideration.

Some common scenarios when derivative citizenship can be utilized are:

Child Born Outside US to Two US Citizen Parents

Children born outside the US to two citizens are likely to be granted derivative citizenship as long as at least one parent lived in the US prior to the birth.

Child Born Outside US to One US Citizen Parent

If only one parent is a US citizen, the child may still qualify for US citizenship if the child was born after November 14, 1986 and the US citizen parent lived in the United States for 5 years. Also, least 2 of the years were after his or her 14th birthday. If the parent is enrolled in the armed forces of employed by the government or certain international organizations, this time can be counted as time spent in the US.

Child Born to Unmarried US Citizen Parents

For children born to unmarried parents the rule is different depending on which parent is the US citizen. If the mother is a US citizen, the mother must have previously lived in the US for at least one year. If the father is the US citizen there are several requirements that must be met. Such as establishment of a blood relationship between the child and father, the father must have US nationality at time of birth, father must agree to support the child until he is 18 and paternity must be acknowledged or established or the child is legitimate under the law of residence or domicile. The father must also have lived in the US for 5 years, 2 of which must be after the age of 14.

Derivative Citizenship can also be granted after birth, as long as the child is under the age of 18.

Children Born Outside US Can Obtain Citizenship After Age of 18

Derivative citizenship can be gained by children after birth but while still under the age of 18 if one parent is a US citizen and the child is living in the US in the legal and physical custody of the US citizen parent. This rule applies if the child was born after February 27,2001.

The Child Citizenship Act (CCA) of 2000 applies to all children born after 2000. If the child was under 18 between the dates of December 24, 1952 and February 26, 2001, the law prior to the CCA applies. Pre CCA requirements either request the child be living in the US on a green card and both parents be naturalized before the child turns 18. If this requirement is not met, the child then has three other options depending on the relationship status and citizenship of the parents.


Derivative citizenship can also be utilized by parents who adopt children abroad. The child must reside in the United States and be in the legal and physical custody of a US citizen. Additional timing requirements apply.

Derivative citizenship can be a complicated process. Consulting an experienced immigration attorney can be very beneficial to determine if a child qualifies for derivative citizenship. Contact the Law Office of Sweta Khandelwal to discuss derivative citizenship or any other immigration issue. Attorney Khandelwal is an experienced immigration attorney located in the Silicon Valley.

Cited Sources:

Citizenship Through Parents, October 28, 2014, USCIS