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Citizenship Through a Parent

A person receives United States citizenship automatically under certain circumstances, even if they are not born in the United States. The person may not even be aware that they are a citizen. This can be a vital defense in removal/deportation proceeding. Citizenship protects against removal for even the most serious criminal charges.

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA) provides for derivative naturalization if a person meets two requirements before reaching the age of 18. First, one parent of the person must be a U.S. citizen (through birth or naturalization). Second, the person must be admitted to the U.S. as a permanent resident (in other words, they must get a green card).

The law on derivative naturalization was more restrictive before the CCA went into effect. Consult with a lawyer to determine whether the prior law or the CCA applies in your case. Also, different and/or additional requirements exist for adopted children and for children born out of wedlock to obtain citizenship through the father.

A person may also acquire U.S. citizenship at the time of birth. Again, this can occur even for persons born outside the United States. The transmission of nationality through one or both parents is known as "jus sanguinis," Latin for right of blood. The law on acquisition of citizenship at birth has changed several times throughout United States history, and the law in effect on the date of birth controls.

The official government position on these requirements appears in the USCIS Policy Manual. Note, however, that claimants have successfully overturned citizenship laws and their interpretations several times in court. For example, the Supreme Court held in Sessions v. Morales-Santana that a citizenship law passed by Congress violated the constitutional guarantee of equal protection. Consult with Scott Mossman to analyze your potential claim to citizenship.

Even more critically, Scott can help you prove your claim in an N-600 or U.S. passport application. This often requires establishing a parent's presence in the United States during a particular time period. Scott can help you obtain old records from schools, hospitals, the Census Bureau, county registrar offices, and other public offices to prove physical presence. If those records are not sufficient, he can assist with obtaining affidavits from family members, employers, and others with knowledge of the parent's presence in the United States.