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How to Qualify for Derivative Citizenship Through the Child Citizenship Act of 2000

Posted on Friday, September 14, 2012

chicago immigration attorney lawyer derivative parents naturalize citizenship certificate passport permanent resident custodyHow do you know if you have derived U.S. citizenship through the Child Citizenship Act (CCA)? What proof do you need for such important steps as voter registration, employment verification, and applying for a passport? In this article, we will share a recent success story to help illustrate the procedure, but first we’ll help you determine whether, in fact, you have already derived citizenship through a parent.

The CCA, which went into effect on February 27, 2001, clearly lays out the requirements for citizenship acquisition. You automatically become a U.S. citizen the moment you can satisfy all four of the following criteria:

1. One or both of your parents are United States citizens, either through birth in the U.S. or naturalization;

2. You are under 18 years of age;

3. You live in the legal custody of your U.S. citizen parent(s); and

4. You entered or are in the country as a permanent resident.

For instance, if you are a permanent resident under 18 living with your parents in the U.S., and your parents become naturalized citizens, you automatically become a derivative U.S. citizen on the day your parents naturalize. Note, however, that stepchildren are not eligible for derived citizenship under the CCA. There are other situations, such as adoption or divorce, to which the Act may apply, but those situations are best discussed in a consultation with an attorney.

Once you have determined that you did automatically acquire citizenship, you have three options. First, you may choose to do nothing and remain a U.S. citizen without any documentation to prove it. Second, you may apply for a U.S. passport, which will function as proof of your U.S. citizenship. Third, you may apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a Certificate of Citizenship (COC). The COC may then be used to obtain other documents such as a U.S. passport. Our firm typically recommends the third option to our clients, since a COC cannot be disputed later, and, unlike a passport, it never expires.

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Now let us consider an actual case. Recently, a 26-year-old client came to us for assistance in applying for naturalization. He gave us his documents, including his permanent resident card and foreign passport. When we asked him if either of his parents were U.S. citizens, he said that both of them had naturalized a few years prior, but he couldn’t remember the exact date. We asked him to obtain copies of his parents’ naturalization certificates so we could examine them.

When we reviewed their naturalization certificates, we realized that on the day his parents became U.S. citizens, he was still under 18 years old. We asked him if he was living in the U.S. with his parents on that date and he replied that he had been here with his parents in permanent resident status since he was 8 years old. This meant that he met all four criteria for U.S. citizenship to be automatically conferred, and he did not need to file for naturalization. This meant that he did not need to study for the exams required for naturalization.

We immediately suggested to our client that he apply for a Certificate of Citizenship as proof of his status. In order to prepare the application, we needed a few additional documents that were different from those required for a naturalization application. To begin with, we needed proof that he was living in the U.S. at the time his parents naturalized. For this purpose, he provided school report cards covering that period of time.

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Our client also needed to show that he was in the legal custody of his parents, for which he provided his parents’ bank records and electric bills with the same address shown on his school records. Additionally, we provided his permanent resident card and the entry stamp on his passport as evidence of his permanent residence status, and his original birth certificate to prove that his naturalized parents were, in fact, his real parents.

After completing and filing the application on his behalf, we had to wait about 6 months for approval. Once our client received his Certificate of Citizenship, he used it to obtain his U.S. passport. Later, he used the COC to prove his U.S. citizenship when filling out his I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form with a new employer. The COC now rests in our client’s safety deposit box at his bank and will always be available to him when needed.

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