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Have I "acquired" or "derived" U.S. citizenship?

Children who are born abroad to U.S. citizen parent(s) might be eligible to derive or acquire U.S. citizenship through their parents if the parent(s) and the child meet certain requirements. 

The requirements for acquiring or deriving U.S. citizenship vary.  Whether a person is a U.S. citizen at birth or becomes one after birth will depend on a number of factors.  

These factors, can include:

  • The child’s date of birth,
  • The citizenship and marital status of the parent(s),
  • The parent’s physical presence and residence in the United States before the child’s birth,
  • Whether the child was born in or out of wedlock,
  • Whether the child was legitimated by the parent under the applicable laws, or
  • Whether the child is adopted.


Stepchildren of U.S. citizens are generally not able to derive citizenship through their stepparent unless they have been adopted and the adoption meets certain requirements. 


Children who were born outside the U.S. but now live in the U.S. may acquire citizenship under Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). A child born outside of the United States automatically becomes a U.S. citizen when all of the following conditions have been met on or after Feb. 27, 2001: 

  • The child has at least one parent, including an adoptive parent, who is a U.S. citizen by birth or through naturalization;
  • The child is under 18 years of age;
  • The child is a lawful permanent resident (LPR); and
  • The child is residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent.


Children residing outside of the United States may obtain citizenship under the INA. A child who regularly resides outside of the United States is eligible for naturalization if all of the following conditions have been met:

  • The child has at least one parent, including an adoptive parent, who is a U.S. citizen by birth or through naturalization; 
  • The child’s U.S. citizen parent or U.S. citizen grandparent meets certain physical presence requirements in the United States or an outlying possession;  
  • The child is under 18 years of age;
  • The child is residing outside of the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent, or of a person who does not object to the application if the U.S. citizen parent is deceased; and
  • The child is lawfully admitted, physically present, and maintaining a lawful status in the United States at the time the application is approved and the time of naturalization. 


For more information or to see if you qualify contact IISLG for a consultation.

Have more questions?

Contact an immigration lawyer at IISLG for a consultation.