Acquisition of American Citizenship

The law on acquisition of American Citizenship varies if one or both biological parents are also Americans, and if the child is born in or out of wedlock. Here’s how it works:

  • Child born abroad to two U.S. Citizens
    A child born outside of the United States or its outlying possessions to parents, both of whom are citizens of the United States, is entitled to citizenship provided one of the parents had, prior to the birth of the child, been resident in the United States or one of its outlying possessions. (No specific period of time is required.)
  • Child born abroad to one U.S. Citizen parent and one non U.S. Citizen…
    …on or after November 14, 1986. A child born outside of the United States to one U.S. Citizen parent and one non-U.S. Citizen parent may be entitled to citizenship providing the U.S. Citizen parent had been physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for five years, at least two years of which were after s/he reached the age of fourteen. This period of physical presence must have taken place prior to the birth of the child.
  • Child born abroad to one U.S. Citizen parent and one non-U.S. Citizen…
    … between December 24, 1952 and November 13, 1986. A child born outside of the United States to one U.S. Citizen parent and one non-U.S. Citizen parent, may be entitled to citizenship providing the U.S. Citizen parent had, prior to the birth of the child, been physically present in the United States for a period of ten years, at least five years of which were after s/he reached the age of fourteen.

For a child born out of wedlock, please click here.

What Do We Mean by Physical Presence?

Physical Presence is the actual time when the parent was physically present in the United States, not simply as a resident.

This means that any travel outside the United States, including vacation, should be excluded. Physical presence in the United States can be any time before the child’s birth.  This can include the time before s/he becomes naturalized as a U.S. citizen.  If required, please be prepared to submit old passports if available, as evidence. If unavailable, other evidence may be required to establish physical presence.

Any documented periods of time spent overseas with the United States Military/Government etc. may be computed as physical presence in the United States for transmission of citizenship purposes. Time spent as a dependent child of a United States Military/Government employee hired directly by the Department of Defense may also be computed as physical presence. Military records may be requested.