Generally, all individuals born in the United States and subject to its jurisdiction of the United States are citizens (e.g., children of diplomatic officials, etc.). Still, other individuals born outside the United States may claim United States citizenship derivatively from a parent who at the time of the individual’s birth was a United States citizen. The legal requirements for Derviative Citizenship are extremely complex.
In order for an individual to apply to become a naturalized U.S. citizen (USC), s/he must be age 18 or older. Thus, in the typical situation of a family living in the United States as lawful permanent residents, the minor children will not be eligible to file for naturalization with their parents. In many cases, these minor children do not need to request U.S. citizenship. Rather, it is automatically conferred when either parent naturalizes, if certain requirements are satisfied.
The laws regarding the derivative acquisition of U.S. citizenship by minor children were broadened by the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA). This law became effective February 27, 2001, and remains effective as of this writing. Under current law, children under 18 automatically acquire U.S. citizenship if three requirements are met.
The child must have U.S. lawful permanent resident status (“green card” holder).
At least one parent must be a U.S. citizen by birth or naturalization.
The child must be residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of a USC parent.
In this situation, once all three requirements are met, U.S. citizenship is automatically conferred upon the child/ren by operation of law without the need to file a specific application requesting U.S. citizenship. These provisions apply to one’s adopted child/ren as well as biological children.
Children who met these requirements on that day and after automatically became US Citizens. However, if you were older than 18 on this date then you have to meet different requirements in order to get derivative citizenship.
Caution, these laws do not apply retroactively. Any lawful permanent resident, who turned 18 prior to February 27, 2001, generally required both parents to naturalize prior to her/his 18th birthday, in order to acquire U.S. citizenship automatically