There are several ways to obtain U.S. citizenship. For example, you automatically obtain U.S. citizenship if you are born in the U.S. If case you are born outside the U.S. and one (or both) of your parents are U.S. when you are born, you may have acquired U.S. citizenship at birth. In case you were born abroad and one or both of your parents are or become U.S. citizens before you are 18 years old, you may derive U.S. citizenship through your your parent(s).

This blog post will focus on the derivation of citizenship scenario. A common situation how one can derive the U.S. citizenship is if you were born outside the U.S. to non U.S. citizen parents and one (or both) of your parents later naturalized and obtained U.S. citizenship. You may derive U.S. citizenship (you automatically became a U.S. citizen by operation of law) if the following requirements were met before you turn 18:

  1. At least one of your parents was a U.S. citizen by birth or naturalization. If the parent was naturalized, he/she must have been naturalized before you turned 18 years of age.
  2. You were under 18 years of age and unmarried
  3. You were born in wedlock
  4. You were a green card holder
  5. You were residing in the U.S. in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent

Please note that you can only derive citizenship if you meet all above mentioned requirements on or after February 27, 2001 (that is the date when the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 became effective), meaning that you were born on or after February 28, 1983. If you were born before this date, different laws were in effect and different analysis would apply.

I was born out of wedlock, can I still derive U.S. Citizenship?

If you were born out of wedlock and you have not been legitimated, you may still have derived the U.S. citizenship through your mother in case she naturalized and you met all the requirements outlined above before you turned 18. In case you were born out of wedlock and you want to derive your citizenship through your father, you must have been legitimated by your father under either the law of either yours or your father’s residence or domicile and the legitimation must have taken place before you turned 16.

So what should you do if you find out that you met all the conditions above and you are a U.S. citizen?

You should file form N-600 (Application for Certificate of Citizenship), so you can obtain a Certificate of Citizenship that will serve as an evidence of your U.S. citizenship.

If you have not derived U.S. citizenship from your parent(s) and you have been a lawful permanent resident for 3 or 5 years, you may still apply for citizenship. Please see what are the benefits of U.S. citizenship when you here.

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