Besides naturalization, there are three ways that a child can obtain citizenship: birth in the United States, Acquisition of Citizenship, and Derivation of Citizenship. Acquisition and derivation occur by operation of law, or automatically, once specific criteria are met.

What is Acquisition of Citizenship?

A child born outside of the United States, to United States citizen parents, may automatically acquire US citizenship at birth. Different acquisition rules apply depending on when the child was born, whether one or both parents were US citizens, and whether the parents were married. The child will automatically acquire citizenship if all criteria are met.

What is Derivation of Citizenship?

Derivation of citizenship applies to children who are lawful permanent residents, who are under the specified statutory age, and whose parent(s) naturalizes. It does not matter when each requirement occurs (so long as they all occur under the specified statutory age). The child will derive citizenship when the last required event occurs. Different derivation rules apply depending on when the last event occurred.

How to document that you acquired or derived citizenship?

If you believe that you’ve automatically acquired or derived citizenship, the next step is documenting the acquisition or derivation.

Documenting Acquisition of Citizenship:

You can document acquisition one of three ways (1) applying for a United States passport, (2) applying for a Certificate of Citizenship, or (3) Applying for a Consular Report of Birth Abroad.

  • US Passport: The evidence required to show citizenship will vary depending on the year you were born.
  • Certificate of Citizenship: Application is made on Form N-600 and is filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service.
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad: The application should be filed before the child’s 18th birthday, and the child must be living abroad at the time of application. The application is typically filed at the U.S. consulate in the child’s country of birth.

For all three applications, you will need to know (1) the citizenship of your parents, and when that status was obtained, (2) age of your parents, (3) residency of your parents in the United States, (4) the date and place of your birth, (5) the relationship that you had with your parents, and (6) whether you parent were married when you were born.

Documenting Derivation of Citizenship:

You can document derivation of citizenship in one of two ways (1) applying for a United States passport, or (2) applying for a certificate of citizenship. There is no deadline for when you have to apply to document derivation of your citizenship. You can apply for either a passport or for a certificate of citizenship at any age; however, you’ll have to prove that all of the requirements for derivation were met prior to your 18th birthday.

  • Applying for a US Passport: Applying for a passport is the easiest of the two options. However, if you have a complicated case, the passport office may deny your application and force you to file for a certificate of citizenship. The required evidence will depend on when the last requirement for derivation was met.
  • Applying for a Certificate of Citizenship: Same as above.

For both applications, you will have to know (1) the citizenship of your parents, (2) your relationship with your parents, (3) who had legal and physical custody of you, and (4) that you are a lawful permanent resident.

If your child was born abroad and you believe that you or your child has derived or acquired citizenship, please contact an immigration attorney who is trustworthy and knowledgeable! Our attorneys at Landerholm Immigration, APC, have experience processing both simple and complex derivation and acquisition cases. Please feel free to call us at 510-488-1020 to see how we can help!