Citizenship Laws Every Expecting Parent Should Know

The citizenship laws and rules of the road for babies for whom Jus soli doesn't apply.

by Jayme Moye
Originally Published: 
citizenship laws

Citizenship laws in the U.S. are a no-brainer if you’re planning to have a baby on U.S. soil: Anyone born in the U.S. is a U.S. citizen. Period. Where it gets tricky is when the baby is not born in the U.S. “In my culture, which is Brazilian, we all love to go have our babies near our mothers,” says Renata Castro, an immigration attorney and the founder of Castro Legal Group in Pompano Beach, Florida.“However, citizenship planning may change your desire to have your baby abroad.” As Castro advises her clients, it’s not always the best idea for expecting parents who want their baby to be a U.S. citizen. Babies born outside the U.S., even if one parent is a U.S. citizen, don’t necessarily inherit that parent’s citizenship. There are certain rules that need to be met. Here’s what you need to know ahead of time, before deciding to go forward with an international birth.

Jus soli

Jus soli is a Latin phrase meaning “right of the soil,” and refers to the law that anyone born on U.S. soil is automatically a U.S. citizen. This includes babies born to individuals with both lawful and unlawful status, as well as babies born to foreigners who give birth in the U.S. while on vacation (the sole exclusion is children born to diplomats or other government officials from foreign countries while in the U.S.). The citizenship law is so all-encompassing that it doesn’t matter if the baby does not live in the U.S. following their birth, or at any other point in her life. If they were born on U.S. soil, they are considered a U.S. citizen until the day they die. If you want your baby to have U.S. citizenship, giving birth in the U.S. is the easiest way to ensure that.

Born Abroad to Married Parents

If you and your partner are legally married, and both U.S. citizens, your baby will “acquire” U.S. citizenship, even if born on foreign soil. So long as at least one of you has, at some point, resided in the U.S. or one of its outlying possessions. If one of you is a U.S. citizen and the other has been naturalized, the citizen needs to have been physically present in the U.S. or its outlying possessions for a continuous period of one year, at any point. If one of you is a U.S. citizen and the other is an alien, the citizen needs to have been physically present in the U.S. or its outlying possessions for five years, at least two of which were after the age of 14.

Born Abroad Out of Wedlock

So long as the mother is a U.S. citizen, the same rules apply as above. The situation gets more complicated when it’s the father who is the U.S. citizen. For a baby born on foreign soil to acquire U.S. citizenship in this situation, the father must be a U.S. citizen at the time of the baby’s birth and there must be “clear and convincing evidence” that the father is indeed the father. Plus, the father must provide written statement under oath that he will provide financial support for the child until the age of 18. In these situations, it may be best to contact an immigration attorney before giving birth.

Dual Citizenship

There is no law that prohibits your child, as a U.S. citizen, from holding dual citizenship in other countries at any point in his life. So long as the other country allows it. Immihelp maintains a list of counties that both do and do not permit dual citizenship.

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