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What Is Derivative Citizenship and How Does It Work?

June 19, 2022
  By Saman Movassaghi

There are different ways in which people can become citizens of the United States. One of those ways is through derivative citizenship. By learning more about what derivative citizenship is and how you can obtain, you can determine if you meet the eligibility criteria.

The Definition of Derivative Citizenship

Derivative citizenship means that a child can derive citizenship from their parent who has become a naturalized U.S. citizen. Essentially, if a parent is born in another country and then gains U.S. citizenship, any children they have can potentially become citizens, too. This also applies to naturalized parents who adopt children who are not U.S. citizens. 

How Derivative Citizenship Works

If a child is under 18, has a green card when their parent becomes a U.S. citizen, and lives with their parent, then the child will gain citizenship. In order for an adopted child to become a citizen, they need to be adopted before their 18th birthday and have a green card when their parent naturalizes. Additionally, the adoptive parent must have custody of their child, and the adopted child must not be married.

Getting Proof of Citizenship

If you need proof of derivative citizenship, as long as your child meets the requirements to receive it, you can apply for proof of citizenship by filing USCIS Form N-600. This is the Application for Certificate of Citizenship. You will also need to provide documents showing that the parent is a U.S. citizen and the child’s immigration status, identity, and relationship to the parent. You can prove this with a birth certificate or an adoption decree. 

What Is Acquisition of Citizenship?

You may be confused about the difference between derivative citizenship and acquisition of citizenship. The latter applies to U.S. citizens who have a child outside of the United States. As long as at least one parent is a U.S. citizen, then the child will automatically be a U.S. citizen as well. 

Non-U.S. Citizens Who Give Birth in the U.S.

You may have heard the term “anchor babies.” These are children who are born to people who come to the U.S. without citizenship. The child will automatically gain U.S. citizenship just by being born here. Then, they can petition for their parents to get green cards after they turn 21 years of age. The child will also need to earn enough money so they can be the parent’s financial sponsor. Another option is if the family has enough assets to make up the difference required. 

Having an anchor baby is a risk because parents could face deportation. Typically, the immigration authorities focus on deporting people who are criminals. Though it’s still possible, they might be hesitant to deport people with family in the U.S. If facing deportation, parents may be able to apply for a Cancellation of Removal. They need to meet certain requirements, such as living in the U.S. for at least 10 years and proving that deportation would cause “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” for a qualifying relative who is a lawful permanent citizen or a U.S. citizen. They also have to show good moral character and prove they haven’t violated the law or been convicted of certain crimes. 

Contact a Florida Immigration Attorney

Do you have questions about derivative citizenship? Then contact Florida Immigration Law Counsel through our website or by calling 1-800-666-4996. We deal with the government so you don’t have to. We look forward to assisting you.

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