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Citizenship for Children

Project Citizenship • October 30, 2020

Project Citizenship seeks to increase the naturalization rate in Massachusetts and beyond. It is a nonprofit agency that provides free, high quality legal services to permanent residents to help them become U.S citizens. This article is republished with permission, from projectcitizenship.org/citizenship-for-children/.

When I become a U.S. citizen, will my child also become a U.S. citizen?
Maybe. There are a few requirements for your child to become a U.S. citizen, your child must:
1. Be under 18 years old when you become a citizen;
2. Be a legal permanent resident (have a green card);
3. Not be married; and
4. Live in the U.S. with you in your legal and physical custody.
When your child fulfills all of these requirements, he/she will automatically become a citizen. These requirements may happen in any order, as long as everything happens before your child turns 18 years old. These cases can be complicated and each case is different. 

I became a citizen after my child was 18 years old. Did he/she become a citizen when I did?
No. For your child to automatically become a citizen when you did, your naturalization would have had to occur before his/her 18th birthday. If your child has had a green card for at least 5 years and is over 18, he/she may be eligible to apply for naturalization on his/her own by completing the N-400 application.

Can my stepchild become a citizen when I become a citizen?
No. Stepchildren cannot derive citizenship from their stepparents. Currently, only biological children and some adopted children become U.S. citizens when a parent naturalizes.

How can I get proof of my child’s citizenship?
If your child became a citizen when you naturalized, you have two options. You may apply for a Certificate of Citizenship for your child and/or you may apply for a U.S. passport for your child.

What is a Certificate of Citizenship? How do I apply for one?
The Certificate of Citizenship is a certificate similar to your naturalization certificate that proves your child is a citizen of the United States. You may apply for a Certificate of Citizenship by filling out a Form N-600. In addition to the application, you will need to submit additional supporting documents, which may include:

  • A copy of the U.S. citizen parent’s birth certificate (with translation, if necessary);
  • A copy of the child’s birth certificate (with translation, if necessary);
  • Proof of the parent’s U.S. citizenship (a copy of the Naturalization Certificate);
  • A copy of the parent’s marriage certificate (with translation, if necessary);
  • Proof of legal custody (if the child’s parents are divorced or separated);
  • A copy of the child’s green card; and/or
  • Proof of residence or physical presence in the U.S. (ex. school records, leases, employment).

How much does the Certificate of Citizenship cost?
The application fee for the Certificate of Citizenship is $1,170. However, if you receive public benefits, your household income is below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, or you have some other financial hardship, you may be eligible for a fee waiver.

What are the benefits of a Certificate of Citizenship?
The Certificate of Citizenship is documentary proof of your child’s citizenship. It is also U.S. government-issued photo identification. Unlike a U.S. passport, a certificate of citizenship never expires.

What are the benefits of getting a U.S. passport?
A passport can be used to travel abroad and can also be used to prove your child’s U.S. citizenship. However, a passport must be renewed every 5 years (while the child is under 16), and then every 10 years once the child is an adult.

How do I apply for a U.S. passport for my child?
To apply for a passport for your child, you must fill out and submit Form DS-11 with all necessary documentation. You can find this application online or at a local U.S. Post Office. If you have a Certificate of Citizenship, you will need to include a copy of it with the passport application. If you do not have a Certificate of Citizenship, you will need to submit the following documents with the passport application:

  • A copy of the U.S. citizen parent’s Naturalization Certificate;
  • A copy of the child’s birth certificate (with translation, if necessary);
  • Proof of the child’s admission as an LPR (copy of the child’s green card); and
    A copy of the parent’s marriage certificate
  • Proof that the child was in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent

To find out more about Project Citizenship, go to projectcitizenship.org/.

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