Foreign-Born Adoptees & the Child Citizenship Act
Most foreign-born adopted children acquire U.S. citizenship as soon as they enter the United States, thanks to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 [PDF] (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). Since passage of the law, they do not need to formally apply but become citizens automatically. Adoptive parents of foreign-born children may obtain a citizenship certificate for their child, but will need to go through the application process to do so.
This article focuses on the CCA and how it relates to foreign-born adoptees. See FindLaw's Citizenship section for additional articles and resources.
Is My Adopted Child Eligible Under the Child Citizenship Act?
In order for a foreign-born adopted child of U.S. parents to obtain automatic citizenship in accordance with the CCA, the applicant child:
- Has at least one adoptive parent who is a U.S. citizen, either by birth or through naturalization
- Is younger than 18
- Is in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent and is currently living in the U.S.
- Has lawful permanent resident status
- Was adopted in accordance with all other applicable immigration laws
Some foreign-born adopted children may need to wait until they have satisfied certain criteria before they automatically acquire citizenship. Still others (those living abroad) may need to formally apply to "naturalize," since the USCIS can't assume that an adoptee (or his/her parents) living abroad plans to live in the U.S. permanently.
Citizenship for Foreign-Born Adoptees: The Process
Orphans adopted by a U.S. citizen parent are citizens once their adoption is final and they have lawfully entered the United States as permanent residents. Children who did not immigrate as orphans, but who were adopted by a U.S. citizen parent and obtained lawful permanent resident status also automatically acquire citizenship (so long as they meet all the criteria prior to their 18th birthday). Foreign children who are adopted by U.S. citizens who reside overseas are also entitled to citizenship, but under slightly different criteria. Such children may file for naturalization during a legal, temporary visit to the U.S. so long as they are under 18 and their parents or grandparents meet certain other eligibility criteria.
Adopted children residing in the United States may file for a certificate of citizenship using USCIS Form N-600. Adopted children residing outside the United States may file for naturalization using USCIS Form N-600K.
Consider speaking with an immigration attorney in your area if you have additional questions or require representation.