Derivative Citizenship


Derivative citizenship is citizenship which is been given to a child through the naturalization of parents or to foreign-born children adopted by US citizen parents.

When a person gets derivative citizenship, it happens automatically neither the parent nor the child must apply for derivative citizenship. However, the legal requirements for getting this kind of citizenship are very complex and have changed a lot over the years.

There have always been two important elements in this regard: firstly, they are the naturalization of the parent or parents before the child at a certain age and secondly, lawful permanent resident of the child before a certain age.

The Child Citizenship Act (CCA) is the recent law which includes guidelines for children who were not born in the US but automatically become a US citizen under certain conditions. CCA was commenced on February 27, 2001.

This law governs how a child can automatically derive US citizenship from the naturalization of a parent or from adoption by a US citizen parent.

Those children who qualify the guidelines and rules mentioned in this law automatically become US citizens without having to apply for a certificate of citizenship or a passport, although they are been provided with such documents in order to have proof of their status.

Under this act a child can automatically acquire US citizenship when all the below mentioned requirements are fulfilled:

  • · At least one of the parents is a US citizen, by birth or by naturalization.
  • · The child is under the age of 18 yrs.
  • · If a child resides in the legal and physical custody of a US citizen parent.
  • · If the child is a lawful permanent resident and if the child is adopted, the adoption process must have to be fully completed.

If a child is of 18 years of age or older on February 27, 2001, when this law came into action, do not qualify for automatic citizenship under the Child Citizenship Act (CCA), even if they fulfill all other mentioned requirements.

If they wish to become US citizens, they must apply for naturalization and meet all the eligibility requirements for adult lawful permanent residents.

Any child who enters the US jurisdiction on an IR4 visa has to be adopted in the US and then he/she can acquire US citizenship when the adoption process is fully completed in the US.

If your child is a lawful permanent resident of the US, then you can apply for proof of citizenship by filing an Application for Certificate of Citizenship.

However, if you were under the age of 18 yrs on this date then you have to fulfill certain requirements in order to get derivative citizenship.

One of the primary changes made in this law was that only one parent has to be a US citizen. However, before the enforcement of this law .i.e., before 27 February 2001, both the parents have to become a US citizen.

The only exception to this law is that if the parents were legally separated or divorced, then the child would gain automatic derivative citizenship if he/she was living in the legal and physical custody of the US citizen parent.

For more information about derivative citizenship, please contact an immigration attorney from for an evaluation of your case.