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Your child is a US citizen if he or she was born in the USA (except if the parents were foreign diplomats on official duty in the USA at the time).

Your child is also a US citizen if he or she was born abroad and both parents are US citizens at least one of whom had a residence in the US or possession at any time before the birth of the child.

If only one parent is a US citizen (mother or father), that parent must have been physically present in the US or possession at least five years, at least two of which were after the parent's 14th birthday, prior to the child's birth.  Any periods of presence in the US, even a few days, can be counted towards the five year total. Time spent in the US when not a US citizen (i.e., before being naturalized) can also be counted. Time spent abroad in honorable US military service, employment with the US Government or intergovernmental international organization (of which the US is a member), or as a dependent unmarried son or daughter and member of the household of a parent in such service or employment, may be included. (For births before November 14, 1986, the American parent had to have been physically present in the US for at least ten years, at least five of which were after age 14.)  

In addition, if the father was not married to the mother at the time of birth, a blood relationship must be established between the father and the child, and the father must have been a US citizen at the time of the child’s birth. The father (unless deceased) must agree in writing to support the child until 18 years and while the child is under 18 years (i) the child is legitimated, (ii) the father acknowledges paternity, or (iii) paternity is established by court adjudication.

Note that starting June 12, 2017, due to a Supreme Court decision, the same rules apply for children born to unwed American mothers.  

Other rules apply for children born abroad before 1952.

See the flowchart below or consult the Table of Transmission Requirements for determining possible US citizenship at birth for children born abroad to an American mother and/or father.

As a general rule, children born abroad to a US citizen parent or parents should have the birth registered at the nearest US consulate before the child's 18th birthday.  If your child was registered at a US consulate at the time of birth and you wish to replace or amend this document (DS-1350 or FS-240 "Consular Report of Birth Aboad") you can access the Washington Office of the US Department of State using this link: travel.state.gov

Note that if you, the American parent, have satisfied the US presence requirements before your child's birth, your child born abroad will always have a claim to US citizenship, even if you do not specifically request a Consular Report of Birth Abroad.

 

What happens if my child has no claim to US citizenship at birth?

Your child born abroad may perhaps not qualify for US citizenship at birth because the American parent has not satisfied the US presence requirement as explained above.  If this is the case, there are two methods for possibly having your minor child (under age 18) NATURALIZED as a US citizen:

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (Section 320: child immigration)

and

naturalization under Section 322 (invoking the parent's OR grandparent's 5-year US presence using Form N-600K).

One or both of these methods may be applicable in your case if your child is not a US citizen at birth. These methods are optional; if you do not pursue either of these methods before the child's 18th birthday or if you do not qualify then your child will have no claim to US citizenship.

 

Citizenship flowchart

Flowchart for determining possible claims to US citizenship at birth since 1986.

 

This ACA webpage updated June 12, 2020