U.S. law on automatic and derived citizenship can be quite complex. It is in your best interest to consult an immigration lawyer in Miami or elsewhere if you have questions in regard to naturalization.
First, if you were born on U.S. soil or became a naturalized U.S. citizen and have been living in the United States, you clearly have U.S. citizenship. However, many other people are U.S. citizens and don’t know it. For instance, you may be a U.S. citizen if you have direct ancestors who were U.S. citizens, even if you were born elsewhere, or if your parents became U.S. citizens when you were a minor.
How do I obtain United States citizenship?
U.S. citizenship can be obtained in one of four ways:
- you were born in the United States or its territories
- you were born to U.S. citizen parents (called “acquisition” of citizenship)
- you naturalize (obtain citizenship after an application and exam), or
- your parents naturalize (called “derivation” of citizenship).
You may already be a U.S. citizen and not know it. Most of these people fall into one of three groups:
- People born in the United States who have lived most of their lives in other countries.
If you fall into this category, you may mistakenly believe that your long absence from the country, plus voting or military activities elsewhere, have stripped you of U.S. citizenship. This may not be the case. I would strongly advise you to consult with a Miami immigration lawyer to discuss your options.
- People who have U.S. citizens in their direct line of ancestry.
If your parents or grandparents were U.S. citizens, you may not realize that U.S. citizenship has been passed down the line. Again I would strongly advise you to consult with a Miami immigration lawyer to discuss your options.
- Children of naturalized U.S. citizens.
When parents become naturalized U.S. citizens, their minor children with green cards gain U.S. citizenship automatically.
To decide whether a person derived U.S. citizenship from a parent, we look at two sets of rules. One set applies to a child who was not yet 18 on Feb. 27, 2001. A second, less generous set of rules applies to a child age 18 or over on February 27, 2001.
For children that were not yet 18 on February 27, 2001, a child derives U.S. citizenship if they meet the following conditions:
- At least one parent is a U.S. citizen by birth or naturalization.
- The child is unmarried and not yet age 18.
- The child is residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the citizen parent
- The child is a permanent resident.
For a child already who was already age 18 on February 18, 2001, he/she may have derived U.S. citizenship upon the naturalization of a parent if:
- The other parent was or became a U.S. citizen before the child turned 18.
- The child was born illegitimate and the parent naturalized was the mother.
- The child’s other parent was deceased.
- The parents were divorced or separated and the parent being naturalized had legal custody of the child following the divorce or separation.
In summary, if a child is a permanent resident and under 18, and then the parent or parents naturalize, the child gets automatic citizenship. If the parent or parents naturalize and then the child gets permanent residence, the child becomes a U.S. citizen the moment he or she becomes a permanent resident, if that happens before the child is 18. Again, I would strongly urge you to consult a Miami immigration attorney to discuss your options.
If you think would like more information on how to become a United States Citizen, please contact Miami immigration attorney Michael G. Murray, Esq. at (305)895-2500 or visit our website at www. mmurraylaw.com