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Citizenship for Your Internationally Adopted Child

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Will My Child Be a United States Citizen?

In a word, yes. If the child you adopt internationally enters the U.S. on an IR-3 visa and fits the USCIS definition of “orphan,” your child will be a U.S. citizen thanks to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.

On October 30, 2000, President Clinton signed into law H.R. 2883, the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. The new law, Public Law 106-395, amends the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to permit foreign-born children — including adopted children — to acquire citizenship automatically if they meet certain requirements. This law became effective on February 27, 2001. The precise time that citizenship confers depends on the child’s immigration status upon entering the United States.

To be eligible for coverage under this law, a child must satisfy the USCIS definition of “child” by meeting the following requirements:

  • The child has at least one U.S. citizen parent;
  • The child is under 18 years of age;
  • The child is currently residing permanently in the U.S. in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent; and
  • The child is a lawful permanent resident of the U.S.

If the adoption was finalized in the foreign country and the child has been issued an IR-3 visa, citizenship automatically confers when the child legally enters the United States. If the adoption was not finalized abroad and the child was issued an IR-4 visa (which requires parents to adopt or re-adopt the child in the United States), citizenship confers instantly on the day the adoption is finalized in the United States.

Sound easy? It is, but here’s the catch: Proof of citizenship (such as U.S. passports or official citizenship certificates) is not automatically issued when a child holding an IR-4 visa qualifies for U.S. citizenship under this law. (On January 20, 2004, all internationally adopted children entering the U.S. on an IR-3 visa will automatically receive a Certificate of Citizenship within 45 days of their entry into the United States.)

Parents who want to document their child’s citizenship can apply for a U.S. passport from the Department of State and/or can apply for a Certificate of Citizenship from USCIS. To apply for the Certificate of Citizenship for an internationally adopted child, parents must file USCIS Form N-600 along with a filing fee and required supporting documentation.

Additional Resources:

Credits: Excerpted from "International Adoption Guidebook," Mary M. Strickert, 2004

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