As we all know, there are many advantages to becoming a U.S. citizen. Advantages include having the ability to vote in local and national U.S. elections, traveling more easily across the globe with a U.S. passport and having the ability to help (sponsor) family members immigrate into the United States. The only issue clients tend to have with the process relates to their children obtaining citizenship.
U.S. immigration law provides a special pathway for minor children to obtain citizenship ahead of most other candidates, but it is not automatic. Naturalization law refers to the special process as granting the child “derivative status” or the status their parents have. There is, however, a lot of confusion about the rules for derivative status and what is needed to be able to receive it. I regularly help clients with their processes due to a number of different misconceptions about the process. The source of confusion is from the law itself. Actually, the laws since there have been five major changes to the citizenship laws since 1934 and a person’s eligibility depends on the era they were born to U.S. citizen parents.
The first misconception is that all minor children automatically become U.S. citizens when one or both of their parents become naturalized. As a general rule, the only people who automatically become citizens are those born inside the United States. There is no magical rule that creates citizenship once a parent takes their oath. Many new citizens are in outright disbelief when they are told that there are additional requirements for their child to be granted citizenship. A minor child can become a citizen “immediately” after their parent, but they first need to meet certain requirements such as already being a legal permanent resident. No immigrant can become a citizen until they first become a legal resident. Once the child is a resident, the proper forms must be filed and documents submitted for government review to verify and recognize their status. Although it is not a complicated process, it does take time, money and patience.
A second common misconception is that the child of U.S. citizen parents who happens to be born outside the U.S. is already a citizen because their parents are. Many parents have learned this lesson the hard way after attempting to enter the U.S. with their baby and being denied entry and told to come back with proof of citizenship and a passport to re-enter the U.S. Almost all parents in this situation are dumbfounded that there is a process for their baby. The special process is called “Birth of U.S. Citizen Abroad” and it requires the parents to attend an appointment at the U.S. Embassy to file paperwork for proper recognition of the birth and to obtain evidence of their status as a U.S. citizen. Most people have never heard of such a process and end up having to scramble at the last-minute to fix the problem before being able to return home to the U.S.
A third common misconception is that once one sibling becomes a citizen, then all other siblings automatically become citizens or the assumption that only one application must be filed to cover all children at the same time. Like most immigration processes, the method for obtaining citizenship is very individualized and depends on the facts of the person applying. The government does not consider or even care what the status of other family members is since their only role is to make sure that each and every applicant meets all the requirements for the particular method of citizenship being sought and that there is no evidence of violations of their legal permanent residency status.
Depending on the age of the child, as long as the individual can show that they meet all of the requirements, immigration will process the citizenship request and an approval will be granted in a few months. If the child is under 18 years old, the process is usually quick and will be granted without the need to ever meet with the government. If, however, the child is over 18 years old, they will be required to appear for an interview and take the citizenship exam just like any other applicant. Unfortunately, this also means that the adult will be required to meet all normal conditions for citizenship just like any other applicant.
Since there are so many factors involved in the naturalization process, it is recommended that interested immigrants speak with an experienced immigration attorney to help them follow the correct path. If you would like to discuss what options are available to you, please contact our office to schedule a consultation. You can do this by calling our office at 616-805-3435 or by using the following link to schedule an appointment online: https://marvinlawoffice.com/schedule-a-consultation/