U.S. Citizenship

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000, which became effective on February 27, 2001, addresses citizenship concerns for adoptees. The law amends Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to facilitate the automatic acquisition of U.S. citizenship for adopted (and biological) children of U.S. citizens who are born abroad and who do not acquire U.S. citizenship at birth. It allows certain foreign-born, adopted children of American citizens to acquire American citizenship automatically. Because of this law, U.S. citizenship will be conferred automatically upon thousands of children currently in the United States.

Adoptees legally residing in the United States on February 27, 2001 automatically became U.S. citizens on that date, provided the following conditions were met:

  • Full and final adoption;
  • Adoptee under age 18;
  • Adoptee living in the legal and physical custody of at least one
  • American citizen parent; and
  • Adoptee entered the United States as an immigrant for lawful permanent residence.

If you meet the above conditions, you more than likely automatically acquired citizenship when the law became effective. You do not have to apply for a certificate of citizenship; however, you may do so through USCIS.

Children who were 18 years of age or older on February 27, 2001 did NOT acquire American citizenship from the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. Because of this, in recent years, many adoptees have found that although they have been legally adopted and have been U.S. residents for most of their life, they do not hold U.S. citizenship. Many discovered this as young adults when applying for their first jobs, registering to vote, applying for a U.S. Passport, or unfortunately, when getting into trouble with the law and facing deportation to a country they no longer call home.

The reasons vary. Yet, the fact remains that many adoptees are considered to be foreign-born, non-citizens and don't even know it.

If you are a foreign-born, non-citizen adopted person, and would like to apply for U.S. citizenship, you must first retrieve your adoption documents from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to begin the process. This can be done for free through the Freedom of Information Act. Please refer to the USCIS Freedom of Information Act Request Guide.

To find out more information about how to obtain U.S. citizenship, please see USCIS' online citizenship information.

Adoption Records

Federal regulations govern the preservation of Convention records for Adoptions that take place under the Hague Adoption Convention. Regulations require accredited or approved adoption service providers to retain or archive adoption records in a safe, secure, and retrievable manner for at least 75 years, or the period of time required by applicable state law, if that is longer.

Such archiving ensures that:

  1. Personal data gathered for an adoption is used for the purposes for which the information was gathered and sensitive individual information is safeguarded;
  2. Non-identifying information about the adoptee's health history or background is accessible to the adoptee and the adoptive parents; and
  3. A plan exists to transfer adoption records to an appropriate custodian who will ensure the accessibility of the records in the event that the adoption service provider ceases to provide adoption services.

To learn more about the retention, preservation, and disclosure of adoption records for Convention adoptions, see 22 CFR Part 96.42.

Travel Information

At some point in their lives, many adoptees travel to their country of birth. Reasons for doing so vary and are deeply personal. If you decide to travel abroad, we offer some resources that will help you prepare for your trip.

U.S. Passport

A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and leave most foreign countries. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue, or verify United States passports.

Give yourself several months before your planned trip to apply for a passport; during peak application times it can take up to 10-12 weeks to receive the final document in the mail. Take into account the time of year you are applying-demand for passports goes up during the spring and summer.

If this is your first passport, you will need to apply in person at your local passport acceptance facility. Find the closest office to you. Facilities may include many Federal, state and probate courts, post offices, some public libraries, and a number of county and municipal offices.

Getting or renewing a passport is easy. The Passport Application Wizard will help you determine which Passport form you need, help you to complete the form online, estimate your payment, and generate the form for you to print.

Travel Preparation

Our Bureau, the Bureau of Consular Affairs provides Country Specific Information for every country of the world. This information provides you with key details about various issues, including entry requirements, health information, crime and security information, and any areas of instability. It's a good idea to check this Country Specific Information before your trip abroad.

We also recommend paying attention to our Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts before traveling. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid a certain country. We issue Travel Alerts to disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions that pose significant risks or disruptions to Americans.

Staying In Touch

When traveling, we encourage you to register your trip with the Department of State. Travel registration makes it possible to contact you if necessary. Whether there's a family emergency in the United States, or a crisis in the country you are visiting, registration assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.

Registration is free and can be done online.

Additional Resources