Obtaining Citizenship or Documenting Acquired Citizenship for Adopted Children

The Office of Children’s Issues has received a high number of inquiries about whether individuals adopted through the intercountry process have acquired U.S. citizenship and how to go about documenting U.S. citizenship, if acquired. Claims to acquisition of citizenship cannot be pre-adjudicated, and the Office of Children’s Issues has no role in the adjudication process. Information is available on the Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) web pages and may be helpful resources.

U.S. Citizenship for an Adopted Child - USCIS

FAQs: Child Citizenship Act of 2000 – Department of State

Child Citizenship Act of 2000

The Child Citizenship Act (CCA) of 2000 allows certain foreign-born, biological and adopted children of U.S. citizens to acquire U.S. citizenship automatically. The CCA went into effect on February 27, 2001, and is found in section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Under INA 320, an adopted child will automatically acquire citizenship upon admission to the United States if he or she satisfies these conditions before turning 18:

  • Qualifies as a child under INA 101(b)(1)(E), (F), or (G),
  • Is admitted as a permanent resident, and
  • Is residing in the United States in the U.S. citizen parent(s)’ legal and physical custody.

Important Notes:

  • The child must have been under the age of 18 on February 27, 2001, in order to have benefited from the CCA.
  • In order for a child to qualify under the CCA, the adoptive parents must have completed a final adoption in the United States or abroad.
  • Generally, children residing abroad may also naturalize to become U.S. citizens based on their relationship to their U.S. citizen adoptive parents by filing Form N-600K per INA Section 322 and appearing for interview and, if over the age of 14, taking the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. For additional information, please visit www.uscis.gov.
  • Adoptees who are not eligible for U.S. citizenship under the CCA after admission to the United States will remain Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) and receive a Lawful Permanent Resident Card, Form I-551, from USCIS. Such individuals may seek U.S. citizenship through naturalization by filing USCIS Form N-400 when eligible to do so (generally only after turning 18 years old). For additional information about Form N-400 naturalization process and eligibility requirements, please visit the USCIS website Citizenship Through Naturalization.

Questions about Certificates of Citizenship for children who entered the United States with IR-3 or IH-3 visas can be directed to USCIS at Child-Citizenship-Act@uscis.dhs.gov.

Documentation of U.S. Citizenship

While derivation of U.S. citizenship may be automatic by operation of law, issuance of citizenship documentation is not necessarily automatic. Though there is no law requiring a U.S. citizen to have evidence of his or her U.S. citizenship status, many adoptive parents choose to obtain evidence of their adopted child’s U.S. citizenship. Documents that generally serve as evidence of U.S. citizenship for an adopted child include:

  • a Certificate of Citizenship or a Certificate of Naturalization, both issued by USCIS, and/or
  • valid U.S. passport issued by the Department of State.

Adoptees who had already entered the United States or were age 18 or older when the CCA went into effect on February 27, 2001, may not have automatically acquired U.S. citizenship but may apply for naturalization if eligible to do so, after demonstrating residence and physical presence in the United State for the required amount of time.

USCIS began issuing automatic Certificates of Citizenship to eligible adopted children who entered the United States with category IR-3 immigrant visas on January 1, 2004, and with category IH-3 immigrant visas on April 1, 2008. Certificates of Citizenship were not issued retroactively to adopted children who acquired citizenship under the CCA before these dates. In those cases, the child would have received a Permanent Resident card (or Green Card) upon admission to the United States. While such children may have automatically acquired U.S. citizenship under the CCA, the parent(s) or adult child must apply separately for a Certificate of Citizenship and/or a U.S. passport. Unlike Permanent Resident cards, Certificates of Citizenship and Certificates of Naturalization do not expire.

A child who is admitted to the United States with an IR-4 or IH-4 immigrant visa will still receive a Green Card. For both IR-4 and IH-4 children, some additional action needs to take place in order for the child to acquire citizenship. Such action depends on the facts of the specific case, and usually it requires finalizing the adoption in the U.S. in the state court where the child is residing. Upon completion of the final action(s), the parent(s) may apply for a Certificate of Citizenship and/or apply for a U.S. passport to obtain evidence of the child’s U.S. citizenship. An adoptee who is age 18 or older may apply for a Certificate of Citizenship and/or a U.S. passport on his or her own behalf.

To apply for a Certificate of Citizenship, use USCIS Form N-600 if the adoptee is residing in the United States or to apply for naturalization use Form N-600K if the adoptee is under age 18, meets eligibility requirements, and is residing outside of the United States.

The Department of State’s web site provides information about applying for a U.S. passport for a child under the age of 16, as well as how to apply for a first-time or renewal passport for ages 16 and older.

Types of Citizenship Documentation

The most common documents that prove you are a U.S. citizen are:

  • U.S. Birth Certificate
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad
  • Passport
  • Certificate of Citizenship
  • Naturalization Certificate, issued to you if you became a U.S. citizen through the naturalization process after you turned 18 years old.

The difference between a Certificate of Citizenship and a Certificate of Naturalization has to do with eligibility requirements under the INA. Both serve as evidence of U.S. citizenship and do not expire.

A U.S. passport is also evidence of U.S. citizenship provided the passport is valid and unexpired. Once expired, the individual’s citizenship may be re-adjudicated before issuance of a new U.S. passport. This does not mean the individual has lost his or her citizenship.

Last Updated: November 2, 2018