Adoptees

U.S. Citizenship

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA), codified as Sections 320 and 322 of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (INA), addresses U.S. citizenship for children born abroad, including adoptees. The CCA applies to persons who were/are under the age of 18 on or after its effective date, February 27, 2001.

INA §320 makes it possible for foreign-born children who did not acquire U.S. citizenship at birth through a U.S. citizen parent, to acquire U.S. citizenship automatically upon fulfilling the requirements of the statute while the child is under 18 years old.  

INA §322 provides for naturalization of foreign-born children residing abroad who are temporarily present in the United States and fulfill the requirements of the statute while under the age of 18.  The CCA applies to a child adopted by a U.S. citizen parent if the child qualifies as a child under INA §101(b)(1)(E)-adopted child, (F)-Non-Hague (orphan), or (G)-Hague Convention adoptee:

  • Adopted Child: A child adopted while under the age of 16 (or under the age of 18 if a birth sibling of the child was adopted by the same parents and the birth sibling meets the definition of either an adopted child or an orphan) who has been in the legal custody of the adopting parent for at least two years, and jointly resided with the adopting parent for at least two years; or

  • Orphan: A child who qualifies as an orphan and on whose behalf an immigrant petition has been filed while under the age of 16 (or while under the age of 18 if the birth sibling of a child who was adopted by the same parents is or will be immigrating as an orphan or adopted child to qualify under subsection (F).  

  • Hague Convention Adoptee: A child who qualifies as a Hague Convention adoptee and on whose behalf an immigrant petition has been filed while under the age of 16 (or while under the age of 18 if the birth sibling of a child who was adopted by the same parents is or will be immigrating as an orphan, adopted child, or Hague Convention adoptee to qualify under subsection (G).  

The adoption must be final and irrevocable for the child to acquire U.S citizenship.

INA §320: Children Born Outside of the United States and Residing in the United States; Conditions under which Citizenship is Automatically Acquired 
An adopted child born outside of the United States automatically becomes a citizen of the United States when all of the following conditions have been fulfilled:

  • A final adoption;
  • At least one of the child’s parents is a U.S. citizen by birth or naturalization; 
  • The child is residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residence; 
  • The child is under 18 years of age. 

If a child is admitted with an IR-3 or IH-3 visa and acquires U.S. citizenship under the INA 320, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will automatically either mail the Certificate of Citizenship if the child is under age 14, or schedule the oath and pick-up of the Certificate of Citizenship at a local field office if the child is over age14.  

If a child is admitted with an IR-4 or IH-4 visa, USCIS does not automatically mail a Certificate of Citizenship.  Parents whose children were admitted with an IR-4 or IH-4 visa may have to take additional steps in order for the child to acquire citizenship under INA 320.  Once those additional steps have been taken the child may file a Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship, with USCIS.  You may also apply for a U.S. passport for your adopted child, at which time a domestic passport center or consular officer abroad will determine whether your child automatically acquired U.S. citizenship.  Some federal, local and state agencies may check USCIS immigration systems to verify citizenship status.  USCIS systems will not be updated with a child’s citizenship status unless the family obtains a Certificate of Citizenship.

INA §322: Children Born and Residing Outside of the United States; Conditions for Naturalizing
Under §INA 322, a U.S. citizen parent (or, if the citizen parent has died within the five years immediately prior to the application being filed, a citizen grandparent or legal guardian) may apply for naturalization on behalf of a child born abroad who has not acquired U.S. citizenship automatically under INA §320.  The child may naturalize and become a United States citizen if all of the following conditions have been fulfilled: 

  • At least one parent of the child is a U.S. citizen, whether by birth or naturalization; 
  • The U.S. citizen parent has been physically present in the United States or an outlying possession for a total of at least five years, at least two of which are after the age of 14.  If the child's U.S. citizen parent cannot meet the physical presence requirement, this requirement may be met through proof that the child's U.S. citizen grandparent has been physically present for such time; 
  • A Form N-600K application must be filed and adjudicated before the child turns age of 18; 
  • The child must be interviewed and take the Oath of Allegiance (unless waived) before a USCIS officer while under the age of 18;
  • The child is residing outside the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen applicant (or, if the citizen parent is deceased, an individual who does not object to the application); 

The child is temporarily present in the United States pursuant to a lawful admission, and is maintaining such lawful status.

Parents residing abroad may file the application for a Certificate of Citizenship while abroad using Form N-600K, Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322, with the necessary filing fee.  Children who naturalize under this provision must appear before a USCIS officer in the United States and take an oath of allegiance, unless waived.   A child of a member of the Armed Forces accompanying his or her parent abroad on official orders may take the oath and naturalize abroad without having to travel to the United States.

Children Who Did Not Acquire U.S. Citizenship or Naturalize

Persons who were 18 years of age or older as of February 27, 2001 (the effective date of the CCA) did not acquire U.S. citizenship automatically under the CCA.  They may, however, have acquired U.S. citizenship pursuant to former INA §§320 and 321, or other historical sections, if the applicable requirements of those sections were met.  

Some adoptees have found that although they were legally adopted and have been lawful permanent residents for most of their lives, they are not U.S. citizens.  Some have discovered this as young adults when applying for their first jobs, registering to vote, applying for a U.S. passport.

A foreign-born adoptee who has reached the age of 18, and  did not naturalize or acquire U.S. citizenship under the CCA or its predecessor statutes may apply for naturalization by filing the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, with USCIS if eligible.  

To find out more information about how to obtain U.S. citizenship, please see USCIS' online citizenship information.  Also visit our CCA FAQs.

Adoption Records

In intercountry adoption cases, federal accreditation standards require accredited or approved adoption service providers to retain or archive records in a safe, secure, and retrievable manner for the period of time required by applicable state law. 

Such archiving ensures that:

  • Personal data gathered for an adoption is used for the purposes for which the information was gathered and sensitive individual information is protected from unauthorized disclosure; 
  • Non-identifying information about the adoptee's health history or background is accessible to the adoptee and the adoptive parents; 
  • 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. 

If an accredited or approved adoption service provider was acting as a primary provider in your intercountry adoption case, you may contact that adoption service provider to request copies of your adoption records. Their contact information is available on the Intercountry Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity, Inc. (IAAME)’s website.

You may also consider retrieving copies of your adoption and immigration-related documents, including your birth certificate, adoption decree, and Permanent Resident Card with your Alien Registration Number, from USCIS.  This can be done for free by filing Form G-639, Freedom of Information Act/ Privacy Act Request under the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. §552).  Please refer to the USCIS Freedom of Information Act Request Guide.

Travel Information

If you plan to travel abroad, please note that these travel tips are for individuals with U.S. citizenship.  USCIS provides travel tips for U.S. lawful permanent residents. 

U.S. Passport
U.S. citizens are required by law to enter and depart the United States on a valid U.S. passport. Only the Department of State has the authority to grant, issue, or verify U.S. passports.

The Department of State’s Passport Application Wizard can help with determining which passport form to file, how to complete the form online, and estimate your payment. 

Obtaining a Visa
In addition to a U.S. passport, a visa may be needed to travel abroad.  If required, visas are affixed to a traveler’s passport and may be necessary to enter a foreign nation.  To find information about obtaining a foreign visa, see the Department of State’s Country Specific Information.

Travel Preparation
The Department of State administers the Consular Information Program to inform the public of conditions abroad that may affect their safety and security.  Country Specific Information, Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings are vital parts of this program.  Learn about your destination

Staying In Touch
When traveling, we encourage travelers to enroll with the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Enrollment makes it possible to contact you if necessary. Whether there is a family emergency in the United States or a crisis in the country you are visiting, enrollment assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to reach U.S. citizens abroad.

Enrollment is free and can be completed online via the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

Additional Resources

Last Updated: September 12, 2018