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Legal Resources

Acquisition of U.S. Citizenship by a Child Born Abroad

Birth Abroad in Wedlock to Two U.S. Citizen Parents

A person born abroad in wedlock to a U.S. citizen mother and a U.S. citizen father acquires U.S. citizenship at birth under section 301(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), if one of the parents has had a residence in the United States or one of its outlying possessions prior to the person’s birth.

NOTE – MEANING OF “IN WEDLOCK”: a person is considered to be born in wedlock for the purposes of citizenship acquisition when the genetic and/or gestational parents are legally married to each other at the time of the person’s conception or birth or within 300 days of the termination of the marriage by death or divorce, and both parents are the legal parents of the child under local law at the time and place of birth. 

Birth Abroad in Wedlock to a U.S. Citizen and an Alien

A person born abroad in wedlock to a U.S. citizen and an alien acquires U.S. citizenship at birth if the U.S. citizen parent has been physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions prior to the person’s birth for the period required by the statute in effect when the person was born (INA 301(g), formerly INA 301(a)(7).) For birth on or after November 14, 1986, the U.S. citizen parent must have been physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for five years prior to the person’s birth, at least two of which were after the age of fourteen. For birth between December 24, 1952 and November 13, 1986, the U.S. citizen parent must have been physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for 10 years prior to the person’s birth, at least five of which were after the age of 14 for the person to acquire U.S. citizenship at birth. The U.S. citizen parent must be the genetic or the gestational parent and the legal parent of the child under local law at the time and place of the child’s birth to transmit U.S. citizenship.

Birth Abroad Out-of-Wedlock to a U.S. Citizen Father – “New” Section 309(a)

A person born abroad out-of-wedlock to a U.S. citizen father may acquire U.S. citizenship under Section 301(c) or 301(g) of the INA, as made applicable by the “new” Section 309(a) of the INA if:

  1. A blood relationship between the person and the father is established by clear and convincing evidence;
  2. The father had the nationality of the United States at the time of the person’s birth;
  3. The father (unless deceased) has agreed in writing to provide financial support for the person until the person reaches the age of 18 years, and
  4. While the person is under the age of 18 years --
  • the person is legitimated under the law of his/her residence or domicile,
  • the father acknowledges paternity of the person in writing under oath, or
  • the paternity of the person is established by adjudication of a competent court.

If you have questions about the contents of this section or related citizenship laws you should contact a private attorney.

Birth Abroad Out-of-Wedlock to a U.S. Citizen Father – “Old” Section 309(a)

A person born abroad out-of-wedlock to a U.S. citizen father may acquire U.S. citizenship under the formerly designated Sections 301(a)(3) and 301(a)(7) (changed to INA 301(c) and 301(g) effective October 10, 1978) of the INA as made applicable by the “old” Section 309(a) of the INA if the paternity of the child has been established by legitimation before the person turned 21. The “old” Section 309(a) of the INA is applicable to individuals who were 18 or older on November 14, 1986 and to individuals whose paternity had been established by legitimation prior to that date. Individuals who were at least 15 on November 14, 1986, but under the age of 18, could opt to have their claim determined in accordance with the provisions of either the “old” or the “new” Section 309(a).

Birth Abroad Out-of-Wedlock to a U.S. Citizen Mother:

A person born abroad out-of-wedlock to a U.S. citizen mother and alien father on or before June 11, 2017, may acquire U.S. citizenship under Section 309(c) of the INA if the mother was a U.S. citizen at the time of the person’s birth and if the mother was physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for a continuous period of one year prior to the person’s birth.

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Sessions v. Morales-Santana, 582 U.S. ___, 137 S.Ct. 1678 (2017), a person born abroad out-of-wedlock to a U.S. citizen mother and alien father on or after June 12, 2017, may acquire U.S. citizenship at birth if the mother was a U.S. citizen at the time of the person’s birth and was physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for a period of five years, two after the age of fourteen under Section 301(g) of the INA.

In all cases, the U.S. citizen mother must be the genetic or the gestational mother and the legal parent of the child under local law at the time and place of the child’s birth to transmit U.S. citizenship.

If you have questions about the contents of this section or related citizenship laws you should contact a private attorney.