In most cases, children born outside the U.S. are automatically granted American citizenship, as long as one of their parents is a U.S. citizen at the time of birth. If the child marries and has children, his or her children may also acquire U.S. citizenship at birth. However, the laws governing whether or not a child born outside of the United States can acquire U.S. citizenship from his or her parents have changed several times. Therefore, there may be some exceptions. Generally, the law that was in effect on the date of the child’s birth determines whether he or she acquired citizenship from a parent or grandparent. For example, a child born abroad before November 14, 1986 can only acquire citizenship if one of his or her parents is a U.S. citizen and that parent lived in the United States for at least 10 years. Five of those years in the United States must occur after the citizen parent’s 14th birthday. It’s important to note that if you’re eligible for citizenship by birth, but didn’t meet a resident requirement because you were unaware of it, you may still be able to claim your citizenship. You must be able to prove that you lost your citizenship because you didn’t know about your citizenship or the residency requirement necessary to maintain it. To receive information on how to establish your claim to U.S. citizenship, contact the U.S. consulate in your home country. Procedures differ from consulate to consulate, but the factors you’re asked to prove are the same everywhere. Generally, parents must record a child’s birth abroad by registering it with a U.S. consulate or embassy. The record becomes the proof of citizenship. The child may also apply for a passport to have his or her citizenship recognized. In the event that the child needs additional proof, he or she may file an “Application for Certificate of Citizenship,” or Form N-600, with the Immigration and Naturalization Service to get an official certificate of citizenship. If there’s anyone in your direct line of ancestry that may be a U.S. citizen, it’s worth investigating what the laws were on the date of your birth and your ancestors’ birth. Many people’s quests for a green card have ended by the unexpected discovery that they’re already U.S. citizens.