Citizenship through parents

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Updated: 4/13/2007 3:36 pm
If you were born in the United States or both of your parents are American citizens and you’ve been living in the United States, the laws make it quite clear that you’re automatically granted American citizenship. However, if you were born abroad or your parents are naturalized citizens, the laws that determine whether or not you can acquire citizenship through your parents are more complex. To determine which law affects your citizenship status, you must apply the law that’s passed immediately prior to your birth date. For example, if you were born in 1980, you must adhere to the amendment passed in 1978 and satisfy all the requirements that the amendment asks for. One of the requirements you may be required to meet is a residency requirement. This requirement will usually depend on whether one or both of your parents were U.S. citizens at the time of your birth. If you were born abroad and only one of your parents was an American citizen at the time of your birth, the citizen parent must meet a residency requirement and live in the United States for a certain period of time in order to pass on citizenship to a child. In some instances, you may also have to fulfill a residency requirement to keep from losing your citizenship. As stated before, the residency requirement that your parent or you must meet will depend on the existing law at time of your birth. If you were born to naturalized parents, the laws automatically grant citizenship to you, provided you were under 18 years old and had a green card at the time your parents’ naturalization took place. Some people with naturalized parents mistakenly think that they’re not citizens because they, themselves, never took part in a naturalization interview and ceremony. Keep in mind, however, that the laws on automatic naturalization of children have also varied over the years. As a result, you must adhere to the laws that existed when your parents’ naturalization took place. Generally, if there’s a possibility that someone in your direct line of ancestry is a U.S. citizen or naturalized citizen, it can be well worth your time and effort to explore the laws in effect on you and your ancestors’ date of birth. It may be that you’re already a U.S. citizen and don’t know it.

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