Is Your Child a US Citizen if Born Abroad?

Having a child while living abroad can raise questions about the child’s citizenship status. Here are some key things US citizen parents need to know about transmitting citizenship to children born overseas.

Citizenship Requirements for Children Born Abroad to US Citizens

In general, a child born abroad can acquire US citizenship at birth if at least one parent is a US citizen who meets certain residency requirements. The specific requirements depend on whether the US citizen parent is the father or mother.

For births to married parents, if the US citizen parent has lived in the US for at least 5 years, with at least 2 of those years being after the age of 14, the child is usually a US citizen at birth. For births to unmarried parents, the residency requirements are stricter for US-citizen fathers than mothers.

Steps to Document the Child’s US Citizenship

Parents will need to document their child’s US citizenship by reporting the birth to the nearest US consulate and applying for a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA). This serves as proof of the child’s US citizenship.  

Parents will also need to apply for a US passport for the child. This allows the child to travel to the US and serves as additional proof of citizenship.

Benefits of US Citizenship for Children Born Abroad

There are many benefits to making sure your child born abroad acquires US citizenship at birth. These include:

  • The right to enter and live permanently in the US without immigration restrictions
  • Eligibility for a US passport and protection abroad as a US citizen
  • Ability to pass US citizenship on to their own children born abroad
  • Eligibility for certain US government jobs and security clearances restricted to US citizens

Considerations If the Child Is Not a US Citizen

If your child does not qualify for US citizenship at birth, they can still become a citizen later through the naturalization process after moving to the US. However, naturalization has more requirements and does not happen automatically.

Non-citizen children will face immigration restrictions on entering the US. They cannot obtain a US passport. They also cannot pass US citizenship to any children they may have while still a non-citizen.

US Passport Renewal for a Child

Once a child has a US passport, it must be renewed periodically. For children under 16, US passports are valid for five years. After that, it needs to be renewed.

To renew a child’s US passport, complete Form DS-11 and submit it at an acceptance facility along with new passport photos and documentation. The renewal timeline should factor in processing time plus any international travel plans. Renew six months before expiration for smooth traveling. Full guidance on US passport renewal for a child can be found by clicking the link.

Children born overseas to US citizen parents often qualify for citizenship at birth. Taking the right steps to document this citizenship ensures your child can fully access their US rights and privileges. Consulting US consular officials abroad is the best way for parents to understand all the implications based on their specific situation.


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