How Do Children Adopted Oversees Gain US Citizenship?
When US citizen parents adopt a child from another country, the child may gain US citizenship through one of three routes: upon entering the US, upon application for a Certificate of Citizenship by the parents, or upon completion of the naturalization process.
Upon Entering the US
Most children adopted through international adoptions become US citizens upon entering the US. Under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, adopted children may acquire US citizenship automatically when the following conditions are met:
- The child has been adopted by at least one US citizen parent
- The child is under the age of 16 at the time the adoption is finalized
- The adoption is finalized
The majority of countries require US parents to complete an international adoption in the child's current country of residence. This means the parents must meet all of that country's requirements for adoption, which may be different from those required under US law. Once the adoption is completed, the parents may file for a visa for the adopted child to travel to the US. The child becomes a US citizen once a government official allows the child to enter the US at a port of entry.
This process may sound simple, but there are many steps that must be taken before US parents can adopt a child from another country. The process for securing a visa for the adopted child also can be time-consuming. For more information on the international adoption process, contact an immigration attorney experienced in this area of practice.
Upon Filing for a Certificate of Citizenship
In order for the adoption to be considered completed overseas according to US law, both parents must have seen the child prior to adoption. In some cases, a guardian or legal representative may be able to complete the adoption process overseas or take custody of the child and bring him or her to the US. In these cases, the adoption must be completed in the US before the child will be eligible for US citizenship.
Once the adoption is completed, the parents must file for a Certificate of Citizenship with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The adoption must be completed before the child turns 16 in order for the child to be eligible for citizenship benefits as a child.
Whether the adoption is completed overseas or in the US, the adoption must be completed while the child is less than 16 years old for citizenship purposes. If the child turns 16, the child will have to wait until he or she reaches 18 years old to apply for citizenship. There is an exception in cases where the family adopts the biological sibling of a child under age 16. In these cases, the adoption of the sibling must be completed before the sibling turns 18 years old.
If the adoption was not completed until the child passes the age limitation, the child will need to complete the naturalization process in order to become a US citizen. As with other applicants, adopted children must meet all of the requirements for naturalization before their application will be approved, including residing in the US as a legal permanent resident for at least five years.
If you have questions about adopting a child from another country, gaining US citizenship for a child adopted overseas or other immigration questions, contact an experienced immigration attorney for legal advice.
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