Born in the United States

Anyone born in the United States or its territories acquires automatic US citizenship, according to the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Even children born in the US to non-resident foreigners on vacation acquire US citizenship by birth, even if they are also citizens of their parents' home country. Children born to foreign diplomats and other non-residents on official government business do not acquire US citizenship by birth.

Born Outside of the United States

In certain circumstances, persons born abroad may acquire US citizenship at birth through their parents. Generally, they must meet the following requirements:

  • At least one parent is a US citizen; and
  • The parent has been physically present in the US for a certain amount of time prior to the birth (5 years if only one parent was a US citizen at the time of birth; 1 year if both parents were US citizens).

For example, a US citizen living in Canada gives birth to a baby girl. Since the mother lived in the US continually for six years before moving to Canada, her daughter is eligible for US citizenship. If she had spent only four consecutive years in the US before giving birth in Canada, her child would not be eligible for citizenship.

In addition, children adopted by US citizen parents before the age of 18 become citizens, as do children under 5 with unknown parentage who are found in the United States. Children of naturalized US citizens also receive automatic citizenship, as long as they are 18 or younger and live with the naturalized citizen parent.

Specific Eligibility

Children born outside of the US may have to meet specific eligibility requirements for acquiring US citizenship at birth if certain statutory provisions apply. The provisions and their requirements are detailed below.

1. Child Born in Wedlock

A child whose parents are married and meets one of the following provisions acquires citizenship at birth.

  • Child of Two US Citizens: One parent must have lived in the United States (or US territory) for any amount of time.
  • Child of One US Citizen and One US National: The parent who is a US citizen must have lived in the US for at least one year.
  • Child of One US Citizen and One Foreign National: The parent who is a US citizen must have lived in the United States for at least five years (must include at least two years after US citizen was 14 years of age)
  • Child of US Citizen Mother and Foreign National Father: The child's US citizen mother must have resided in the US prior to the child's birth.

2. Child Born Out of Wedlock

A child whose parents are not married and meets one of the following provisions acquires citizenship at birth.

  • Child of US Citizen Father: The father-child blood relationship must be firmly established; the child's father must have been a US citizen at the time of birth, must agree to financially support the child (until child is 18 years old), and must have lived in the US for at least one year
  • Child of a US Citizen Mother: The mother lived in the United States for at least one continuous year before the child was born

Note: Time spent in the US armed forces or under the employment of the US government counts as time spent in the United States.

Those born outside the US that do not meet any of the above provisions may still become US citizens by first establishing permanent residency in the US and then naturalization.

Record of Citizenship at Birth

A birth certificate or birth record serves as proof of citizenship for persons who acquire citizenship at birth. Additional proof of citizenship can be obtained by filing Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship.