Citizenship by Birth

U.S. citizenship can be acquired at birth by:

  • birth in the U.S.; or
  • birth to a U.S. citizen parent.

Children born on U.S. soil are automatically U.S. citizens, regardless of the legal status of their parents. (An exception to this rule applies to children born on U.S. soil to some foreign diplomats).

The laws determining how citizenship is passed on to children born outside the U.S. have changed several times over the last seventy years, and whether citizenship is passed on depends on which law was in effect when the child was born. Essentially, whether a child born abroad is a U.S. citizen will depend on when the child was born, the citizenship of the parents, and how long the U.S. citizen parent resided in the U.S. prior to the birth of the child.

Foreign-born children can also derive U.S. citizenship automatically through adoption by a U.S. citizen parent. Citizenship is derived when the child (under the age of 18) enters the U.S. as an immigrant and the adoption is complete.