Am I a U.S. Citizen?
Question: I thought it would be easy, but I am simply not sure if I am a U.S. Citizen or not. Can you let me know?
Answer: First is the principal of what is known as Jus Solis. This means that if you are born in the U.S., that you are a U.S. Citizen. Thus, if your mother comes to the United States for 5 minutes and gives birth to you and then leaves the United States and takes you with her, that you are a United States Citizen. It does not matter if you live in another country for the next 50 years. You can return at any time to the United States as a U.S. Citizen. There are no time limitations or requirements that you enter the United States periodically.
Question: How about if I was born outside the United States? Is there a way that I might still be considered to be a U.S. Citizen?
Answer: The answer is yes. However, it depends on certain factors. For example, you first have to look and see where your mother and/or father were born. If either your mother or father were born in the United States, then you would have the possibility that they could transmit U.S. Citizenship to you.
Question: Is this the same as Naturalization?
Answer: No. Naturalization is when you are a lawful permanent resident for a certain period of time and then meet the necessary requirements to apply to become a U.S. Citizen through naturalization. However, if you qualify to have citizenship transmitted through your mother or father, then you are considered a U.S. Citizen the moment you were born and it cannot be taken away from you.
Question: So how do I know if I am a U.S. Citizen if I was born outside the United States and my mother or father was born in the U.S.?
Answer: First, this is known as acquisition of citizenship. If it works, then your mother or father or both will ‘transmit’ citizenship to you. First, you have to be aware that the law that is applied to you for the transmission of citizenship will depend upon when you were born. It is not the law of today. Essentially, there are several changes to the law as time has passed, but only the law in effect when you were born is relevant here.
First, you would determine if you were born out of wedlock. If so, different laws will apply. Next, you will determine if it was your mother or father who was the U.S. Citizen. If it was the mother, you will have a much easier time of having your citizenship transmitted. She only would have needed to be in the United States for one year before your birth. However, if it was the father who was born in the U.S. He would have had to legitimate you prior to your 18th birthday. If he did not legitimate you, then you cannot have citizenship transmitted. Legitimation is a subject all of its own. Basically, however, he would have had to put in writing that you are his child and that he sent you support as you were growing up.
Question: What is the law today.
Answer: We have what is known as the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 or the CCA. If either the mother or father is a U.S. Citizen (born here or by Naturalization) and the child enters the United States as a Lawful Permanent Resident and enters the United States before he or she is 18 years old, then that child is automatically a United States Citizen. Thus, that child would be a resident for the plane ride to the United States and then become a United States Citizen when that child touches United States soil.
Thus, if your mother or father is a U.S. Citizen, make sure to seek help to determine if you can have citizenship transmitted to you through acquisition of citizenship.