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Acquisition Of Citizenship For Children Born Outside The US In Wedlock

The Acquisition of US Citizenship chart below shows how a child born abroad in wedlock to US citizen parent(s) can acquire US citizenship at birth. These laws charged in 1934, in 1940, in 1952 and again in 1986.

Whether a child born abroad acquired US citizenship at birth depends on the following factors: (1) the child’s date of birth; (2) whether one parent or both parents were US citizens at the time that the child was born; and (3) in some instances, the length of time that the parent(s) resided or were physically present in the US or its outlying possessions (OLPs) regardless of the immigration status of the parent(s) at that time.

Attorney Carl Shusterman served as a Citizenship Attorney for the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) from 1976 to 1982, and decided hundreds of such applications (N-600s) for US citizenship.


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We hope that the following chart aids you in determining whether you, or your child, acquired US citizenship at birth.

Nationality Chart # 1

Period in which child was born.Citizenship of the parents at time of child’s birth.Determine if residence requirement was met prior to the birth of the child. If yes, the child was a USC at birth.Determine if child has lost US citizenship. The child lost on the date it became impossible to meet the retention requirements.
Prior to 5/24/34Either parent a USC*US citizen had resided in the USNONE
On/after 5/24/34 and prior to 1/13/41Both USCsOne parent had resided in the USNONE
One USC and one alienUSC parent had resided in the US** 5 years residence in the US or its OLP between ages 13 and 21. (Must start before age 16.)
On/after 1/13/41 and prior to 12/24/52One USC and one alienUSC had resided in the US or OLP for 10 years, at least 5 of which were after age 16. EXCEPTIONS for honorable service in US Armed Forces: 1. Between 12/7/41 & 12/31/46, 5 of the required 10 years must have been after age 12. 2. Between 1/1/47 & 12/24/52, 10 years physical presence, at least 5 of which were after age 14. Note 3OR ** 2 years continuous physical presence in US between ages of 14 and 28. (Must start before age 26.) OR ** NONE, if at time of child’s birth, USC parent was employed by the US Government or a specified US organization . does not apply if parent used an exception. Notes 1, 2, 4
Both USCsOne had resided in the US or OLP Note 3NONE
On/after 12/24/52 and prior to 11/14/86Both USCsOne had resided in the US or OLP Note 3NONE
One USC and one alienUSC physically present in US or OLP 10 years, at least 5 after age 14. Note 3NONE
On/after 11/14/86Both USCsOne had resided in the US or OLP N ote 3NONE
One USC and one alienUSC physically present in US or OLP 5 years, at least 2 after the age of 14. Note 3NONE


1. Absence of less than 12 months in the aggregate will not break residence; absence of less than 60 days in the aggregate will not break continuity of physical presence. Honorable service in the US Armed Forces counts as residence or physical presence.

2. A child is relieved from the retention requirements if, prior to his 18th birthday, the child begins to reside permanently in the US and the alien parent naturalizes.

3. Includes periods spent abroad while employed by the US government or an international organization OR as the dependent unmarried son or daughter member of the household of such employee.

4. Public Law 95-432 of October 10, 1978 repealed retention requirements prospectively only. Anyone born on or after 10/11/52 (i.e., not age 26 on 10/10/78) no longer had retention requirements.

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