Citizenship for Adopted Children

If you or your spouse is a U.S. citizen and your adopted child is under age 18, the child may be able to obtain U.S. citizenship immediately after getting his or her green card—or even before, depending on whether you live in the U.S. or overseas. (This is based on the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.) There are two possible scenarios.

If you live in the U.S.: You will need to start by applying for your adopted child to enter the U.S. as a permanent resident. But the child’s citizenship will follow soon after entry to the U.S. As soon as your child is living in your legal and physical custody, your child will become a citizen automatically. You don’t even need to submit an application, although you will probably want to apply for the child’s U.S. passport for proof purposes.

If you are living overseas with your adopted child: Your child may be able to become a citizen by taking a quick trip to the U.S. The child could enter the U.S. on a tourist visa and submit an application for a certificate of citizenship on Form N-643 (“Application for Certificate of Citizenship on Behalf of Adopted Child”). You’ll have to prove that:

• Whichever parent is a U.S. citizen has, in the past, been physically present in the U.S. or outlying possessions for a total of five years, two of which were after the age of 14

• The child is under age 18

• The child lives in your legal and physical custody while outside the U.S.

• The child is temporarily in the U.S. after entering lawfully (most likely with a visa), and

• The child is maintaining his or her lawful status (in other words, the visa or other permission hasn’t expired and the child hasn’t violated its terms).

For planning purposes, note that the child will have to wait in the U.S. until the application has been processed (which could take several months) and until the child is sworn in as a citizen.

In October 2000, President Clinton signed into law the “Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000,” which implements the Hague Convention on International Adoption. This is expected to streamline and broaden opportunities for adoption of children from overseas. It will offer a third category of eligibility for adoption, open only to adoptees from countries that are party to the Hague Convention. However, it will probably be a few years before this law is actually implemented, since the government must first set up a Central Adoption Authority and issue regulations.

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