In its most common usage, the phrase “Acquired Citizenship” refers to citizenship by virtue of being born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent or parents. Also known as birthright citizenship, the child is said to “acquire” U.S. citizenship based on the citizenship of the parents. 

In most cases, the citizenship is automatically granted to the child, although the parents will probably need to file for the child’s documents that provide proof of U.S. citizenship. These include either a Certificate of Citizenship, or a Certificate of Consular Registration of Birth Abroad.  

Alternatively, acquired citizenship can refer to persons who have been granted the status of U.S. citizen through the naturalization process. This is not automatically granted to the person as it is in birthright citizenship- the naturalization process can be very lengthy and requires extensive documentation of the foreign national. 

How Do I Acquire Citizenship in the U.S.?

Naturalization is the most common way to acquire citizenship in the U.S. There are other factors which may not immediately result in acquired citizenship, but can greatly speed up the process. These factors include marriage or engagement to a U.S. citizenship; the existence of political turmoil in the country of origin (leading to political asylum status); and service in the United States military.

What Is “Derivative Citizenship”?

Derivative citizenship is a less common form of acquired citizenship. This refers to the conveying of citizenship upon children whose parents have been naturalized. In some cases, derivative citizenship can also be granted to foreign-born children who have been adopted by U.S. citizen parents. The child is said to “derive” their citizenship from the status of their parents.   

Derivative citizenship is not available in all instances.  The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA) provides several requirements for children to automatically acquire U.S. citizenship. 

Some of the main requirements for derivative citizenship through the parent’s naturalization are:

  • The child must have at least one American citizen through naturalization or by birth
  • The child must be under 18 years old
  • The child must live in the physical and legal custody of the citizen parent, AND
  • The child must be a lawful permanent resident of the U.S

For children who have acquired citizenship through adoption, the adoption must be complete and final. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with Acquired Citizenship?

The laws governing acquired citizenship can be complicated. They are also subject to change over time, since U.S. immigration policies can change from year to year. If you have any questions about acquired citizenship, or if you need help with acquiring U.S. citizenship, an immigration lawyer can provide much help. Your attorney will be able to explain all the citizenship options available to you, your spouse, or your children.