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When are children granted citizenship automatically?

Becoming a U.S. citizen can be one of the most significant events in a person's life. People often put a lot of work and time into becoming a citizen, whether they do so through marriage or after years of living here with a green card.

For some people, the path to citizenship can begin the moment they are born and it may be largely out of their control. When it comes to children becoming U.S. citizens, it can be up to the parents and other relatives to take the necessary steps to help that child become a citizen. In some cases, however, citizenship may be automatic.

Generally speaking, a child born in the U.S. is automatically considered a citizen because of birthright citizenship, which is granted by the 14th Amendment. Birthright citizenship has been the subject of fierce political debates for generations and efforts to eliminate it have been made already this year. However, no such effort has been successful.

Children can also be granted citizenship automatically if they were born after 2001 and have at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen (naturalized or otherwise). If a child is a green card holder, under the age of 18 and living in the U.S., he or she can be automatically granted citizenship status if his or her parents become naturalized citizens. 

Finally, children can automatically become U.S. citizens if they are adopted from another country by U.S. citizens before the age of 16.

One of the most painful things that can happen is for children and their families to be separated due to citizenship or immigration status issues. If you or a loved one has concerns or questions about a child's status, it can be crucial to discuss the situation with an attorney familiar with the complex immigration laws in this country.

Source: Department of Homeland Security, "Citizenship Through Parents," accessed on Sept. 4, 2015

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