Could You Be a Citizen and Not Even Know It?

In recent months, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has seen a significant number of cases of individuals starting the naturalization process without realizing they are already citizens.

The reason? The Child Citizenship Act, which went into effect on Feb. 27, 2001. Under this act, children who were born to naturalized citizens and under the age of 18 on or after the date the law was enacted are automatically citizens. The child must also be living in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident (LPR) and under the age of 18 when one of his/her parents becomes a U.S. citizen.

It appears some immigrants didn’t realize their children were citizens, causing their children to unnecessarily apply for U.S. citizenship as adults.

Immigrants who gain citizenship through their parents do not have a naturalization certificate. Instead, there are a couple of other options available to prove U.S. citizenship. One is the N-600, Certificate of Citizenship. This certificate is for persons who acquired citizenship through naturalization of a parent or who were born to a U.S. citizen parent outside of the U.S. Another option is a U.S. passport. Parents can apply for these I.D.s for their children.

While it is not required to apply for proof of derived citizenship, it is a good idea to have it, just in case. LPRs convicted of certain crimes can be deported from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can mistake citizens for noncitizens, and Jacqueline Stevens at Northwestern University estimates that up to one percent of ICE detainees are actually U.S. citizens. Having identification proving U.S. citizenship might save a person months or years of trying to convince ICE that he or she should not be deported.

Visit this USCIS resource for more information about how children can become U.S. citizens through their parents.

Posted on May 10, 2016

Our Impact

  • The Campaign has completed over 3,700 naturalization workshops and clinics.
  • Over 250,000 citizenship applications completed since July 2011.

    Saved aspiring citizens and their families over $206million in legal and application fees.
  • Adopted scalable technology. MP3 players, Google Voice, and Virtual Private Network (VPN) services are being used to enhance naturalization service delivery.
  • Expanded New American Workforce (an effort to provide naturalization assistance within corporations) which has partnered with over 100 businesses across the nation, ranging from hotels in Miami to American Apparel in Los Angeles.
  • Deployed Citizenshipworks, an online tool, across the Campaign in multiple settings and languages. A newly redesigned platform guides applicants through through their citizenship application from start to finish and connects applicants to legal help at partnering non-profits.
  • Were instrumental in inspiring the US Citizenship and Immigration Service to support the Citizenship Corners initiative.
  • Created innovative partnerships with public libraries, school districts, universities, social service agencies, and employers, all of which yield not only greater numbers of applicants but also greater awareness of the naturalization process.
  • Deployed a large-scale volunteer recruitment program through an e-learning course.

    Reached diverse communities. Local partners consistently outreach and provide culturally competent and language-appropriate services.
Learn more from our
Impact Report.

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Who We're Helping

People come to America from all over the world with dreams of achieving a better life for themselves and their families and calling this great nation home. Eight million people who live, work, and pay taxes in this country are eligible for citizenship, yet only about eight percent of them naturalize each year. Find out more about these individuals and the barriers they face.Read More