Becoming a United States citizen without going through the Naturalization application process can either happen automatically if born on U.S. soil or incorporated territories, or if born overseas to at least one U.S. citizen parent. Strict requirements apply when deriving from a parent and vary according to the year of birth of the applicant. Thus, it is always recommended to speak to an experienced immigration attorney about your specific situation.
U.S. citizenship is granted either automatically by being born on U.S soil or incorporated territories (jus soli) or by having U.S. citizen parent(s) (jus sanguinis) from birth. A child can also acquire citizenship later through his or her parent(s)’s own naturalization if it occurred prior to the child reaching the age of 18.
A child born outside of the United States to one or two U.S. citizen parents may acquire U.S. citizenship at birth. Note that the laws have changed the requirements over the years, especially the Child Citizenship Act (CCA), effective February 27, 2001. One should consult with an experienced immigration attorney to find out whether he or she meets those requirements if there is any doubt.
Time abroad counts as physical presence in the United States if the time abroad was:
A person born abroad who acquires U.S. citizenship at birth is not required to file an Application for Certificate of Citizenship. It is recommended, however, that if the person seeks documentation of such status, to submit an application to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship from USCIS. A person may also apply for a U.S. Passport with the Department of State to serve as evidence of his or her U.S. citizenship.
A person who is at least 18 years of age may submit the Application for Certificate of Citizenship on his or her own behalf. If the application is for a child who has not reached 18 years of age, the child's U.S. citizen parent or legal guardian must submit the application.
Upon the approval of the Application for Certificate of Citizenship and provided the person takes the Oath of Allegiance, USCIS will issue a proof of U.S. citizenship in the form of a Certificate of Citizenship.
A child under 18 who was not born in the U.S. but has a U.S. citizen parent can also become a U.S. citizen upon meeting the requirements.
For a child who resides in the United States to automatically become a United States citizen, the child must:
For a child who regularly resides outside of the United States to be eligible for citizenship, the child must:
This area of law is convoluted. The assistance of a citizenship attorney is primordial to determine whether you or another family member acquired U.S. citizenship at birth or through derivation (via a U.S. citizen parent or even a grandparent).