How does a Certificate of Citizenship differ from a Naturalization Certificate?
The Certificate of Citizenship is an Identity document proving U.S. citizenship. Certificates of citizenship are issued to derivative citizens and to persons who acquired U.S. citizenship (see definitions for Acquired and Derivative Citizenship). A person who is naturalized goes through a specific procedure. He/she does not just become a citizen because of his parents or some other provision of the law. He/she must take affirmative steps to actually become a U.S. citizen.
Acquired Citizenship - Citizenship conferred at birth on children born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent(s).A child who is born in the United States, or born abroad to a U.S. citizen(s) who lived in (or came to) the United States for a period of time prior to the child’s birth, is considered a U.S. citizen at birth. A child who is:
- born to a U.S. citizen who did not live in (or come to) the United States for a period of time prior to the child’s birth, or
- born to one U.S. citizen parent and one alien parent or two alien parents who naturalize after the child’s birth, or
- adopted and is permanently residing in the United States can become a U.S. citizen by action of law on the date on which all of the following requirements have been met:
- The child was lawfully admitted for permanent residence*; and
- Either parent was a United States citizen by birth or naturalization**; and
- The child was still under 18 years of age; and
- The child was not married; and
- The child was the parent’s legitimate child or was legitimated by the parent before the child’s 16th birthday (Stepchildren or children born out of wedlock who were not legitimated before their 16 th birthday do not derive United States citizenship through their parents.); and
- If adopted, the child met the requirements of section 101(b)(1)(E) or (F) and has had a full and final adoption; and
- The child was residing in the United States in the legal custody of the U.S. citizen parent (this includes joint custody); and
- The child was residing in the United States in the physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent.
*In some cases, the child must have had an immigrant petition filed on his behalf before his 16 th birthday. Adoption has special rules.
**The “one U.S. citizen parent” rule only applies to children who were under age 18 on or after February 27, 2001. For children claiming automatic citizenship prior to this date, there are special rules. Back to Top
Derivative Citizenship -
Citizenship conveyed to children through the naturalization of parents or, under certain circumstances, to foreign-born children adopted by U.S. citizen parents, provided certain conditions are met.
A child who is regularly residing IN the United States can become a citizen of the United States only by meeting certain requirements. If a child regularly resides in the United States and is not a lawful permanent resident, he or she cannot acquire citizenship automatically until he or she is granted lawful permanent residence. If a child who has been lawfully admitted for permanent residence fails to qualify for citizenship under the provisions of law, the child may apply for naturalization by filing an N-400 after reaching 18 years of age, provided that he or she has the required 5 years of lawful permanent residence.U.S. citizens may apply for citizenship for their children by birth or adoption who do NOT regularly reside in the United States, if all of the following conditions are met:
- The child is under 18 years of age; and
- The child is not married; and
- The child regularly resides outside the United States; and
- The child is temporarily present in the United States pursuant to a lawful admission and is maintaining such lawful status; and
- The child is in legal and physical custody of a parent who is a U.S. citizen; and
- The child is the U.S. citizen’s legitimate child, or was legitimated before the child’s 16th birthday (stepchildren or children born out of wedlock who were not legitimated before their 16 th birthday are not eligible for this procedure); and
- If adopted, the child meets the requirements of section 101(b)(1)(E) or (F) and had a full and final adoption; and either of the following is true:
- The citizen parent has lived at least 5 years in the United States, and at least 2 of which were after the citizen parent’s 14 th birthday; or
- If the child’s citizen parent has not lived in the United States for at least 5 years, 2 of which were after that parent's 14 th birthday, the citizen parent currently has a parent (the child's grandparent) who:
- is also a U.S. citizen; and
- lived in the United States for 5 years, at least 2 of which were after the citizen grandparent's 14 th birthday; and
- is still living at the time of the adjudication of the application and the taking of the Oath.