New Americans take the citizenship oath. DHS photo by Jetta Disco

USCIS Issues Policy Guidance on ‘Residence’ Requirements for Acquiring Citizenship

The latest update to the USCIS Policy Manual defines “residence” as it relates to citizenship for children of certain U.S. government employees and members of the U.S. armed forces who are employed or stationed outside the United States, to conform with the definition of residence in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This guidance rescinds previously established USCIS policy, which stated that certain children who were living outside the United States were considered “residing in” the United States.

As a result, it changes the process that parents of such children must follow to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship for their children. Under the previous policy, parents of those children could file either Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship, or Form N-600K, Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322, on behalf of their children. As of Oct. 29, 2019, these parents must file Form N-600K to obtain U.S. citizenship for any child who did not acquire citizenship at birth or while residing in the United States. Therefore, we will apply current guidance to all applications filed before Oct. 29, 2019.

Policy Update at a Glance

The updates to the USCIS Policy Manual, Volume 12, Citizenship and Naturalization, and Part H, Children of U.S. Citizens:

  • Clarify that temporary visits to the U.S. do not establish U.S. residence;
  • Explain the distinction between residence and physical presence in the United States; and
  • Explain that USCIS no longer considers children who are living abroad with a parent who is a U.S. government employee or U.S. service member as “residing in the United States” for purposes of acquiring citizenship under INA 320.

How Children Acquire Citizenship

U.S. laws allow children to acquire U.S. citizenship other than through birth in the United States. Children who were born outside of the United States to a U.S. citizen parent or parents may acquire U.S. citizenship at birth under INA 301 or 309. Children may also acquire citizenship after birth, but before the age of 18, through their U.S. citizen parent(s) under INA 320.

Policy Update Regarding Children of U.S. Government Employees or Service Members Employed or Stationed Abroad Who Were Born Outside the United States

Who This Policy Update Affects

This policy may affect children residing outside the United States who were born outside the United States to:

  • Non-U.S. citizen parents and adopted by a U.S. citizen U.S. government employee or U.S. service member after their birth;
  • Non-U.S. citizen parents, such as a lawful permanent resident U.S. government employee or U.S. service member who naturalized only after the child’s birth; or
  • Two U.S. citizen government employee or U.S. service member parents who do not meet the residence or physical presence requirements to transmit citizenship to their child at birth (or one non-U.S. citizen parent and one U.S. citizen parent who does not meet these requirements).

For more information on this policy update contact uscispolicymanual@uscis.dhs.gov. For case-specific inquiries, call the USCIS Contact Center.

Who This Policy Update Does Not Affect

This policy does not affect children born outside the United States who were citizens at birth or who have already acquired citizenship, including children who:

  • Were born to two U.S. citizen parents, at least one of whom has had a residence in the United States or one of its outlying possessions before the child’s birth;
  • Were born to married parents, one of whom is a U.S. citizen and one a foreign national, if the U.S. citizen parent was physically present in the U.S. or one of its outlying possessions for at least five years, at least two of which were after they turned 14 years old;
  • Were born to unmarried parents, one of whom is a U.S. citizen and one a foreign national, if the U.S. citizen parent meets the requirements listed in INA 309;
  • Are otherwise eligible to receive a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) or a Certificate of Citizenship documenting U.S. citizenship acquired at birth; or
  • Are residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of their U.S. citizen parent after being lawfully admitted to the U.S. for permanent residence.

For more information, see Policy Manual, Volume 12, Part H, Children of U.S. Citizens, Chapter 3, United States Citizens at Birth (INA 301 and 309), or email uscispolicymanual@uscis.dhs.gov.

Read more at USCIS

The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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