Thu | Aug 6, 2020

Immigration Corner | Can a minor automatically gain citizenship?

Published:Tuesday | September 17, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Hi, Mrs Walker-Huntington,

My daughter migrated to the United States when she was 13 years old. Her dad filed for her. She wants to file for me when she turns 21. The question is, does she have to apply for citizenship or did she automatically become a citizen due to the fact that she went up as a minor?



Dear DS,

Only a 21-year-old citizen of the United States can file a petition for a parent to migrate to the United States of America (US).

Any person born in the United States is a citizen of the United States of America regardless of the immigration status of their parent, e.g., even a child born in the United States to an undocumented person is a citizen of the United States. Someone can also become a US citizen through naturalisation – after being a lawful permanent resident of the United States for five years, or three years if they obtained residency through marriage to a US citizen and remains married and resides with that US citizen for three years. There are other requirements for naturalisation that need to be met in order to qualify.

Children can also derive US citizenship if they are born outside the United States to a US citizen parent – if the parent meets certain criteria. There is also the situation where a minor child migrates to the United States – before age 18, and if they live with their US citizen parent while under age 18 – they can also derive US citizenship from that parent. In the case of your daughter, if she lived with her US citizen father, and can prove it with documentary evidence, she can apply for a Certificate of Citizenship from US Citizenship & Immigration Services. If she qualifies to derive citizenship from her father, she can also apply for a US passport, but she will have to provide the US passport office with the same proof that she will need to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship.

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, Esq. is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and family, criminal and international law in Florida. She is a mediator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida.