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Does the son of a green-card holder automatically become a citizen?

Published:Tuesday | April 13, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Mrs Walker-Huntington:

Good afternoon. How are you? I have an issue which I hope you'll be able to assist me with.

I have a child with someone who lives in the United States (US). At the time when the child was born, the father was not yet an American citizen but just a legal alien. He subsequently obtained his citizenship (recently). We were talking the other day about reapplying for a visa for my child, given that the current visa will expire soon. He informed me that I would not need to reapply for a visa because, as the child of a US citizen, he can apply and receive a passport for the child, as the child automatically becomes a citizen based on his status.

To be quite frank with you, I have never heard of that before. I know very little about US immigration and citizenship laws, but that just sounds too easy. Wouldn't everybody do that then? Why would parents file for their children if they could just get a passport?

I would be grateful if you could shed some light on the matter for me.



Dear Confused:

Your child's father has his facts a little off. If he was a citizen of the United States when his son was born, then his son would automatically be a United States citizen. All that would be required, under those circumstances, would be for your son's father to accompany you and your son to the US Embassy in Kingston and apply for a US passport.

For those persons in that position, they can visit the US State Department's website at to receive instructions on submitting the Consular Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States of America.

Permanent resident

However, since your child's father was a permanent resident (green-card holder) at the time of the child's birth, he will have to petition for the child to first receive a green card before your son can move to the US-citizenship level. As the father is now a US citizen, and your child is under 21 years of age, your son is considered an immediate relative. As such, the processing of your son's green card should take nine months to a year to be completed.

Your son's father will have to file a petition with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and go through consular processing with the United States Department of State and the National Visa Center.

Upon arrival in the United States, as a permanent resident of the United States, your child's father can take your son to the nearest US passport office and obtain a US passport for him - thereby bestowing US citizenship upon him at that time - as long as your son arrives in the United States before he is 18 years old.

After your son receives his US passport, you should also apply for a Certificate of Naturalisation for your son. This will be his ultimate proof that he is entitled to US citizenship. If, for any reason, his passport is lost and his father is no longer around, this Certificate of Naturalisation will be your son's proof of his entitlement to United States citizenship.

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, Esq, is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises law in Florida in the areas of Immigration, Family, Corporate and Personal-Injury Law. She is a Mediator, Arbitrator and Special Magistrate in Broward County, Florida.