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Giving birth in a different country comes with immediate questions about citizenship and legal steps. This article tackles precisely what happens if you give birth in another country, guiding you through the essentials of nationality, consular reporting, and the initial adjustments for your newborn.

One of our YouTube viewers asked the question: What happens when a US citizen gives birth in another country? This is a great question and a serious concern for families traveling regularly for work or visiting family abroad. Media coverage of changes in US immigration policy under the current administration has also led to some confusion on this topic and heightened concern. 

Generally, there are five scenarios with regard to a child being born abroad and acquiring a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA or Form FS-240):

  1. Birth abroad in wedlock to two US citizens
  1. Birth abroad two a US citizen and an Alien
  1. Birth abroad out of wedlock to a US citizen father (New Section 309a)
  1. Birth abroad out of wedlock to a US citizen father (Old Section 309a)
  1. Birth abroad out of wedlock to a US citizen mother

For reference “In Wedlock” refers to a child born to its genetic/ or gestational parents who are legally married at the time of birth or before 300 days of separation of the married parents due to death or divorce. Typically, both parents must also be considered the legal parents of the child at the time of birth under local law.

Navigating Citizenship for Newborns: Birth in a Foreign Land

When a child is born outside of the United States, it can present unique challenges and responsibilities for parents living abroad. One important responsibility is obtaining U.S. citizenship for their child through the Child Citizenship Act, which governs this process.

The first step in securing citizenship for your child born overseas is to report their birth promptly at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. This involves completing Form DS-2029, also known as Application for Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) of a Citizen of the United States, and submitting it with necessary supporting documents such as proof of parentage and identity. The CRBA serves as official documentation that your child has acquired U.S. citizenship by birth abroad.

It may feel overwhelming to navigate this process alone, but many families have successfully gone through these steps before you. We are here to assist you in understanding how to obtain citizenship for children who were born outside of the United States, based on various family scenarios. As long as all information is accurately reported and requirements are fulfilled, your child’s U.S. citizenship can be secured through the specific law regulating citizenship laws that affect children born outside of the designated country of birth. Congratulations on becoming a proud parent with a new addition to your family!

Birth Abroad in Wedlock to Two US Citizens

This is the most straightforward scenario. A child born in another country in this scenario acquires US citizenship under section 301c of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as long as one of the parents has had a residence within the United States or one of its outlying possessions prior to the birth of the child. 

Birth Abroad in Wedlock Between US citizen and an Alien

In the situation of a child being born outside the country to a US citizen parent and an alien the child will acquire US citizenship if the US citizen parent has been living in the US or one of its outlying possessions prior to the child’s birth for the appropriate period of time under current law (INA 301(g). As of November 14th, 1986 the US citizen parent must have been physically present for five years prior to the birth of the child. Current law also requires at least two of those years be after the age of 14 and based on the birth-date of the child in question. Finally, the US citizen parent must be the genetic or gestational parent and legal parent for the child under the current local law at the time and place of birth for US citizenship to be obtained.

Birth Abroad for Out of Wedlock to US Citizen Father (New Section 309(c)

When a child is born out of wedlock to a US citizen father they are untitled to US citizenship under Section 301(c) or 301(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), according to the “new” section 309(a) of the INA if:

  1. A blood relationship can be established between the father and the child in question;
  1. The father was a US citizen at the time of birth
  1. Financial support has been agreed to by the father (unless deceased) for until the child in question has reached the age of 18
  1. When the child in question is under the age of 18:
  • The child is legitimated under the law of his/her residence or domicile;
  • In writing or under oath, the father acknowledges paternity of the child in question
  • Paternity can be demonstrated by appropriate adjudication of a court.

Birth Abroad Out of Wedlock to a US Citizen Father (Old Section 309(a))

The “old” section of 309(a) of the INA applies to any individual who was 18 or older on November 14, 1986 and to those whose paternity had been established under law prior to that date. If the individual in question was at least 15 on November 14, 1986, but under the age of 18 they can have their claim processed under the provisions “old” or “new” Section 309(a). 

Birth Abroad Out of Wedlock to a US Citizen Mother

When a child is born abroad out of wedlock to a US citizen mother on or before June 11th, 2017 that child may acquire citizenship under Section 309(c) of the INA IF the mother was a US citizen at the time of the child’s birth AND if the mother was living in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for a continuous period of one year prior to the birth of the child.

In the case of a child born to out of wedlock to a US citizen mother and alien father on or after June 12th, 2017 the child is entitled to citizenship if the mother was a US citizen at the time of birth and living in the United States or its outlying possessions for a continuous period of five years, or two after the age of fourteen under Section 301(g) of the INA. 

The US citizen mother must the genetic or gestational parent of the child and the legal parent, in all cases, under local law at the time and place of the child’s birth.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if American parents give birth in another country?

If American parents give birth in another country, they should report the birth at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to obtain a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) to document the child’s U.S. citizenship.

This is an official record and proof of the child’s U.S. citizenship.

Are babies automatically citizens when born in another country?

A child who is born in a foreign country to at least one parent who holds U.S. citizenship automatically receives American citizenship, with certain conditions that must be met according to the Immigration and Nationality Act. These requirements include the parent having been continuously present within the United States or its territories.

Can you go to another country just to give birth?

Yes, you can go to another country just to give birth, a practice known as birth tourism, often done to obtain citizenship for the child in a country with birthright citizenship.

What is the first step in obtaining U.S. citizenship for my child born abroad?

To acquire American citizenship for your child who was born in a foreign country, the initial step is to register their birth at the nearest United States embassy or consulate and request a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA). This document serves as official proof of your child’s birth abroad and will be used when applying for U.S. citizenship on behalf of your child.

What are the physical presence requirements for U.S. citizen parents?

A child who is born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent and an alien can acquire citizenship if their U.S. citizen parent was physically present in the country for at least five years, with two of those years being after they reached the age of 14.

To be eligible for citizenship acquisition through birth overseas, one’s u.s. citizen parent must have been physically residing in the United States for a minimum of five years throughout their life, with two or more occurring after turning 14.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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