Proving American Citizenship
LAW OFFICE OF C.J. LYFORD
12 West Willow Grove Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19118-3952
Practicing in the areas of Immigration/Citizenship/Visa Law
and International Adoption Law
HOW DO YOU GET PROOF
OF CITIZENSHIP UNDER THE CHILD CITIZENSHIP ACT
By C.J. Lyford, Esq.*
November 7, 2000
June 19, 2002 (Revised)
The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (“Act” or “CCA”) (Public Law 106-395)1 provides for the “automatic” acquisition, that is acquisition as a matter of law, of US Citizenship to many children (adopted and not adopted) of US. citizens who are born abroad provided that certain qualifications are met.2 As a result, many, but not all, foreign-born children who have been adopted by US. citizens have automatically become citizens. For children adopted in the future, many, but not all, will also automatically become US citizens under the Act. For some children, citizenship can be acquired but will not be acquired automatically.
However, while your child may become a US. citizen under the Act, you will not “automatically” receive any proof that your child has become a citizen. To get proof you will need to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship through submission of the N-643 form or obtain a US passport. While the INS may eventually come up with a method in which proof of citizenship is provided “automatically”, it is well worth the effort and cost, and strongly recommended, that you get proof of the citizenship now rather than wait. The following comments are directed at how to obtain proof of citizenship.3
1. Do you have to obtain proof of US citizenship for your child?
No. You are not required to get proof. As emphasized by the INS and elsewhere, if your child meets the requirements of the Act, he or she is a US citizen “automatically”, that is, as a matter of law, and is entitled to all the benefits of being a US citizen, whether or not you ever obtain proof of the citizenship.
2. Is it a good idea to obtain proof of your child’s US citizenship?
Yes and I strongly recommend it. Obtaining proof is well worth the effort and cost. Having this clear and recognizable proof immediately on hand will save you and/or your child from having to produce numerous documents, and probably having to re-explain the Act, every time it is necessary to prove that he or she is a US citizen. Indeed, many social security offices will require a Certificate of Citizenship or US Passport before they will classify your child as a US citizen in their system, even if your child “automatically’became a citizen under the Act. Furthermore, there will be no doubt that your child has met all of the requirements under the Act and indeed is a US citizen.
3. Has the INS instituted a new method for obtaining proof of citizenship as a result of the new Act?
No, not yet. The June 13, 2001, interim regulations (See footnote 3) state that the INS is considering consolidating the Form N-643 and related forms into a revised Form N-600. There have also been comments made by the INS about “streamlining” the procedure.
4. How do you get proof of the automatic citizenship?
For the moment you have two choices, until and unless the INS institutes another procedure:
a) Complete the INS Form N-643 to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship4 (this is the same form that was used before the new Act to obtain citizenship) with the required fee (recently increased to $145); and/or
b) Obtain a US passport for your child.5
5. Which type of proof should you obtain?
The Certificate of Citizenship is advantageous because it is only a one-page document and does not need to be renewed. Unfortunately, it is taking up to a year or more to get the Certificate from the INS. The passport can be obtained fairly quickly. If at all possible, start the process for both. You should be able to get the passport fairly quickly. (But see my comment number 8 below.) You can then wait for the INS to provide the Certificate of Citizenship.
6. Do you have to send the same attachments that you previously did with the Form N-643?
According to the INS Fact Sheet, “How to Get a Certificate of Citizenship for Your Child” (see footnote 3) you should not need to submit documents that the INS already has in its file, such as your child’s birth certificate, etc., unless requested specifically by the INS, and should only need to submit the fee (recently increased to $145) and photographs, unless your child entered the US on an IR4 visa. (See below) Unfortunately there are reports that some INS offices are requiring copies of all documents even if they are already in their file.
7. What do you need to submit if your child entered the US on an IR4 visa?
If your child entered the US on an IR4 Visa because the adoption was not final abroad, you will be required to submit a copy of the final adoption decree from the State Court of your residence. However, if your child entered the US on an IR4 Visa because you or you and your spouse, as applicable, did not see your child before or during the adoption abroad, (sometimes referred to as a proxy adoption) it is not as clear based on the INS interim regulations that have been published. (See Footnote 3.) For some time the INS has generally required proof of readoption6 in this situation. However, the INS interim regulations indicate that there may be a change in this policy, at least in States where the adoption is recognized. You may still be required to submit proof of a readoption. At a minimum, you will need to submit proof that your State recognizes the adoption.
8. What do you need to obtain a US passport from the State Department?
According to the State Department Fact Sheet (See footnote 3):
a) Evidence of the child's relationship to the US citizen parent: a certified copy of the final adoption decree from your State court; or the original of the foreign decree, with translation, as applicable. (According to the passport office, all documents, including originals, will be returned when the passport is issued);
b) The child's foreign passport with the INS I-551 (visa) stamp in country of origin passport that your child traveled on OR the child's resident alien card (often called the "green card."), to show that the child entered the US as a legal permanent resident, or is one now.
c) Valid parent ID, for example. a driver’s license;
d) Evidence of US citizenship of at least one of the parents, for example: birth certificate showing that at least one parent was born in the US, parent’s US passport, or parent’s Certificate of Citizenship if parent is a naturalized US citizen;
Although not stated in the report, the parent should also bring a certified copy of the child’s birth certificate to confirm that the child was adopted before 18 years of age.
9. Is a Certificate of Citizenship required before you can obtain a passport?
According to the State Department Fact Sheet (See footnote 3) you are not required to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship in order to obtain a Passport. However some passport offices are nevertheless requiring a Certificate before they issue the Passport. It never hurts to print out a copy of the State Department Report (See footnote 3) and include it with your application. If unsuccessful, you should also try another passport office.
Please note that these are general comments are not intended to be comprehensive. They are not legal advice nor should they be relied upon as legal advice.
If you have any questions about the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 or other issues involving international adoption, immigration or citizenship, feel free to contact me. I am an attorney with a private practice in the areas of immigration/citizenship law and adoption of foreign-born children adopted abroad or domestically, as well as the mother of an 8-year-old child adopted from China in 1994. I provide legal services and consultations to prospective parents and agencies throughout the United States and abroad to address INS or consulate requirements or problems that have arisen in a specific adoption situation, and/or to prevent or minimize potential problems. I also handle domestic adoptions, adoption finalizations and readoptions in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
1 The Act was effect on February 27, 2001 and can be downloaded from:
2 See my companion article, “IS OR WILL YOUR CHILD BECOME A US CITIZEN UNDER THE CHILD CITIZENSHIP ACT OF 2000?-- SOME COMMENTS ON THE ACT AS APPLIES TO FOREIGN BORN ADOPTED CHILDREN ADOPTED ABROAD OR IN THE US”, revised June 2, 2002.
3 The following Comments are my interpretation of the Act and its practical effect and are not legal advice. They are based on my experience as well as publications and information from the INS and State Department about the Act, including the following:
INS Backgrounder “Information for Adoptive Parents”, dated 2/27/01, at http://www.ins.usdoj.gov/graphics/publicaffairs/factsheets/chowto.htm
Footnote 3 continued
INS Fact Sheet “How to Get a Certificate of Citizenship for Your Child”, dated 2/27/01, at: http://www.ins.usdoj.gov/graphics/publicaffairs/factsheets/chowto.htm;
INS Fact Sheet “The Child Citizenship Act of 2000”, dated 12/01/00, at http://www.ins.usdoj.gov/graphics/publicaffairs/factsheets/adopted.htm;
State Department Fact Sheet “Child Citizenship Act of 2000”, dated 2/28/01, at: http://travel.state.gov/childcitfaq.html
INS Regulations and Comments (Published in Federal Register on 6/13/01) (Interim Rule but effective upon publication) have also been published regarding implementation of the CCA (Federal Register; June 13, 2001, pages 32138 to 32147) at:
(Notice states that the regulations would be subject to comment on or before August 13, 2001 before it becomes a final rule.)
download the INS Form N-643 at:
6 Note that if you have changed your child’s name, it is important that the child’s former name be referenced in the State issued adoption decree with the new name, so that it is clear that the decree is referring to the same child.