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Does a foreign-born child adopted by a U.S. citizen automatically become a U.S. citizen?

UPDATED: February 4, 2020

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A child adopted from another country by a United States citizen in an international adoption does not automatically become a U.S. citizen. There are certain steps that the adoptive parent(s) must take in order to ensure the citizenship of the child.

The Rules for Citizenship of Adopted Children in International Adoption

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 was developed to apply directly to international adoptions in an attempt to streamline the citizenship process for children adopted from foreign nations. Under the Citizenship Act, the child may become a U.S. citizen automatically if:

  • At least one of the adoptive parents is a U.S. citizen.
  • The child is under the age of 18.
  • The child is brought into the U.S. as an immigrant for lawful permanent residence.
  • The adoption is legally finalized.

Should these conditions be met, the parents may not have to make a separate application for the child's U.S. citizenship. It is important to ensure, however, that your international adoption qualifies and that the required paperwork is taken care of, even if you believe you meet the criteria. Should your adoption not meet the requirements, you will be asked to go through an additional application process in order to acquire citizenship for the child.

In some U.S. states, a foreign adoption decree will not be recognized, and in certain conditions it may be advisable for the parents to re-adopt the child under U.S. laws once they have returned home. After this has been done and an adoption certificate has been presented from the state where the family resides, the parent(s) can request a state birth certificate for the child, which is another step towards U.S. citizenship and may be required before the citizenship can move forward.

Getting Help

To make sure you follow all the steps properly and complete all the requirements to protect your child's rights in an international adoption, it is a good idea to get help from an experienced international adoption lawyer 

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