An informative article (dated 1/3/09) on the issue of foreign adoption and U.S. citizenship has been prepared by Attorney C.J. Lyford who is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. The following has been adapted from her article ”Why your foreign-born adopted child should have proof of U.S. citizenship and how to get it.” (For
a copy or more details contact attorney Lyford at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
What if your child is adopted under the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions Hague Convention)?
As of April 1, 2008, the U.S. Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 and regulations issued as a result of the Hague Convention govern adoptions between the U.S. and other “Convention Countries” such as China, India, Mexico, Philippines
and Thailand. Amongst many things, adoptions under the Hague Convention will involve additional U.S. visa classifications, the “IH3”, for adoptions that are final abroad and “IH4” for adoptions that will be completed in the U.S. Those that enter on an “IH4” visa, will not be USC’s until the adoption is finalized
in the U.S. Of special note is that the requirement that the sole or both parents visit the child before or during the adoption abroad has been eliminated under the Hague Convention. Therefore, as long as the adoption is final abroad, an “IH3” visa should be issued.
Will your child automatically receive any official documentation of his or HER U.S. citizenship?
depends. Basically, since January 2004, children who enter the United States on an “IR3”, or now on an “IH3” visa as a result of the Hague Convention, and who otherwise qualify under the CCA, will receive a Certificate of Citizenship (COC) from the USCIS in the mail. However if your child entered the United States before January 2004, or entered or will
enter on an “IR4” or an “IH4” visa, he or she will not receive a COC and will have to apply for one from the USCIS when the qualifications are met.
you have to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship or U.S. passport to prove U.S. citizenship for your child?
No. You are not required to get an official document that proves your child’s citizenship. Once the qualifications are met, your child becomes a U.S. citizen (USC) without any further action on your part, and is entitled to all the benefits of being a USC whether or not you ever obtain a document that proves U.S. citizenship.
Should you obtain
documentary proof of your child’s U.S. citizenship?
Yes and I strongly recommend it. Here are some reasons why you should do this.
- Having a right or entitlement to something is only half the battle. The other half is to be able to prove the entitlement when necessary or if it is challenged. When an individual is not born in the U.S., the question of whether the individual is a USC will inevitably, and sometimes repeatedly, be raised at some point. Even if your child has become a USC under the CCA as a matter of law,
and would ultimately prevail on this issue if it were challenged, you or your child will still be faced with the problem of having to convince others that he or she is a USC. Having clear and tangible evidence immediately on hand will save you and/or your child from having to produce numerous documents, and probably having to re-explain the CCA, every time it is necessary to prove citizenship.
More and more situations are requiring that a person be able to supply a document proving that he or she is a USC or is in the U.S. in lawful status. For example, Social Security Offices require proof of U.S. citizenship before they will classify your child as a USC in their system. Proof of U.S. citizenship is now
required or being proposed as a requirement in other contexts, for example, to show eligibility for Medicaid, eligibility to vote, etc. Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful immigration status is required to comply with employment eligibility verification, and in some states, to obtain a state driver’s license.
For adult foreign born individuals who become USC’s through naturalization, the Certificate of Naturalization is issued to them as documentation of citizenship. Your child should have similar documentation.
Finally, once you have obtained the proof of citizenship, there will be no doubt that your child has met all of the requirements under the CCA and indeed is a USC.
Why can’t you use your child’s U.S. State-issued birth
certificate to prove U.S. citizenship?
Your child was not born in the U.S. Only the birth certificate of an individual born in the U.S. or in certain territories can serve as proof of U.S. citizenship for that individual.
How do you get proof that your child is a citizen?
You have two choices: Obtain a COC by filing the N-600 Application and/or Obtain a U.S. Passport (USP).
Which type of proof of citizenship should you obtain?
Under U.S. law, U.S. citizenship can be proven through a COC or a USP. However, I recommend that you get both. The COC is advantageous because it is universally recognized, only one-page long and does not need to be renewed. It is very similar to the one page Certificate of Naturalization that
is used by a naturalized USC to prove U.S. citizenship. Unfortunately the USCIS response time for issuing a COC after the application has been submitted has been very slow. The Passport can usually be obtained fairly quickly and will be necessary if you travel outside of the United States with your child. (See comment below.) If at all possible, start the process for both. You can then
wait for the CIS to provide the COC.
How do you obtain a COC?
You can obtain the COC by submitting the Form N-600 Application to the USCIS District Office with jurisdiction over your residence in the U.S. Information and the form can be obtained through the USCIS website. The fee for the N-600 (and the N-600K) Application on behalf of an adopted child is $420. ($460 is the fee for a foreign
born biological child.)
Is a COC required before you can obtain a USP for your child?
You should not have to obtain a COC before you can obtain a USP and the current information sheet from the Department of State website regarding the CCA is in accord. However the Department of State website regarding what documents are required to obtain a USP indicates otherwise. Because of
this conflict, some offices are requiring a COC before they accept the USP application. If unsuccessful, you should try another designated office that accepts Passport applications. Some are more knowledgeable than others.
FINALLY, Make sure that your child understands that he or she is a USC and what this means.
You should tell your child that while he or she was born outside of the U.S., he or she is a USC under U.S. law. Explain what it means to be a citizen. I am surprised at the number of teenage adoptees who either do not know or understand this. You should also mention
that sometimes U.S. citizenship may be questioned. Show the COC and/or USP to your child so that he or she knows that
you have proof of citizenship should the need arise. Do not forget to tell your child or a responsible adult where the documents are kept.