I am a U.S. citizen, but my spouse is not. Our daughter was born outside the United States and I want her to be a U.S. citizen. What are the citizenship requirements for her?

The citizenship requirements for your daughter to become a U.S. citizen will depend on factors such as when she was born and the time you have spent within the United States. If your daughter was born after November 14, 1986, you will have to be able to demonstrate that you, as a U.S. citizen, were physically present in the United States for at least 5 years after you reached age 14 and prior to your daughter's birth.

The Application Process

To begin the application process, obtain a current version of Form N-600, entitled Application for Certificate of Citizenship. The process for obtaining citizenship or naturalization for your child is similar to that of an adult applying for citizenship. As the parent, you must complete the application form. To avoid potential issues, any sections that do not apply to your situation should be noted with "not applicable" and not merely left blank. You will need to attach any required documents, which may include passport-style photos, marriage certificates, birth certificates, divorce decrees, and proof of legitimation.

Once completed, submit the application, attachments, and appropriate filing fee to the USCIS service center designated to receive applications in your area. The filing fee is $600 but is lowered to $550 for adopted children. If you are a member or veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, you will qualify for a waiver of the application fee. After your daughter's application is submitted, she may be granted citizenship automatically if the qualifications are satisfied. However, if there are questions or gaps in your application or supporting documentation, you may be required to jump through additional hoops to obtain citizenship for your child.

Seeking Alternatives for Your Adult Children

Timing can also affect your child's application. The procedures outlined for Form N-600 are for children under 18 years of age. Once your child turns 18, they may no longer qualify for automatic citizenship under this program. Other programs are available, like a student or work visa, but they can be more expensive and time-consuming than automatic naturalization. Additionally, after your child is granted citizenship, it may be necessary for them to actually live in the United States for a period of time down the road to avoid the risk of losing U.S. citizenship.

If you have questions about the best route to citizenship for your child, consult an immigration attorney who can explain the different procedures for obtaining citizenship for a child.