On Wednesday, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a policy alert stating that children born to American military service members and government employees overseas are no longer eligible for automatic US citizenship. In order to receive a Certificate of Citizenship, the child’s US citizen parent must apply on their behalf.
Previously, when a child born to US service members and government employees while their parents were stationed overseas, the child received US citizenship automatically under Immigration and Nationality Act 320. Those children were considered as “residing in the United States” at the time of their birth.
Now, those children – including those born at US military hospitals or other diplomatic facilities abroad – will not be granted American citizenship automatically.
“The policy change explains that we will not consider children who live abroad with their parents to be residing in the United States even if their parents are U.S. government employees or U.S. service members stationed outside of the United States, and as a result, these children will no longer be considered to have acquired citizenship automatically,” said Meredith Parker, a USCIS spokesperson, according to a report by Task and Purpose.
“For them to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship, their U.S. citizen parent must apply for citizenship on their behalf,” Parker continued.
Prior legislation stated that the spouses of service members who lived abroad because of the military members overseas station were considered to be residing in the US. However, according to the USCIS, “no similar provision was included for children of U.S. armed forces members in the acquisition of citizenship.”
USCIS has decided that the children are not viewed as residing in the US. As a result, American citizenship will not be automatically granted.
Instead, those children fall under INA 322, which views them as living outside of the US. They will be required to apply for naturalization. The INA 322 process must also be completed before the child turns 18.
In some cases, the naturalization proceedings can occur while the child is living overseas. However, that isn’t available for all children.
“Certain children of U.S. service members may complete the process outside of the United States without having to travel to the United States. However, children of U.S. government employees must enter the U.S. lawfully with an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa and be in lawful status when they take the Oath of Allegiance, which completes the process,” the new policy states.
After news of the change spread, US government officials had to address concerns regarding how the policy affects the children of US military personnel.
Acting USCIS director Ken Cuccinelli said in a statement, “This policy update does not affect who is a born US citizen, period.”
“This only affects children who were born outside the United States and were not U.S. citizens,” he continued. “This does NOT impact birthright citizenship. This policy update does not deny citizenship to the children of US government employees or members of the military born abroad.”
“This policy aligns USCIS’ process with the Department of State’s procedure, that’s it.”