If your minor children are eligible for a certificate of U.S. citizenship, you can fill out and file USCIS Form N-600 to request one on their behalf. This article will describe who can and should do this, and how to do so.
Anyone who has acquired or derived U.S. citizenship, meaning received citizenship automatically through parents who were or became U.S. citizens, qualifies for a certificate of citizenship. This is different from the Naturalization Certificate that a green card holder receives after applying to become a U.S. citizen.
For details on who becomes a citizen at birth when born abroad to parents who were U.S. citizens, see Automatic U.S. Citizenship for Children by Birth To Citizen Parents (Acquisition). Children that are born abroad and acquire U.S. citizenship at birth will typically apply for a Consular Report of Birth Abroad at a U.S. consulate, but if these children are in the U.S., they can apply for a Certificate of Citizenship instead.
For details on who becomes a citizen when their parents becomes a U.S. citizen (the technical name for which is "derivation,") see U.S. Citizenship for Children of Naturalized Citizens.
In any of the situations described in these articles, when a child becomes a U.S. citizen through parents, it is an automatic process. They do not need to apply for their new status, but might wish to apply for proof of that status, using Form N-600.
Under current law, if a U.S. citizen petitions for a foreign-born child to enter the U.S. and receive a green card, and the child receives the green card and enters the U.S. before the age of 18 and will live in the legal and physical custody of the parent, the child becomes a U.S. citizen almost immediately after entering the United States.
This also happens often in the case of a U.S. citizen's adopted children. (But it doesn't work for adopted children who entered the U.S. before the adoption was made final, in visa category IR-4.)
Stepchildren of U.S. citizens are not eligible for automatic citizenship after entering the U.S. with a green card, unless the child is adopted by the stepparent and the adoption meets other specific requirements.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will not send the Certificate of Citizenship automatically, but does not require you to resubmit documents that you already submitted for the child's green card application.
Some attorneys do file the N-600 application as soon as the child enters the U.S. and include this service in the fee charged for preparing and filing for the child's green card. If an attorney prepared your packet, check with him or her before you file an application for a Certificate of Citizenship, as the attorney might have already done it. If not, you are still not required to submit a Form N-600 for your children. You also have the cheaper option to file for a U.S. passport.
Still, USCIS reports that there are some government agencies and employers that might request a Certificate of Citizenship under certain circumstances.
As you'll see in Part I of Form N-600, USCIS anticipated that some of the people filling out this form would be parents acting on behalf of a minor child (minor being under the age of 18).
Children age 14 and over must sign the application, but if a parent or another person fills out the form, that person must also sign the application in Part 10. A legal guardian can sign for a child over 18 who is mentally disabled.
You'll need to fill out Parts 1 through 3 with information about your child: his or her name, birthday, address in the U.S., and so forth. (Make sure not to enter an overseas address here if you're basing your claim on the child's entering as a green card holder before age 18; the child must be living in the U.S. with you in order to be eligible for U.S. citizenship.)
Parts 4 through 5 are where you will need to enter information about you (the child's parents). Part 6 and 7 do not need to be completed unless the child has a claim to U.S. citizenship at the time of birth abroad.
In Part 8, children age 14 and over will sign the form. The parents of children younger than 14 can sign the form. If your child is 14 or over and you filled out the form, you will need to sign as the preparer in Part 10. If an attorney filled out the form, the attorney will sign in Part 10. You do not need to fill in Part 9 unless an interpreter assisted you with the application.
Read the instructions carefully for additional information on what documents to send in. You are not required to send copies of documents that were already part of the child's green card application. Don't be confused about whose photos to send in. They should be photos of the child, because these will be used on the certificate itself. You must write the child's name and A-number (if the child has a U.S. green card) on the back of the photo.
If you have questions or concerns about any immigration paperwork, it is important to consult with a qualified lawyer as soon as possible. Your attorney can assist you in confirming the child's eligibility for citizenship and completing the forms and documents required by USCIS.