If you are a U.S. citizen who has adopted a child from another country, your child is eligible for U.S. citizenship. If you are residing in the United States with your child, U.S. citizenship can automatically be acquired once certain requirements are met. If you are residing abroad with your child and do not maintain a U.S. address, you will have to apply for naturalization for your child once certain requirements are met.
If you are residing in the United States, your child will automatically acquire U.S. citizenship once two sets of criteria are met.
First, your child must satisfy the criteria set forth in the definition for an adopted "child" in the Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.). These criteria apply to all adopted children, including orphans. Second, your circumstances must satisfy the separate criteria set forth by the I.N.A. for automatic acquisition of U.S. citizenship.
An adopted child for U.S. immigration purposes is one who satisfies all of the following requirements:
It is important to understand that you do not have legal custody of your child until you resume responsibility under the laws of the state and under the approval of a court of law or other appropriate government entity. This is true even if the child was residing with you before legal custody was granted.
Once your child meets the definition of an adopted child, he or she automatically acquires U.S. citizenship once all of the following requirements are satisfied:
Once your child has met all of the requirements for automatic acquisition of citizenship, he or she is a U.S. citizen and nothing else technically needs to be done. However, it is a good idea to secure a Certificate of Citizenship from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which will serve as evidence of your child's citizenship.
See U.S. Citizenship for Children by Birth To Citizen Parents (Acquisition) for more detail and legal issues.
Your child will automatically receive a Certificate of Citizenship from USCIS if and when the following conditions are met:
If these conditions have been met, your child will have been admitted to the United States in the IR-3 or IH-3 category and he or she should receive a Certificate of Citizenship within 45 days of admission. There are a few exceptions to this, which can be found here.
If your child is not eligible to automatically receive a Certificate of Citizenship, you can apply for one from USCIS. This application is filed on Form N-600 Application for Certificate of Citizenship.
If you do not live in the United States but you want your adopted child to have U.S. citizenship, you can submit an application to have your child naturalized. This application is filed on Form N-600K Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322.
Know that this application will require you to travel to the United States with your child for an interview at a USCIS office before a final decision can be issued.
Before you file the N-600K Application for Citizenship, you will need to satisfy two sets of regulatory criteria. The first is that the child must satisfy the definition of an adopted child as set forth by the I.N.A. See "Definition of Adopted Child," above.
The second set of criteria is set forth in Section 322 of the I.N.A., all requirements of which must be satisfied before you can submit the N-600K Application for Citizenship. These are that:
The parent and child can ordinarily be lawfully admitted as tourists if the only purpose of the trip is to participate in the interview.
If it is not clear that your child is eligible for U.S. citizenship, either by automatic acquisition or by Section 322, it is a good idea to consult with an immigration attorney to find out what your options are. An immigration attorney can also assist you in preparing and filing the necessary paperwork for either process.