In March 2020, the bipartisan Citizenship for Children of Military Members and Civil Servants Act was signed into law by the president. The bill was a response to a policy change issued earlier by the Trump administration, causing confusion on whether some children of military members living abroad would automatically acquire citizenship. The policy update required children to establish residency in the United States before becoming citizens, meaning that some overseas civil servants and military personnel may have to apply for citizenship rather than having it granted upon the child’s birth or adoption.
The Citizenship for Children of Military Members and Civil Servants Act clarifies that a child born outside the U.S. acquires automatic citizenship, even if residing outside of the U.S. if the child is a lawful permanent resident and is in the legal and physical custody of his or her U.S. parent who is:
- Stationed and residing outside of the United States as a member of the U.S. armed forces;
- Stationed and residing outside of the United States as an employee of the U.S. government; or
- The spouse residing outside the United States in marital union with a U.S. armed forces member or U.S. government employee who is stationed outside of the United States.
USCIS noted that in cases involving members of the U.S. armed forces, the child and U.S. citizen parent (if the citizen is the spouse of the armed forces member) must be “authorized to accompany and reside abroad with the armed forces member pursuant to the member’s official orders.” The new act reverses the prior policy change.
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