I’ve completed the visa portion of my consular training, and have moved on to the American Citizen Services part of the class. We spent last week learning exactly how US citizen parents transmit their citizenship to children born abroad. Contrary to what I remember learning in high school civics, merely having a US citizen parents does not necessarily guarantee that you qualify for citizenship.
Congress wanted to ensure that US citizens who have children abroad have enough American-ness in them to pass on to their children, so there are stipulations about how long a parent must have been present within the borders of the USA before their children were born in order to have US citizen kids. It’s not exactly cut and dry, either. The qualifications vary based on whether the child of the US citizen was born in, out, or of wedlock, and whether the US citizen was the mother or father. Then there were some years where Congress decided that people who were born US citizens also needed to live in the USA for a certain period of time in order to retain their status.
So today, we practiced telling our classmates that their pretend children were not, in fact, US citizens. Yikes! Can you imagine receiving the news that your child did not qualify for the citizenship that you believed they had received at birth? Or learning that you had actually lost your claim to citizenship somewhere along they way? That would be a very very bad day.
Curious what the law actually says about citizenship and nationality? Check out these resources provided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services: