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An Introduction to Derivative Citizenship: Former INA § 321

Derivative Citizenship refers to the concept allowing a child to derive citizenship after birth from a parent who has become a U.S. Citizen by naturalization. This series will discuss the various legal avenues at obtaining derivative citizenship. Derivative citizenship can be a complex topic and an immigration attorney, like those at The Law Office of George K. Gomez, P.A., can help determine which legal option best fits your needs after analyzing the unique facts and law specific to your case.



Former Immigration and Nationality Act §321


Before the enactment of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, the controlling law concerning the acquisition of citizen after birth was Immigration and Nationality Act section 321. The Child Citizenship Act removed INA § 321 so that there would only be one method for children in the United States to acquire citizenship after birth.


However, former INA §321 is still relevant for children who turned eighteen before the effective date of the Child Citizenship Act. Individuals who were under eighteen years of age at any time between December 24, 1952 and February 27, 2001 would not follow the Child Citizenship Act but instead would still follow the provisions of former INA § 321.


Under former INA § 321, qualifying children could automatically derive U.S. citizenship if the following scenarios took place prior to the child’s eighteenth birthday:


1) Both of the child’s parents were naturalized citizens:


  • The child was unmarried;

  • Both parents were naturalized citizens; and

  • The child resided in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident (green card holder).


2) Naturalization of the child’s surviving parent:


  • The child was unmarried;

  • One of the child’s parents was deceased;

  • The child’s surviving parent became a naturalized citizen; and

  • The child resided in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident (green card holder).


3) Naturalization of the child’s custodial parent:


  • The child was unmarried;

  • The child’s parents, who were married, legally separated;

  • The parent with legal custody of the child became a naturalized citizen; and

  • The child resided in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident (green card holder).


4) The child was born out of wedlock and the child’s mother naturalized:


  • The child was unmarried;

  • The child was born out of wedlock (that is, to unmarried parents);

  • The child was not legitimated by the birth father;

  • The child’s mother became a naturalized citizen; and

  • The child resided in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident (green card holder).


Qualifying individuals can apply for a certificate of citizenship using Form N-600. While this certificate is not required to establish citizenship, it is required where a person is seeking to document their legal status. Moreover, a Certificate of Citizenship is increasingly becoming a requirement in order for a derivative citizen to obtain a U.S. Passport.

A derivative citizen, at least 18 years of age, is eligible to file Form N-600. If the derivative citizen is under the age of 18, Form N-600 must be submitted by the child's ​U.S.​ citizen biological parent, adoptive parent, or legal guardian. How Can a Miami Lakes Immigration Attorney Help?


Determining eligibility for Derivative Citizenship can be a complex matter. For this reason, it is recommended that you obtain the advice and assistance of a qualified and experienced immigration law attorney. Miami Lakes, Florida Immigration Attorney George K. Gomez is experienced in assisting individuals with their citizenship issues.


Furthermore, because immigration law is a federal matter, The Law Office of George K. Gomez, P.A. can assist you even if you are not a resident of Florida. If you need a competent immigration attorney to handle your US citizenship matter, contact The Law Office of George K. Gomez, P.A., in order to speak to a qualified immigration attorney to get the advice and assistance you need.


If you need an immigration lawyer or just need more information on the immigration-related legal services we can offer, our service areas, or wish to learn more about our managing attorney, contact us at (305) 539-0991, or use our online contact form.

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