How to Handle Citizenship During an International Adoption
Each year, roughly 12,000 children are adopted from other nations into American families. International adoption has many excellent benefits, but it also comes with some pitfalls like complex naturalization rules. Understanding how citizenship works in international adoptions will help things go more smoothly for you and your family.
Adoption Does Not Always Guarantee Citizenship
Many people are under the impression that any child adopted by American parents will automatically become a citizen. Unfortunately, this is not true. There are many cases of adults who were adopted as children, obtained a Social Security number, and lived and worked in the U.S. for decades before learning they were not legally a citizen. Even if the U.S. government facilitated the adoption, it is possible that the adoptee was not granted citizenship due to an oversight.
For adopted children who were under the age of 18 before February 27, 2001, the Child Citizen Act of 2000 applies. This act allows all child adoptees to get citizenship as long as they meet certain requirements. However, the child or their family members still have to apply. Otherwise, citizenship is not granted to the child. Those who are too old to meet the cutoff also need to apply for citizenship, but things are a little trickier. The adoptees will need to go through the usual citizen application process instead of the streamlined version now available to younger adoptees.
Requirements to Get Citizenship for International Adoptees
For those young enough to qualify for the Child Citizen Act of 2000, obtaining citizenship in an international adoption is almost certain. The child simply needs to apply for citizenship and show that they satisfy these requirements before the age of 18:
• Have at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen
• Have a complete and final adoption recognized by the child’s state of residence
• Have a parent or grandparent who has resided in the United States for at least five years, with two of these occurring after the age of 14
• Be legally admitted to the United States as an immigrant seeking lawful permanent residence
These requirements are often fulfilled as part of obtaining visas in the first place. For example, a child who gets an IR-4 or IH-4 visa will have met these requirements automatically. In these cases, your New Jersey adoption attorney will usually submit the citizenship application at the same time as the visa request. Often, the child’s citizenship is then finalized alongside their adoption.
If a person is not young enough to qualify for the Child Citizen Act of 2000, things are a little trickier. In some cases, an attorney may be able to argue that the adoptee qualifies for an exemption and fast-tracked citizenship. However, most adoptees will need to follow the standard U.S. naturalization process. This involves:
• Passing tests to prove knowledge in the English language, U.S. history, and U.S. government
• Establishing residency in their chosen state
• Holding a green card for a certain amount of time
• Proving an upstanding moral character
How to Get Citizenship When Adopting Internationally
The international adoption process can seem complicated, but fortunately, you get a lot of help. If you are working with an agency, they will typically guide you through visa and citizenship applications. It is often fairly simple to handle yourself. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is happy to answer your questions and tell you what you need to do to seek citizenship.
When handling international adoption citizenship, it is a good idea to have an experienced New Jersey adoption attorney on your side. They can explain all the paperwork and rules in simple, easy-to-understand language. Your adoption attorney will help ensure that you have all the right documentation, and they will assist you with filing everything at the appropriate time.
At Cofsky & Zeidman, we are happy to help families navigate the complexities of adopting internationally and applying for citizenship. Our firm assists with a variety of international, domestic, private, agency, and stepparent adoptions. Call (856) 429-5005 in Haddonfield or (856) 845-2555 in Woodbury to schedule a consultation to learn more.