There are two ways to become a U.S. citizen. You will become a citizen at birth if you were born in the country or a jurisdiction of the U.S., or if one of your parents was a citizen at the time. To become a citizen after birth, you either apply for naturalization or apply for a derived citizenship.
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, you can obtain derived citizenship when your parents have been naturalized, pending certain requirements are met. In some cases, a child born in another country can secure a derivative citizenship when his or her adoptive parents are U.S. citizens.
The USCIS sets strict regulations on how you may obtain citizenship through parents. For example, a child who was born in another country may become a citizen if both parents are married and citizens at the time of birth and at least one of the parents was living in the U.S. or one of its territories before the child was born. If both parents are married and just one parent is a U.S. citizen, that parent must have been in the country for at least five years before the birth of the child. The USCIS will credit time spent abroad with the military or employment with the U.S. government toward that five years.
When the parents of the child are not married, the legal mother must be a citizen at the time of the child’s birth and must have been living in the U.S. or a territory continuously for a year. If the father is a U.S. citizen and the mother Is not, the child may become a citizen if there is a genetic test proving paternity and the father has agreed in writing to provide the child with financial support, among other requirements.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security reports that between 1980 and 2011, 27.4 million foreign nationals became legal permanent residents. Of those, roughly 5 percent, or 1.3 million, had derived citizenship.
While this information may be useful, it should not be taken as legal advice.