Children in California who have at least one U.S. citizen or naturalized parent are automatically considered U.S. citizens. A person who was under the age of 18 when one of their parents naturalized does not need to apply for naturalization. To prove U.S. citizenship, a person in this situation could simply apply for a U.S. passport or a Certificate of Citizenship.
Foreign-born children who lived in the U.S. prior to Feb. 27, 2001 were subject to slightly stricter criteria for citizenship. A person who was under the age of 18 would become a citizen after one parent went through naturalization only if their other parent was a U.S. citizen or deceased. A child would also become a U.S. citizen if they were in the custody of a naturalized parent after their parents went through a separation or divorce.
Under current laws, any child becomes a U.S. citizen automatically as long as at least one of their parents is a U.S. citizen from birth or a naturalized citizen. The child must be under the age of 18, unmarried and residing in the United States with the citizen parent in order to become a U.S. citizen. A person who was born to a non-citizen mother and a U.S. citizen father who was never married to the mother may not derive citizenship from the father.
An immigration attorney may be able to help people to understand whether or not they qualify for U.S. citizenship based on their parents’ citizenship status. If people arrived in the United States when they were children but never qualified for citizenship, an attorney may be able to help them to apply for programs like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.