Since many adoptive families have raised questions about their foreign-born child’s US citizenship, and there is confusion over how citizenship is acquired by adopted children, CT Council on Adoption believes it is important to share this clarifying information.  

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 provides for “automatic” acquisition of US citizenship to many foreign born adopted children provided that certain qualifications are met:

  • At least one parent of the child is a US citizen;

  • The child is under the age of 18 years upon entering the US or was under 18 at the time of the date the law went into effect (February 27, 2001);

  • The child is residing in the US in the legal and physical custody of the citizen parent and there has been a “final” adoption according to the laws of the birth country and US immigration.

If the adoption was full and final under the laws of the foreign country, the child is issued an IR3 visa to immigrate to the US. This visa classification will be stamped on the child’s original passport (from their country of origin). Children with IR 3 visas automatically are US citizens upon entry to the US,  as long as the above qualifications were met.

If the adoption was not completed abroad or considered “final” due to the laws of the birth country or the fact that only one parent traveled to meet the child, the child entered the US on an IR 4 visa. This type of classification meant the adoption needed to be completed in the United States, so either a finalization or re-adoption must occur before the child can acquire US citizenship. 

USCIS began sending out Certificates of Citizenship automatically to IR3 visa recipients in January 2004, free of cost.  If your child entered the US before January 2004, you will have to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship (CoC). If your child entered on an IR4 visa, you will have to apply for a CoC after the readoption requirement is met. Please note that as above, adopted persons born overseas before February 1983 were not included in the CCA of 2000 and not eligible for automatic citizenship.These persons need to go through the Naturalization process and should contact an Immigration attorney.

All parents are strongly urged to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship for their adopted child.  Even if they were automatically deemed a US citizen,  you must have “evidence” of it. The two types of evidence are a CoC and a US Passport. While some parents balk at the cost of a Certificate of Citizenship ($1170)  there are some benefits to getting this versus a passport. The CoC  1.) never expires; 2.) is accepted as proof of citizenship universally and 3.)  provides a government record that is accessible by all agencies and departments.

Finally, parents need to TALK to their child/teen/young adult and make sure they understand their citizenship status. You should mention that there may be times when their citizenship will be questioned by others. Show the CoC or Passport to your child so he or she KNOWS that you have proof of their status. Contact your local adoption agency for any questions or help with a citizenship issue! It’s so important!

Please see fact sheet with FAQ’s on applying for a Certificate of Citizenship for your child.

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