USCIS Policy Change Affects How Children Of U.S. Service Members And Employees Abroad Obtain U.S. Citizenship

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A new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) policy alert issued Wednesday states that the children of some government employees and U.S. service members overseas will no longer be automatically U.S. citizens.

Task and Purpose reported:

Previously, children born to U.S. citizen parents were considered to be “residing in the United States,” and therefore would be automatically granted citizenship under Immigration and Nationality Act 320. Now, children born to U.S. service members and government employees, such as those born in U.S. military hospitals or diplomatic facilities, will not be considered as residing in the U.S., changing the way that they potentially receive citizenship.

The outlet credit the first reporting to San Francisco Chronicle reporter Tal Kopan.

“The policy change explains that we will not consider children who live abroad with their parents to be residing in the United States even if their parents are U.S. government employees or U.S. service members stationed outside of the United States, and as a result, these children will no longer be considered to have acquired citizenship automatically,” USCIS spokesperson Meredith Parker told Task & Purpose. “For them to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship, their U.S. citizen parent must apply for citizenship on their behalf. The process under INA 322 must be completed before the child’s 18th birthday.”

The policy change reflects an effort to align USCIS policy with Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provision. From the USCIS memo:

Based on this treatment of U.S. government employees and their children in the context of naturalization under INA 316, USCIS determined that “residing in the United States” for purposes of naturalization under INA 320 should likewise be interpreted to include children of U.S. military and government employees stationed outside of the United States who are residing outside of the United States with their parents.

However, as of October 29, 2019, USCIS is no longer committed to this reasoning because the prior USCIS policy guidance is in conflict with several provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), especially with changes to the acquisition of citizenship statutes that occurred in 2008, after the initial policy determination in 2004.

There was some confusion on who exactly this would affect.

The document says the parents of children who fall under INA 322 will be allowed to complete naturalization proceedings while living overseas, but “must enter the U.S. lawfully with an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa and be in lawful status when they take the Oath of Allegiance,” Parker told Task & Purpose. (RELATED: Trump Considering Executive Order To End Birthright Citizenship)

Addressing concerns, acting USCIS director Ken Cuccinelli said in a statement that the policy update “does not affect who is born a U.S. citizen, period,” but rather “affects children who were born outside the United States and were not U.S. citizens. This does NOT impact birthright citizenship. This policy update does not deny citizenship to the children of US government employees or members of the military born abroad. This policy aligns USCIS’ process with the Department of State’s procedure, that’s it.”