Americans Helping Americans Abroad

Transmission of Citizenship

Due to restrictive provisions of US law, not all Americans residing abroad can transmit U.S. citizenship to their children, and since some countries do not grant citizenship to the children of US citizens who are born there, it is even possible for such children to be born “stateless” and not eligible for an American or another country's passport unless at least one American parent meets the requirements specified in the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Children born to American citizens abroad can inherit citizenship only as specified in Sections 301 and 309 of the Immigration and Nationality Act as follows:

1. Both parents are U.S. citizens and they are married: a child born abroad is a U.S. citizen at birth if either of the parents has ever resided in the United States (no amount of time specified).

2. Only one of the parents is a citizen of the United States: the U.S. citizen parent must have resided in the United States for a period or periods totaling not less than five years, at least two of which were after attaining the age of fourteen. (“Residence” in this case includes time spent abroad on U.S. military duty or employed by the U.S. government or by certain international organizations, or as the dependent of someone so employed.)

3. U.S. citizen mother giving birth to a child out of wedlock: she must have resided in the United States for one uninterrupted year at any age prior to the child’s birth.

4. U.S. citizen father of a child born out of wedlock: he must satisfy the residency requirements of Point 2, and he must also establish the blood relation, agree to support the child up to age 18 and assume legal paternity of the child before he/she reaches 18.

To facilitate transmission of citizenship and to avoid the hardships of statelessness:

American citizens should not have any residency requirement to be able to transmit nationality to his/her children, but at a minimum:

  • An unwed mother should be able to transmit citizenship to her child if she satisfies either the residence requirement provided under Point 2, or the existing requirement under Point 3.
  • The residency requirement under Point 2 should be reduced to two years.
  • The residency requirement under Point 3 should be modified from one uninterrupted year to “one year in total”.


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