Child Naturalization Process: Do They Need To File N-400?
First, congrats on getting this far in the immigration process! The journey was probably stressful and US citizenship couldn’t come soon enough but the great news is that you now are able to apply for naturalization and gain all the benefits the citizenship offers. So, what’s next? Most new immigrants immediately think gathering all the documents that are need to file for naturalization but what about your child? Is child naturalization the same as for an adult green card holder?
If you and your child already have a 10 year green card and the time for you to apply for naturalization is fast approaching, this post will be timely. Many parents want to make sure that their child gets US citizenship as soon as they are eligible so that they don’t have to worry about the immigration process themselves.
The actual process of naturalization depends on whether your child is a minor or is considered an adult (18+).
If you have young children under the age of 18, it is very straightforward and they don’t need to file their own application. If, however, your child is over the age of 18 by the time they are eligible to apply for naturalization, they will need to file the paperwork themselves.
There are two ways to obtain citizenship through U.S. citizen parents:
- At birth
- After birth (but before the age of 18)
The term “parents” includes: the genetic father, the genetic mother, and the non-genetic gestational mother, if she is the legal parent at the time of birth under the law of the relevant jurisdiction.
Child Under 18 At Time Parent Naturalizes
The biggest difference between the two definitions of child is that a stepchild is not included in the definition when it comes to citizenship and naturalization.
Although a stepchild may be the stepparent’s “child” for purposes of visa issuance, the stepchild is not the stepparent’s “child” for purposes of citizenship and naturalization. This can get very confusing so I will try to explain it as well as I can.
A child born outside of the United States automatically becomes a U.S. citizen when all of the following conditions have been met:
- The child has at least one parent, including an adoptive parent who is a U.S. citizen by birth or through naturalization;
- The child is under 18 years of age;
- The child is an LPR; and
- The child is residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent.
So if your child qualifies for all of these conditions, they do not need a separate N-400 form or complete the civics test and oath ceremony.
Once your naturalization is approved and you gain citizenship, you can then apply for a U.S. passport for your child using the following documents as proof:
- Naturalization certificate
- Marriage certificate
- Birth certificates (for each child)
Note: you will need written authorization from the other biological parent before the child will get their passport issued. If the other biological parent cannot be reached, you can use a notarized letter stating the reason you are not able to get permission from them (can’t contact them).
The U.S. passport can be used as proof of your child’s citizenship, however, if you want them to receive a naturalization certificate you will need to apply for form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship. The fee for this application is $600 and many parents choose not to apply due to this extra cost.
Child Turns 18 And Over At The Time Parent Naturalizes
In the case of a child that turned 18 or older when the K1 parent applies for naturalization, they must wait 5 years instead of the usual 3 years for the K1 parent. This is because they are considered an adult once they turn 18 and need to apply for citizenship on their own.
The exact date that your child will be eligible to file for naturalization will be 90 days before their 5 year anniversary of their permanent resident card (green card). If they currently have a 10 year green card, they can apply after they have been a permanent resident for 5 years or wait until their green card is due to expire in 90 days.
There is no rush after you have your 10 year green card, but many people want the benefits of US citizenship such as a passport, ability to vote in elections and applying for certain jobs.
Documents they need to apply:
- Copy of their permanent resident card
- Copy of birth certificate
Your child will also need to show good moral character and other requirements. See the Naturalization step-by-step guide for more information about eligibility requirements.
They must also pass the civics test (study the 100 questions) about US government and general questions about US history. Although it is good to know the answer to all 10 questions, you will only be asked about 1o of them during naturalization. Your child will need to get at least 6 out 10 questions correct to pass.
You will know whether your child will gain automatic citizenship after your naturalization or whether they will turn 18 by the time you gain citizenship. Of course it would be easier for your child to gain citizenship through you as their parent but sometimes that isn’t always possible.
The naturalization process is straightforward and processed in a timely manner but not all green card holder want citizenship. If your adult child decides they do not want US citizenship, they are free to keep renewing their permanent resident card every 10 years. The only downside to this option is that they will be paying the renew fee every 10 years and must remember to file before they green card expires.
Divorce Before The 3 Year Anniversary Of Green Card
In some cases, the marriage does not work out and you may end up filing for divorce. If the divorce is finalized before you are eligible to file for naturalization within 3 years of holding a permanent resident card, you will need to wait 5 years from the issuance for green card.
The 3 year rule is only for permanent residents that are currently married to a U.S. citizen. After divorce, you and your children can gain citizenship after 5 years and the process is the same as described above.
US citizenship is a status that is sought after by many immigration so if you have the option to apply for citizenship, I always recommend it. The great thing about US citizenship is that you will be able to petition other family members such as parents or siblings that live abroad.