What you need to know if you’re adopting a child who was born outside the U.S.

If you’re a U.S. citizen and/or your spouse is, and you’re considering adopting a child from outside the U.S., you no doubt want that child to have U.S. citizenship. You don’t want them to wait until they’re an adult and go through a long, complicated path to citizenship. It’s a relatively straightforward process under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (amended from the Immigration and Nationality Act Section 320).

What are the requirements for a foreign-born child to become a U.S. citizen?

It’s essential to understand the process for obtaining citizenship for your child and comply with the requirements. 

  • The law allows a child under 18 to become a U.S. citizen as long as one or both of their adoptive parents is a citizen, either by birth or naturalization. 
  • A U.S. citizen parent must have physical and legal custody of that child and reside in the U.S.
  • The adoption must be a legally recognized one.

When an adopted child first arrives in the U.S., they do so on an IR-4 or IH-4 visa. These are for children who have parents preparing to adopt them in the U.S. They will have lawful permanent resident (LPR) status and have a green card until the adoption is finalized and they can get a citizenship certificate.

Why you need legal guidance

Note that there are different requirements if the parents live outside the U.S. or the child remains overseas. Here, this post only addresses adoptions where the parents and child will be living in the U.S.

When you’re dealing with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, as you need to in order to get citizenship for your child, it’s always wise to have an experienced immigration attorney providing guidance as you prepare and submit the necessary paperwork for a visa. This can help the process go as smoothly and efficiently as possible.