How to Protect Citizenship for Internationally Adopted Children

How do you obtain US citizenship for internationally adopted children? What documents are needed and how do you apply for them? When are you required to show proof of US citizenship? Should you readopt your child once home in the US? Host Dawn Davenport, Executive Director of Creating a Family, the national infertility & adoption education and support nonprofit, interviews Irene Steffas, an attorney specializing in both adoption and immigration law.

Hit the Highlights
  • Why does my child need a Certificate of Citizenship?
  • Do you have to apply to get a Certificate of Citizenship?
  • How to you obtain a Certificate of Citizenship for an internationally adopted child?
  • The Child Citizenship Act (CCA) of 2000 (Dept. of State has a FAQ page) allows certain foreign-born, biological and adopted children of U.S. citizens to acquire U.S. citizenship automatically. The CCA went into effect on February 27, 2001, and is found in section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Under INA 320, an adopted child will automatically acquire citizenship upon admission to the United States if he or she satisfies these conditions before turning 18:
    1. Qualifies as a child under INA 101(b)(1)(E), (F), or (G),
    2. Is admitted as a permanent resident, and
    3. Is residing in the United States in the U.S. citizen parent(s)’ legal and physical custody.
    4. Important Notes:
      • The child must have been under the age of 18 on February 27, 2001, in order to have benefited from the CCA.
      • In order for a child to qualify under the CCA, the adoptive parents must have completed a final adoption in the United States or abroad.
      • Generally, children residing abroad may also naturalize to become U.S. citizens based on their relationship to their U.S. citizen adoptive parents by filing Form N-600K per INA Section 322 and appearing for interview and, if over the age of 14, taking the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. For additional information, please visit
      • Adoptees who are not eligible for U.S. citizenship under the CCA after admission to the United States will remain Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) and receive a Lawful Permanent Resident Card, Form I-551, from USCIS. Such individuals may seek U.S. citizenship through naturalization by filing USCIS Form N-400 when eligible to do so (generally only after turning 18 years old). For additional information about Form N-400 naturalization process and eligibility requirements, please visit the USCIS website Citizenship Through Naturalization.
  • Under what situations are you required to show proof of your internationally adopted child’s US citizenship?
  • What documents can be proof of US citizenship?
  • How does an adopted child get a passport? What steps are required?
  • What is the difference between a Certificate of Citizenship and a Certificate of Naturalization?
  • Do Certificates of Citizenship and Certificates of Naturalization expire?
  • Do passports expire?
  • Since the Certificate of Citizenship is precious and expensive, is there a way to get certified copies of the Certificate of Citizenship that would be accepted in lieu of it (e.g. for passport application)?
  • Do you have to refinalize an adoption that is already finalized?
  • Do you recommend readopting your internationally adopted child in your state of residence?
  • Can you get a US birth certificate for an internationally adopted child?
  • What is a US certificate of foreign birth and do we need one for an internationally adopted child?
  • Do I need a US birth certificate if I already have a Certificate of Citizenship?
  • What to do about changing child’s name?
  • How do I correct the name on my child’s Certificate of Citizenship?
  • How long does it take to get a Certificate of Citizenship?
  • I thought I would receive my child’s Certificate of Citizenship by now, who do I contact?
  • How much does it cost to get a Certificate of Citizenship?
  • Child’s citizenship issues with disrupted/dissolved adoptions or second chance adoptions.
  • Can we travel outside the US on my child’s foreign passport?
  • What documents do I need to file for a US passport?
  • How do you obtain a social security number for your internationally adopted child?
  • Why is my child’s English name not on their social security card?
  • How do I correct my child’s Social Security card?
  • Do I need a Social Security number to file my taxes?
  • How to get a Social Security number for my internationally adopted child?
  • Adoptee Citizenship Act
  • Citizenship issues when using donor gametes from abroad for third-party reproduction.
  • Links referenced in this interview:

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Image Credit: ExeterAnna