When a child is born to US citizens, that child is automatically a US citizen, even if the child is born outside the country and remains outside the US. However, in order to adopt all the rights of US citizenship – such as a passport – a family must claim the US citizenship. The child is already considered a US citizen in most cases, but the citizenship must be confirmed and made official before the child can claim any rights of citizenship.
This process can be a little complicated if someone is born to US parents outside the US and decides at some future point to visit the US. The US does not issue visas to US citizens, so in most cases the citizenship status needs to be sorted out before a visa application can be processed. If a person has a claim to US citizenship, it is better to apply for citizenship than a visa, since a visa application will generally be rejected due to the citizenship status of the applicant.
If someone is born to US parents outside the US, the process of confirming and claiming US citizenship is relatively simple. Usually, the applicant must prove that the US citizen parent or US citizen parents were present physically for a specific period of time in the US before the birth. Generally, the parent or parents who have US citizenship must have been in the US for at least five years before the child is born, and at least two of those years must have been after the parents were at least 14 years old. The parents do not need to have been citizens of the US while living in the US. When applying for citizenship, it must also be demonstrated that the parents were US citizens at the time of the child’s birth and that they were the child’s parents. Once all of this has been proven, the applicant will be issued a US passport and a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA). To apply for a US passport and a CRBA, applicants should turn to the US embassy in their country of origin. There is a $100 fee for a CBRA and a $105 fee for a child passport.
In cases where a child’s parents obtained citizenship after the child’s birth and in cases where a child’s parents are US citizens but do not meet US residency requirements, the child cannot claim US citizenship via a CBRA. Instead, he or she must apply for a visa. The same is true of step-children of US citizens.