Citizenship for International Adoptees

Citizenship for International Adoptees

Holt wSindee34yearsorks with both adoptive parents and adult adoptees to resolve any immigration and naturalization issues that might occur throughout the adoptee’s life. These issues are becoming far more complex and time sensitive than ever before. While we may make suggestions and recommendations, Holt staff are not immigration experts. Please seek the advice of an immigration attorney or other professional if your situation becomes complicated or urgent. The following are some of the more common topics of concern for adult adoptees.

 

Naturalization and Citizenship – Is there a difference?

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Naturalization and citizenship are not necessarily the same thing, although the terms are often used interchangeably, even by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Naturalization is the process of asking permission to become a U.S. citizen. Prior to 2001, all adoptees had to be naturalized to obtain U.S. citizenship, similar to adults who immigrate to the U.S. today.

Following the implementation of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, which went into effect on February 27, 2001, children who enter the U.S. for the purpose of adoption receive citizenship automatically when their adoption has been finalized in a court recognized by the U.S. Adoptees no longer have to ask permission (naturalization), and do not have to meet the two-year residency requirement under Section 320 or 322 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Determining Citizenship Status

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There are several factors involved in determining if you are a U.S. citizen. The primary method is by date of birth.

Following the implementation of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, which went into effect on February 27, 2001, children who enter the U.S. for the purpose of adoption receive citizenship automatically when their adoption has been finalized in a court recognized by the U.S. Adoptees no longer have to ask permission (naturalization), and do not have to meet the two-year residency requirement under Section 320 or 322 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Proof of Citizenship

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You may have been asked recently for “proof of citizenship” or told that your social security number lists you as a permanent resident, not a citizen. We receive calls and emails daily from adoptees who are having issues because they can’t produce evidence of citizenship. Some of these issues need to be resolved as quickly as possible in order to obtain a passport for an upcoming vacation, renew a driver’s license, or register for college. There are three documents that can be used to prove your status as a U.S. citizen.

  • Certificate of Citizenship
  • Certificate of Naturalization
  • U.S. Passport

The Certificate of Citizenship (COC) is now required by the DMV to issue a new driver’s license, a new ID card, or to replace a lost license. This is a very new development, and may not have started in your area, but be prepared that it may be coming. Social security offices often refuse to replace a lost card for an adoptee who has had one for years. College admissions offices, military enlistment offices and even insurance companies can require the COC. The U.S. passport service changed their requirements recently to include “proof of citizenship.”

Although a U.S. passport can only be obtained by a citizen, most government offices and colleges won’t accept it as proof. Even if you didn’t have issues securing a passport or driver’s license in the past, you should be prepared for issues to arise down the road.

Applying for a Certificate of Citizenship (COC) as an Adult

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N-600If you fall under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, which means you were born after February 27, 1983, but you don’t have proof of citizenship, you can apply for your COC by completing form N-600 Application for Certificate of Citizenship. The form and instructions can be downloaded from the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov. If you have any questions when completing the form, regarding for example your date of entry or date of adoption, please contact Holt and we will be happy to discuss it with you. If Holt did not facilitate your adoption, we may be able to give general suggestions, but will not have any specific information pertaining to your adoption.

New applications for a COC are only accepted at one USCIS location (see form instructions), and can take 6-12 months from application submission to receipt. You may also be asked to appear in person at your local or regional USCIS office. This is usually a routine “swearing in,” and you will be notified by mail. We suggest you take originals of all documents, just in case they have questions at your appointment.

We suggest you submit photocopies of the following documents. Do not submit originals, as they will not be returned to you.

    • Birth certificate from country of birth
    • U.S. birth certificate
  • Adoption decree from country of birth (if applicable)
  • U.S. adoption decree
  • Birth certificate of at least one U.S. citizen adoptive parent
  • Your marriage license or divorce decree (if applicable)
  • U.S. passport (if applicable)

If you are unsure what these documents are, or have other questions, please contact Holt. Not all of these documents apply to every adoptee, and can vary by birth country and time of adoption.

Replacing a Lost or Destroyed Certificate

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N-565If your certificate has been lost or destroyed, you can apply for a replacement by completing form N-565 Application to Replace Certificate of Citizenship/Naturalization. The form and instructions can be downloaded from the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov. Please note: Two USCIS locations accept replacement applications (see form instructions), and it can take 12-18 months from application submission to receipt. Holt suggests you replace your lost certificate as soon as you are able to avoid delays or complications down the road.

Applying for a U.S. Passport

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If you need to apply for your U.S. passport, you will need certified copies or originals of a variety of documents, which may include a certified copy of your adoption decree, your U.S. birth certificate, and your proof of citizenship (COC or naturalization). If you don’t have these documents, or need to know if they apply to you, please contact Holt. Passport applications and requirements can be found on the Department of State website at travel.state.gov/passport. More adoptees are having issues obtaining their U.S. passport than ever before, due to a changing climate toward immigration and citizenship. Please be aware that you may or may not be able to obtain a passport on short notice unless you have proof of citizenship and adoption. If you think you may be traveling out of the country, we recommend you check into your status and obtain a passport far in advance.

 

 

What should I do if I have questions?

In order for us to answer your citizenship questions, we need more information from you. Please complete the online verification form, even if you don’t know if Holt facilitated your adoption. A post adoption services staff member will email you in approximately 2-5 business days to discuss your particular situation.

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