A memo from the Trump administration will make it more difficult for some children to acquire U.S. citizenship if they’re living abroad, continuing the trend of tightening citizenship requirements by reinterpreting the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that has made life more difficult for LGBTQ families.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a policy alert this week updating the definition of “residence” used in the INA to exclude the children of U.S. government workers and military personnel who are assigned abroad.
According to immigration attorney David Kubat, the rule change does not apply to birthright citizenship. Babies born to U.S. citizens who have U.S. citizenship at birth are not affected by the policy change.
The rules affect residency requirements set for some children who acquire citizenship after they’re born. Before, they could be considered residing in the U.S. if they were living with government workers and military servicemembers stationed abroad, but now that won’t count.
This affects children who were adopted by U.S. parents, children of non-citizens who became naturalized after their children were born, and children born to U.S. citizens who were not born in the U.S. and have not lived in the U.S. for long enough, usually five years.
In order to get U.S. citizenship, the parents of these children must apply for them before their 18th birthday.
“The policy change explains that we will not consider children who live abroad with their parents to be residing in the United States even if their parents are U.S. government employees or U.S. service members stationed outside of the United States, and as a result, these children will no longer be considered to have acquired citizenship automatically,” said USCIS spokesperson Meredith Parker.
In 2017, the State Department changed its interpretation of the INA to be that children of U.S. citizens must be “biologically related” to their parents, when the INA does not mention genetic relationships.
This made it more difficult for same-sex parents. Since the child is only biologically related to one parent – and not necessarily the U.S. citizen parent – children have been denied birthright citizenship because of the rule change. Other LGBTQ parents have been forced to provide proof of a genetic link to their children. Straight parents don’t have to do so, even though there is a chance that a child born to a straight couple has no genetic link to the U.S. citizen parent.
Some same-sex couples have sued because of this law change.