If you have an adult U.S. citizen child living abroad, there is a little-known immigration law that will likely be very relevant to you, either now or in the future. In general, if a U.S. citizen is living overseas, he or she must be able to establish sufficient “physical residence” in the United States in order to transmit U.S. citizenship to a child born to him or her while living overseas. The “physical residence” requirements specify that the U.S. citizen parent must be able to establish through documentary evidence that he or she resided in the U.S. for at least five years, two of which were after the age of fourteen (14). U.S. citizens who can produce evidence of sufficient U.S. physical residence prior to moving overseas can register their foreign-born children at the U.S. Embassy and then obtain a Certificate of Birth Abroad. These foreign-born children are then U.S. citizens from birth.

There are circumstances, however, where the U.S. citizen parent cannot establish the requisite five years physical presence and thus cannot transmit U.S. citizenship to the foreign-born child.  Many adult U.S. citizens have been living abroad since early childhood or their teens and cannot meet the five year residence requirement, particularly the requirement of having physically resided in the United States for at least two years after age fourteen. If the U.S. adult citizen does not possess the required five years of physical presence in the United States, then no Certificate of Birth Abroad will be issued by the Department of State.

All hope is not lost. There is still a mechanism for obtaining U.S. citizenship for this foreign-born child. If you are the grandparent of this child and you are a U.S. citizen, your adult son or daughter can piggyback onto your “physical presence” in the U.S. and thereby obtain citizenship for your grandchild. This process can be accomplished by filing the N-600K Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322 with the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). This application by the adult U.S. parent living overseas, is filed in the United States with the USCIS, requesting that the foreign-born child be granted a Certificate of Citizenship based upon the grandparent’s five or more years of physical presence in the United States. Proof of the required five years physical residence can be established through school records, medical records, housing information, banking and tax documentation, correspondence, etc.

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After the N-600K application is filed with the USCIS and adjudicated, the U.S. citizen parent and the grandchild(ren) are then scheduled for an appointment at the U.S. Embassy in their country of residence in order to make the final steps towards obtaining the Certificate of Citizenship. Once the U.S. Embassy finalizes the processing of the case, the U.S. citizen parent and the sponsored child are then able to enter the U.S. for an appointment at a local USCIS office in order to be interviewed and granted the Certificate of Citizenship. Upon approval at the local USCIS office, the child is then given a Certificate of Citizenship which confers immediate U.S. citizenship status on the child and allows the child to apply for and receive a U.S. passport. The child is then entitled to all the benefits and rights of a U.S. citizen. An important note: In order to take advantage of this process, the N-600K must be filed, processed and approved, and the child must obtain the Certificate of Citizenship all prior to turning eighteen (18) years of age.

The N-600K Application is a means of obtaining citizenship for your grandchildren when your own U.S. adult children cannot transmit citizenship themselves. This is an extremely valuable option available to U.S. grandparents and one that should be seriously considered if you want your grandchildren to have the advantage of U.S. citizenship. The most important rule to remember is to make certain that you have enough documentary evidence to establish your own physical presence in the U.S. Once you have that evidence in hand, you are well on the road towards obtaining citizenship for your grandkids.