Some Children Born to US Troops Abroad No Longer Get Automatic Citizenship

Some children of US service members and government employees born abroad will no longer receive automatic US citizenship, according to a policy alert issued by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The new policy will affect children born to US service members and government employees who are not yet themselves US citizens. Under the old rules, children born to US citizen parents were considered to be “residing in the United States” and granted automatic citizenship under the Immigration and Nationality Act 320, Task & Purpose reported.

Children adopted by US service members while abroad will not receive automatic citizenship. USCIS said children born to at least one US citizen government employee or service member parent who does not meet the residence or physical presence requirements will not meet the threshold to transmit citizenship to their child at birth.

The agency said that the policy would be implemented on October 29.

USCIS spokesperson Meredith Parker told Task & Purpose that US citizen parents will have to apply for citizenship on their children’s behalf before the child’s 18th birthday. Some children affected will be able to complete all naturalization proceedings while living abroad, USCIS said.

“Certain children of US service members may complete the process outside of the United States without having to travel to the United States,” the guidance said.

“However, children of US government employees must enter the US lawfully with an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa and be in

lawful status when they take the Oath of Allegiance, which completes the process.”

News of the policy shift raised questions regarding its impact on children of US service members and government employees living abroad. Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli was forced to issue a statement in an attempt to clarify the new policy.

“This policy update does not affect who is born a US citizen, period. This only affects children who were born outside the United States and were not US citizens,” Cuccinelli said in a statement on August 28. “This does NOT impact birthright citizenship.”

Cuccinelli continued: “This policy update does not deny citizenship to the children of US government employees or members of the military born abroad. This policy aligns USCIS’ process with the Department of State’s procedure, that’s it.”

An agency official clarified to Task & Purpose that the rule does not affect the acquisition of citizenship “whether to US citizen military members abroad or to anyone else.”

The children of service members or government employees who are not citizens and are deployed overseas do not gain automatic citizenship under the existing law, Task & Purpose reported. Initially, those children were considered as “residing in the United States” if they had a green card and were living with their US citizen parent abroad. Now, if that parent were to become a citizen while in the service and living abroad, their child will no longer receive automatic citizenship.

According to CBS News, a USCIS official told reporters on August 28 that the agency “coordinated very closely with [the] Department of Defense to try to message this as carefully as possible.” The official added that USCIS and the Department of Defense (DOD) began coordinating on the issue in May.

It remains unclear how many families will be affected by the policy shift.

In a statement, the DOD said it “understands the estimated impact of this particular change is small.” The department confirmed it has been working closely with the Department of Homeland Security and USCIS.

Despite the clarifications, many expressed frustration and criticized the administration regarding its perceived disrespect of US service members, The New York Times reported.

“The children of Americans who risk their lives in uniforms are not automatically citizens of the United States: That is an abominable and antipatriotic position for the Trump administration to take,” Will Goodwin, an Army veteran and director of government relations for the liberal advocacy organization VoteVets, told the newspaper.

Cuccinelli has made previous moves to limit legal immigration to the US. Earlier in August, the acting USCIS director announced a rule to deny permanent residence cards to immigrants who were determined likely to use government benefits, including food stamps and subsidized housing.


About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.