Understanding Adopted Children’s Path to U.S. Citizenship: USCIS Clarifies Policy

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is issuing policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual to clarify how citizenship and naturalization provisions apply to children adopted through the orphan, Hague, and family-based processes. This guidance is effective immediately.

The policy guidance:

– Describes requirements for adopted children to meet the definition of a child for citizenship and naturalization purposes, including having an adoption that is considered full, final, and complete for immigration purposes;

– Explains eligibility for U.S. citizenship for adopted children who reside in the United States and how to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship;

– Explains eligibility for U.S. citizenship for adopted children who reside outside of the United States and how to apply for citizenship and issuance of a certificate; and

– Provides guidance on the acquisition of citizenship and naturalization when an adoption is disrupted or dissolved.

The updated guidance does not change the requirements for adopted children to become U.S. citizens. We are updating this guidance to help adoptive families and adoptees understand these requirements so adoptees may secure U.S. citizenship and documentation of their citizenship, if they are eligible and choose to do so.


Under U.S. laws, children may obtain U.S. citizenship other than through birth in the United States. In general, persons born outside of the United States, including adopted children, may obtain U.S. citizenship after birth, before the age of 18, through a U.S. citizen parent.

Some children immigrating based on adoption automatically acquire U.S. citizenship when they are admitted to the United States as lawful permanent residents. Others do not, and their adoptive parents need to take additional steps before an adopted child turns 18 for the child to obtain U.S. citizenship through an adoptive parent. Adoptees who do not obtain citizenship through their adoptive parents before age 18 may be eligible to apply for naturalization after the age of 18.

USCIS link: https://www.uscis.gov/newsroom/alerts/uscis-clarifies-guidance-on-citizenship-and-naturalization-for-adopted-children