By James Cohen
Many United States citizens living in Israel hesitate to register for US citizenship for their children or grandchildren. The reasons are fairly obvious: the process seems complicated and time-consuming, and there’s usually no reason to hurry. But there are a number of good reasons to register sooner rather than later. For example, securing your children’s US citizenship this year may allow you to benefit from the extended Child Tax Credit for Americans abroad. Likewise, the current process for obtaining a US citizenship is, relatively speaking, quick and easy — and it’s a sure bet that any future legislation on the subject will only make the process more complicated.
How is US citizenship transmitted?
The US is one of the few First World countries that practices both Jus Soli and Jus Sanguinis. In other words, citizenship is given to both those who are born on US soil and many of those who are born to a US citizen, whether in the States or abroad. Restrictions that prevent a person born on US soil from obtaining citizenship are rare and complicated, and detailing them is beyond the scope of this article; instead we will focus on eligibility for US citizenship earned by being born to a US citizen, which is more relevant to Bizness readers.
Your children are eligible for US citizenship if both parents are US citizens and one of them lived, even for a short period, in the United States. Additionally, your children will be eligible for citizenship if only one parent was a US citizen at the time of their birth, and had lived for at least five years in the United States, at least two of those years being after the age of 14. If you (or your adult children) are US citizens who spent most of your lives outside the United States, it is possible for a child under the age of 18 to acquire US citizenship if their grandparents were US citizens.
How to apply for US citizenship?
You may apply for US citizenship by requesting a Consular Birth Abroad form at the US Embassy. The application requires that you provide proof of your US citizenship, birth certificates of the children in question, marriage certificates, or divorce decrees, as applicable, and proof that you’ve lived in the US for five years or more, at least two of them after reaching the age of 14. Such proof may include Social Security records, tax returns, or any of the documents generated during daily life as a US citizen, such as school records, medical treatment record, lease or mortgage contracts, etc.
If the US parent doesn’t meet the physical presence test above, US citizenship can still be transmitted through a grandparent who did live in the US for five years, two of which were after the age of 14. If US citizenship is requested based on the child’s grandparent(s) being US citizens, then the application will have to take place within the United States before the child in question turns 18. You can begin the process by submitting an application for a Certificate of Citizenship via an appointment at a USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Service) office in the United States. You must present the same standard of proof cited above, that the grandparent in question was a US citizen who spent at least five years (two after the age of 14) in the US, and is in fact a grandparent to the child(ren) in question. With the documents presented and the appointment set, you and the child will be summoned to an interview at a USCIS office in the United States. Grandchildren to US citizens are entitled to US citizenship even if the grandparent in question is deceased.
Why apply now?
Our last article in Bizness focused on the increased vigilance of United States tax authorities towards US citizens residing abroad. One of the possible upsides—or at the least, an ameliorating factor—is the recently increased Child Tax Credit, which can provide a direct payment to US citizen tax filers. The benefits can be substantial.
In any case, contacting a lawyer who specializes in US immigration and citizenship will expedite and simplify a process that is best not delayed.
James S. Cohen, Esq., is a member of the Maryland and District of Columbia Bars in the United States, the American Immigration Lawyers Association and is licensed as a foreign lawyer in Israel. He is a Senior Partner at Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh Law Office, and is head of Immigration to
the United States Department.
Since its establishment in 2012, Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh Law Office has grown exponentially in reputation, staff and clientele. They practice in all civil law areas, including litigation, commercial law, contracts, labor law and legal consultation, with a specialization in Israeli real estate and immigration law. They can be reached at 02-990-3180 or through their website www.lawoffice.org.il.