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Citizenship considerations for international adoptions

For many families in Charlotte and throughout the rest of the U.S., the dream of having children is often accomplished through adoption. While there certainly are a number of locally-born children in the foster care system, some parents choose to look internationally to adopt. Records compiled by the U.S Department of Statistics and shared by CNN show that 8,668 international adoptions occurred in the United States as recently as 2012. In these cases, family law matters often don’t end with the adoption itself.

Consideration needs to be given to the citizenship of foreign children adopted into American families. The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 officially changed the standards regarding the granting of citizenship following an international adoption. Prior to that, adoptive parents were required to formally apply for citizenship for all foreign-born children. According to the Bureau of Consular Affairs, the Act allows for the automatic granting of citizenship provided that an adoptive family meets the following criteria:

  • The child is under the age of 18
  • The child was lawfully admitted to the U.S.
  • At least one of the parent’s is a born or naturalized U.S. citizen
  • That parent has full physical custody of the child
  • All adoption proceedings have been finalized

Those children who may not meet the above criteria but were admitted to the country through an IH-4 or IR-4 visa are also granted automatic citizenship. For parents whose situations do not meet these requirements, or for those adopted who are over the age of 18, they must follow standard naturalization processes.

Should the children of international adoptions fail to obtain citizenship, they could have difficulties when applying for higher education or employment opportunities, and could even face deportation if they encounter trouble with the law.