Automatic US Citizenship Restored for All Military Children Born Overseas

Embassy employee discusses passport application atYokota Air Base.
A United States Embassy employee discusses the passport application process with a family at a United States Embassy Outreach event at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 22, 2019. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

In compliance with a new law, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has changed its rules to give children born overseas to U.S. military families and civil servants immediate American citizenship.

The changes adopted by USCIS on Sept. 18 will, in a small number of cases, allow military families and civil servants to avoid a laborious and potentially costly application process to get citizenship for their children, according to Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., a sponsor of the new law passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump.

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The new law scraps rules put in place by USCIS in August 2019 that caused widespread confusion for military families.

The August 2019 rules still gave citizenship in the vast majority of cases, but said that it was not automatic for children born overseas if the parents adopted them while serving abroad; the parents became U.S. citizens after their children were born; or the parents were American citizens but had never lived in the U.S.

In a statement, Duckworth said the new law will make sure that children born while stationed abroad, as well as stepchildren and adopted children, will automatically acquire U.S. citizenship.

In addition, service members and civil servants who were subject to the old rules can now avoid application fees that can amount to $1,000 or more to gain citizenship for the children, she said.

"Children of Americans serving their nation abroad are just as worthy of automatic citizenship as any other children," Duckworth said. "Forcing military families to jump through bureaucratic hoops and spend hundreds of dollars applying for citizenship on behalf of their children was not right."

The new USCIS rules can be seen here.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at

Related: New Citizenship Policy to Affect Roughly 25 Military Children Per Year, Officials Say

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