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On February 27, 2001, the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA) took effect, providing automatic citizenship to certain children of resident-aliens who are naturalized and became U.S. citizens.

Specific criteria are in place to avail of this benefit. These criteria are (a) the child must be less than 18 years old when the parent naturalizes; (b) the child must be residing with the naturalized parent who has legal and physical custody; and (c) the child is in the U.S. pursuant to a lawful permanent resident status.

A number of years has lapsed since then but the concept that some children can automatically become U.S. citizens is unfamiliar to many. Often, without assistance from an immigration lawyer, the applicants wait till they are 18 years old and have five years of residence in the U.S. as green card holders to apply for U.S. citizenship by naturalization.

They file the usual Form N-400 (application for naturalization) only to be denied because they do not need to be naturalized as they are, by law, already U.S. citizens by virtue of CCA. Upon denial they are advised that being U.S. citizens, they should simply apply for a U.S. passport.

Indeed, this should have been the proper course of action as soon as the parent naturalized.  But applying for a U.S. passport based on CCA is not an easy route.  Since the law has prerequisites to comply with before the U.S. passport can be issued, the Department of State (passport division) will not settle for less.

The Passport Office will require the submission of a number of evidence to prove that they are covered by the law (CCA). But if an applicant submits a “Certificate of Citizenship” in lieu of the numerous documents to prove that the passport applicant is covered by CCA, the application would be less cumbersome and  processing would be quick.

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What is a certificate of citizenship?  As differentiated from certificate of natualization (N-400), an applicant for a certificate of citizenship is required to file a different form (N-600) which is governed by a different set of rules and requires a different set of documents to prove eligibility.

As the name implies, the US Department of Homeland Security does not vest U.S. citizenship in these children because they are already U.S. citizens.  What is applied for is merely a certificate to show that citizenship has been bestowed by operation of law. The certificate is reduced to being simply evidence of one’s U.S. citizenship.  It is a very important document.

The Passport Office will most certainly accept the  certificate as proof of one’s citizenship and will issue the passport without  further questions.  In most cases, both the U.S. passport and the certificate of citizenship are equally acknowledged as proof of U.S. citizenship. In certain instances (such as military applications or studies abroad), having both of these documents can come in handy.

The most significant benefit of being covered by the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 concerns deportation when the child has committed acts which will make him/her deportable unless he/she is already a U.S. citizen.

A drug or an attempted murder conviction makes the said child liable for the raps as a U.S. citizen but deportation or removal proceedings against them will not be in order. Children of U.S. citizens who turned 18 and older by February 27, 2001 are excluded from the applicability of CCA.