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Proving derivative citizenship

One of the most complicated areas of immigration law is derivative citizenship. Derivative citizenship refers to any situation where someone becomes a citizen either at birth or sometime after birth but before age 18 through the actions of their parents or other relatives.

For example, some children acquire U.S. citizenship at birth even though they are born overseas because one or more of their parents is a U.S. citizen. Another example includes situations where a child acquires citizenship by being born in the U.S., even though the child's mother and father aren't legal immigrants. Children in that situation have U.S. citizenship through their birthright, although they are often derisively called "anchor babies," because they can provide avenues for their parents to remain in the U.S. despite their illegal status.

The rules regarding derivative citizenship differ depending on what period of time was involved, because the laws have become more restrictive since February, 2001. The changes in the laws can make it difficult to determine if you qualify as a derivative citizen or not.

Another issue facing children and young adults who have derivative citizenship is that they didn't need to do anything to become U.S. citizens—it just automatically happened—yet, they may still find it necessary to provide documentation of their citizenship in order to apply for jobs, schools, grants or government benefits. They may lack the "paper trail" that generally follows people who are born in the U.S. to U.S. born parents, which can be a source of confusion and trouble.

Generally, resolving that issue means applying for a Certificate of Citizenship from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. It's extremely important that you fill out the paperwork correctly and provide all of the necessary documentation required the first time that you apply. If you are denied for any reason, including a simple technicality like a missing signature, you need to file your appeal promptly. USCIS only allows you a limited time to ask for a reconsideration. After that, all further applications may be rejected without even being considered.

If you're faced with the problem of getting proof of derivative citizenship, consider hiring an immigration attorney like those at Sayer Regan & Thayer, LLP. That can take a considerable amount of stress out of the situation and allow you to move forward without further complications.

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