Surprise, you may already be a citizen!


In the United States, immigration law is complicated, to say the least. One of its most interesting quirks is the concept of “acquisition of citizenship,” which may grant automatic citizenship to some foreign-born children of parents or even grandparent U.S. citizens, depending on date of birth. In effect, some people may be United States citizens and not even know it.

Date of birth is vital to knowing if and how one qualifies for acquisition of citizenship. Laws regarding how citizenship is passed down have changed several times over the years, and whichever law existed on one’s birth date will determine the criteria one must meet to qualify.

One of the most common criteria is that the parent(s), child, or both must have had a period of residence in the United States – sometimes this period was specified (and could be several years) and sometimes it wasn’t. In the latter case, the law may allow for even short periods of residence to qualify.

Because many people may not even be aware of these laws, under certain circumstances it may be possible that they have failed to meet the requirements and so lost their automatic U.S. citizenship. In such cases, it may be possible to regain citizenship through a fairly simple process, and one should contact a United States consulate, USCIS, or an immigration attorney to find out how.

For more information, including the changes in law over the years by date, please see: