Citizenship Will No Longer Be Automatic For Children Of Service Members And Government Employees Working Abroad

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Children of US service members and government employees working in foreign countries are no longer guaranteed American citizenship, according to a new policy released by the Trump administration and the US Citizenship and Immigration Services department.

A policy alert released on August 28, 2019, titled “Defining ‘Residence’ in Statutory Provisions Related to Citizenship,” rescinds the previous rules that automatically granted citizenship to the children of U.S. government employees and members of the U.S. armed forces working outside of U.S. borders. Those individuals will no longer be considered “residing in the United States,” and their children will be required to apply for American citizenship.

The measure also concerns those who “were born, but did not reside, in the United States.

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The children of U.S. service members serving abroad will no longer be granted automatic citizenship.


“A U.S. citizen may have automatically acquired U.S. citizenship based on birth in the United States, but never actually resided in the United States. This U.S. citizen will not have established residence in the United States, and may be unable to transmit U.S. citizenship to his or her own children,” the policy alert states.

The alert does not give specific definitions of what constitutes establishing residence, outside of what does not. Those who come to the U.S. for work, but are transient, do not own or rent any property or have another principal dwelling place in the U.S., are not considered residents. A person does not need to own or rent property in the U.S. to establish residence, but it helps.

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The Trump Administration announced the new policy will take effect on Oct. 29, 2019.


Each case is expected to be considered individually. The measure itself has been contested by a number of veterans and leaders of veterans organizations.

“Forcing (members) to go though (sic) bureaucratic hurdles for no apparent reason, just to get their children naturalized as American citizens, does a great disservice to people who have dedicated their lives to serving their country,” American Foreign Service Association President Eric Rubin told CNN. “Frankly, it is hard to explain and deeply worrying.”

Immigration attorney Martin Lester, chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Military Assistance Program, has also voiced his opposition to the new policy.

“The fact that those of us who deal with immigration law all the time can read this memo and immediately point out plausible scenarios leads me to believe it’s going to impact some number of people. Impacting one person is too many,” Lester said.

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Ken Cuccinelli, Acting Director of USCIS, said the policy update “does not deny citizenship to the children of US government employees or members of the military born abroad.” Only that it, “aligns USCIS’ process with the Department of State’s procedure.”

Task & Purpose offers a synopsis of the policy, “Children who are adopted by U.S. service members abroad, and children who are born to service members while overseas who are not yet citizens (such as service members who are green card holders) will not receive automatic citizenship by merely living with their parents who are out of the U.S on orders.”

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Those who have not established residence in the U.S., even if employed by it, may not be granted citizenship.

USCIS officials have stated that this change will affect “very few people a year” after it takes effect on Oct. 29, 2019.

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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
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