It's been two and a half years since we adopted our daughter, Jaleh, from an orphanage in China. Mara was pregnant at the time and wasn't supposed to travel, so I went with our eldest daughter, Nava, to pick up Jaleh. It was the sweetest of trips.
The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 provided for overseas children adopted by US citizens. If both parents are present to pick up the child, the child enters the US on an IR4 visa and US citizenship is granted automatically.
Since I went without Mara, Jaleh entered the US under an IR3 visa. When she entered the US, she automatically became a permanent resident, and we received a green card a few weeks later. But in order for her to become a US citizen, the adoption has to be repeated in the US. And according to CNMI law, she had to reside in the CNMI for one year before the adoption could be completed. We completed this process a few months ago. She is now a US citizen, automatically with the completion of the adoption.
We are going down to the Passport Office tomorrow to apply for her passport. It's a pain to travel with a Chinese passport and we're trying to plan for a trip later this summer.
It has taken me a while to sort out all the details of this "journey to citizenship", so I'm posting below the most useful pieces of information I found.
How do I apply for my child抯 U.S. passport once we抳e returned to the United States?
According to the provisions of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, if your child has received an IR-3 visa they become United States citizens the moment they are admitted to the U.S. border. You can therefore take your child抯 Chinese passport that contains the IR-3 visa and the admittance stamp to any Passport Agency and this will constitute the evidence of U.S. citizenship that is required for a passport. In order to receive the child抯 passport, you will need: (1) Evidence of the child's relationship to a U.S. citizen parent (a certified copy of the final adoption decree); (2) the child's foreign passport with BCIS's I-551 stamp or the child's resident alien card; and (3) the parent's valid identification.
If your child receives an IR-4 visa, you must first complete the adoption process and receive your child抯 Certificate of Naturalization. Once you receive it, you can proceed to any Passport Agency to obtain your child抯 U.S. Passport.
But I get the sense that this is not completely accurate. It seems a Certificate of Naturalization is not necessary to apply for a passport. It's a nice document to have, but the finalized adoption decree is the document the passport office can use as proof of citizenship.
In January, 2004, U.S. citizenship procedures for internationally adopted children changed. This follows the Citizenship Act of 2000.
Change Affects only IR-3 Families
The IR-3 entry visa (the IR stands for "immediate relative") is issued to the child when the adoption has been completed abroad and when both parents (in the case of a married couple) have met the child. Children who enter the U.S. on an IR-3 visa are automatically granted U.S. citizenship, and under the new regulations, will be sent a Certificate of Citizenshipwithin 45 days of their entry. Parents do not need to complete a separate application on behalf of their children for this document.
IR-4 Families must apply
The other type of entry visa issued to children in connection with international adoption is the IR-4, which means that the adoption has not been completed abroad, and/or that both adopting parents (in the case of a married couple) have not met the child.
In these cases, adoption or readoption must be completed in the U.S. to satisfy federal requirements for subsequent citizenship. Citizenship will be granted automatically upon finalization of the adoption/readoption procedure, but IR-4 families must apply separately if they want a Certificate of Citizenship for their children.
To obtain proof of citizenship for your child, you, as the child's parent (one or both of whom are U.S. citizens), must file USCIS Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship in Behalf of an Adopted Child, on behalf of your child, in order for your child to receive a Certificate of Citizenship.
Applying made easy
To make filing for proof of U.S. Citizenship for your child as easy as possible, Patti Urban of Legal-Eaze has put together a Citizenship Packet for you to use with her compliments. It is designed to be completed by hand and mailed directly by you to the USCIS.
The sample letter can be mailed to the USCIS (United States Citizenship & Immigration Service) address at 26 Federal Plaza in New York City for those families living in the following New York counties: Bronx, Kings (Brooklyn), New York City (Manhattan), Queens, Richmond, Nassau, Suffolk, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester. If you live outside those areas, it is suggested that you send it to the local office that serves the area where you live. You can write the address on a label, and place it over the existing address on the sample letter, or use the sample letter as a guideline.
In addition, you should be aware that the 1996 Immigration and Naturalization Act included, among other things, a provision requiring automatic deportation of non-citizen immigrants who are convicted of a felony charge. This means that an adopted child, arriving on an IR-4 visa, of U.S. citizens who fail to get the child U.S. citizenship by the time he or she is 18 years old, could be sent back to his or her country of origin following any felony conviction.
Therefore, it is urgent that any child arriving on an IR-4 visa go through the adoption or readoption process in his or her state as soon as possible. Your child then becomes a U.S. citizen upon the issuance of the Certificate of Adoption in your state. Once this is completed, you can then file for the Certificate of Citizenship as proof of citizenship.
All families are strongly urged to apply for and get a Certificate of Citizenship on behalf of their internationally adopted child as soon as possible. It takes only a short time to assemble the documents needed for your child's U.S. citizenship application... and a lifetime to enjoy its privileges!
NOTE: A flag that has flown over the U.S. Capitol building in Washington DC may be purchased to commemorate your child's citizenship. Be sure to plan in advance, as your request must be received at least four (4) weeks prior to any commemorative date. Click here for more information.
Is a Certificate of Citizenship necessary?
For IR-4 families, the most frequently asked question is whether or not this step - and the additional cost - are necessary in addition to passports. Here are some facts about passports, certificates, and citizenship to help you decide for yourself:
Passports are issued by the State Department; Certificates of Adoption are issued by the USCIS (United States Citizenship & Immigration Service) which is a part of Homeland Security.
Every child adopted abroad currently entering the U.S. must go through Immigration upon arrival. USCIS issues a Permanent Resident Card. Your child, however, still retains the permanent resident status on the records with USCIS until a Certificate of Citizenship is issued.
The only way to get the USCIS to change the status to U.S. citizen for those entering on the IR-4 visa is to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship using Form N-600.
Passports expire, Certificates of Citizenship do not.
Immigration attorneys believe it is a necessary step. (See Adoptive Families magazine, May/June 2002 issue.)
Passports are more likely to be stolen, given the enormous black market in passports.
Passports have been questioned, especially in the instance of multiracial and multicultural families.
It seems to clearly imply that it is possible to have a passport without a Certificate of Citizenship.
We're going to mail off Jaleh's passport application and hope it works out quickly. I hope this information compile here will be useful to someone trying to sort this out.