During his administration, President Trump has repeatedly proclaimed his intentions on ending birthright or automatic citizenship for those born within the United States. To be clear, birthright citizenship is still intact, but the latest USCIS policy memo pertaining to residency for citizenship arguably represents an encroachment. Policy Memo PA-2019-05, issued on August 28 of this year, received much attention in the media regarding changes to the way USCIS will now adjudicate citizenship petitions for children of US government employees and armed forces members. Under the new policy, as elaborated in the memo, children of US government employees and armed forces members residing outside the United States will no longer be considers "residing in the United States" for purposes of citizenship applications filed under section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Section 320 is a part of the law that grants citizenship to certain children under the age of 18 who did not acquire citizenship at birth but who are residing in the legal and physical custody of a citizen parent pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residence. (In these cases, the child applies for a Certificate of Citizenship, as opposed to filing to become a citizen through the naturalization process.) The upshot of the new rules, effective October 29, 2019, is that these children born abroad must now pursue applications for citizenship under a different section, notably section 322, which is more cumbersome and requires the child to complete the naturalization process before the age of 18. Because this is an extremely complex area, some news outlets may have exaggerated and oversimplified its impact, though there is no dispute amongst most immigration attorneys that the new guidance discriminates against armed forces families and threatens to damage morale.
The vast majority of lawful permanent residents aspiring to become United States Citizens will need to undergo the naturalization process. But in some cases, an individual may already be a citizen through application of the law pertaining to either automatic acquisition or derivation. In those instances, a person will need to apply for proof of citizenship by either applying for a US Passport or a Certificate of Citizenship via Form N-600. Unfortunately, the law regarding acquisition of citizenship can be incredibly complex. Depending on when certain conditions are/were fulfilled will determine which set of rules apply. A recent Third Circuit case, Dessouki v. Attorney General, illustrates just how fact-sensitive some of these determinations can be.