US Citizenship through a grandparent – a guide from the initiated
I’ve found that many American expats tend to mistakenly assume that as US citizens their children are automatically eligible for citizenship. As far as they’re concerned all they have to do is go over to the embassy and register their kids and they’re citizens. In fact to pass on your own US citizenship to your children you need to fulfill at least one of the following requirements:
1) Be married to another US citizen OR
2) prove that you have lived for at least 5 years in the US of which at least 2 years have to have been past the age of 14.
Once they discover this requirement many older expats who moved with their children when young and whose children have married non-Americans are dismayed to realize that while their kids may have lived for 5 years in the US, the 2 years over 14 requirement means that those kids will not be able to pass on US citizenship to their children. Some of the more savvy ones have heard somewhere about the possibility of a grandparent passing on citizenship to their grandchild but there’s really so little information out there that most either give up or at most pay out a lot of money to immigration lawyers to sort it out for them.
Well no need no more. I’m going to explain to you here how to get start getting citizenship for your grandchild of a US citizen whose own parent is ineligible to pass on the citizenship due to the requirements stated above. I first wish to make a disclaimer though. I am NOT a lwayer or government official and make no guarantees. All I present here is based on my own experience of naturalizing 3 children using the grandparent law and doing it on my own without any need for professionals – it’s just about understanding which forms you need to use. Anyone else’s personal success will depend on various things such as the center they apply to and the documentation they are able to supply.
First I should note that the requirements listed above for naturalizing your child are for passing it on automatically at the embassy here in Israel. If you came (as I did) before age 16 and aren’t married to a US citizen then that’s indeed not an option for you. However there is an alternate option which is to apply for citizenship for your child under section 322 based on their US citizen GRANDPARENT fulfilling the second option (i.e. proving they’ve lived 5 years in the US at least 2 of which came after the age of 14). Note that the grandparent needn’t be living in the US now nor will they need to go to the US at any point with the grandchild. Unlike the automatic transfer from parent to child, however, citizenship through a grandparent will necessitate the citizen parent to take the child to the US for the naturalization interview (though there is no set amount of time you have to stay – if you want you can fly in the day before the interview and fly out a few hours after the interview).
Start the process by going to this page
which is to apply for citizenship
And downloading the forms there. They’re in pdf format so make sure you have a program (such as acrobat) that can read pdfs. If you don’t have one you can download it for free at
and fill out the forms (the pdf file includes instructions on what they want of you).
Please note that while the citizen grandparent won’t have to appear at your child’s interview s/he will need to provide the applying parent with Xeroxes of
1) his/her own birth certificate and proof of his/her US citizenship
2) proof that S/HE indeed lived there for 5 years at least 2 after age 14. What is proof? They won’t tell you outright – they just tell you to provide the best you can. My advice is pour on the official documentation: School transcripts, degrees, employment records – anything legal which can establish his presence in the US for those 5 years. You may not need all that much but remember the interest in their becoming citizens is yours not the Immigration service’s and so the tighter the case you can build documentationwise the safer you are (which is good since living abroad its not like you can just come back in three months with more documentation).
The citizen parent must also have their own
1) birth and marriage certificates
2) child(ren)’s birth certificate(s)
3) You can submit Xeroxes of both your and your citizen parent’s documentation (in fact you SHOULD provide Xeroxes rather than the originals) but WILL be expected to bring the originals to the interview and produce them for the interviewer if asked (they never asked for my originals but Murphy’s Law says that if I hadn’t had them they’d have asked)
4) proof that you have custody of your child – ridiculous for a married parent I agree but that’s bureaucracy for you! What I did was got a printout (15 shekels apiece) from the Interior Ministry’s census registry which showed that we both (me and my kids) have the same address and that im living with their mother and am married.
5) All non-English documents must be accompanied by an English translation with the translator affirming himself competent to do the translation. You can abilitywise probably do it yourself but they don’t approve of that as it could affect your translating. Also it’s best to have someone with a different last name do it. Note that the Ministry of the Interior now offers a bilingual (Hebrew/English) birth certificate for the asking so you can save on translating that.
6) since you’re going to have to take the child(ren) to the states for the interview anyhow you might as well apply to a small processing center. Applying in New York LA or Miami could take several years till it all goes through. I applied through Philadelphia which is relatively small and it still took me almost 2 years. Someone else told me they did it through the Hartford Conneticuit office (which they said was an hour’s drive from NYC) and it all got done very quickly and in a friendly manner and I’ve heard similarthings about Rhode Island. In any case best to pick a place that nobody immigrates to. Coming from abroad means you have the right to apply to any field office anywhere in the US so check out the list here https://egov.immigration.gov/crisgwi/go?action=offices.type&OfficeLocator.office_type=SC and send your completed forms there along with xeroxes of the documents you intend to present to them as requested on the forms and listed by me above.
After a certain amount of time which can range anywhere from 3-4 months to 3-4 years depending in large part on what field office you apply to you’ll receive a letter from USCIS instructing you to appear before them at the field office with your child on a day they’ll set for you (usually about 3 months or so from when they send the letter). At that point you make your travel plans and submit a request to the embassy for a visa http://telaviv.usembassy.gov/consular/niv/Apply.aspx#1 and include a copy of your letter from the USCIS with your other documentation to the embassy. They’ll issue you a limited 60 day visa to take your child to the States for the interview.
The interview itself is a formality essentially. They’re not likely to invite you to come to the US unless they’re already convinced after reviewing the documentation you sent them that your case is sound. Of course they may want to check that you didn’t just create the documentation and that’s why it’s so important to have the original documentation with you. I don’t know what they do for older kids but for my kids who were all under 5 when I took them, they spoke exclusively to me, asked me basic questions about my dad’s documentation and then printed up naturalization certificates for the kids within an hour or so at which point they were US citizens.
One final note: in the interview letter they ask you to bring proof that thevidence of the applicant child’s entry into the US. What they want you to do is the following. On the plane they give you this white card to fill out about your plans for being in the country etc. When you go through border control they’ll take part of that card and leave you with the other part of it and stamp your kids passports (and yours) to show that you came through border control. The citizen parent should make a photocopy of the page in each applicant child’s passport that has that border control stamp on it and bring to the interview (with the other documentation of course). The interviewers appreciate that, especially since most people forget and then they’ve got to go photocopy the passport themselves – best to get them in a good mood right off by saving them the hassle. Naturally they should also bring the kids passports and that white card from the plane with them to the interview as well.
For any of you out there interested (and many of you may be considering it relates to the content of this group) I’ve started a Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/962717233750968/ called US Expatriate Parenting to discuss all things relating to being a US citizen raising kids abroad. I’d be happy to have you join me there if you feel it could be relevant to you.