As a US citizen living abroad, do I need to register anywhere that I got married and had children?

Do my children automatically get US Citizenship?

3 Answers 3


You don't need to register your marriage, and you don't have to register your children. Children of US citizens born abroad are considered citizens, however if you want it to be official and for them to get passports then you will need to go to the embassy with your children (having your spouse as well is a good thing), along with the forms and proofs needed for a consular report of a birth abroad, passport application and photos (make sure you get them in the right dimensions!), and social security card application.

Every embassy has a web page that will show you the process, you can find yours here.

  • Is there a deadline (age-wise) for them to register and apply for a passport? Or can they just do it when they grow up and want to do it?
    – Nathan H
    Mar 13, 2014 at 10:24
  • 2
    They aren't considered citizens unless the parent has the legal capacity to transmit citizenship. For that, the parent must have lived in the US for four years contiguously past the age of 14 - which the consular will verify prior to issuing the consular report of birth abroad and passport. The law is in place so that great great great great grand children that never set foot in the country gain citizenship through a very diluted birthright.
    – user100
    Mar 13, 2014 at 12:43
  • here is the US-London embassy page for births london.usembassy.gov/cons_new/acs/passports/robirth.html
    – geocoin
    Mar 20, 2014 at 15:17
  • @TimPost: Not exactly. If the parents are both U.S. citizens, then any time of presence is sufficient. If only one parent is a U.S. citizen, it's 5 years of physical presence in the U.S., including 2 years after turning 14.
    – user102008
    Mar 23, 2014 at 4:19
  • @NathanH: Nope. As long as the U.S.-citizen parent satisfies the residence requirement to transmit citizenship, the child is automatically a U.S. citizen at birth. Applying for something or not applying something does not change that. As a U.S. citizen, the child can get a U.S. passport and/or apply for other proof of citizenship at any time, no matter how old they are. However, providing the evidence that the parent satisfied the requirements to transmit citizenship will get harder over time, as records become harder to find.
    – user102008
    May 26, 2014 at 6:00

Some countries require that you obtain a clearance from your embassy if you wish to marry a citizen of that country. The Philippines is one such country. When I received my clearance, I took an oath in front of a consular that I was not married, and possessed the full legal capacity to enter into a marriage agreement.

They'll issue you a notarized affidavit, which you present to the agency that controls marriage licenses in the country that you reside. Not all countries require this.

Regarding registration, you aren't required to notify them of marriage, but you (yourself) should register with the embassy in the country that you reside and keep your contact information with them on file up to date. If something happened that they needed to alert you (political unrest, a threat against US citizens, etc) - they should be able to get in touch with you.

You should also report the birth of your child to the US consular as soon as it's convenient for you, your spouse and your child to make your way to the embassy. Most embassies will ask that you call ahead, make an appointment, and will give you a list of requirements. All of you must be present, with everything on the list of requirements, or the process could be delayed quite a bit.

The paperwork will be processed, and your child will get his or her passport and consular issued certificate of birth (report of birth abroad) usually via courier.

Keep the following in mind

In order for your child to be able to transmit their citizenship to their children, they must reside in the US for four years contiguously after their 14th birthday. Additionally, for you to be able to transmit your citizenship to them, you must have done the same.

So yes, to answer your question, it is automatic, provided that you meet the requirements set out by Congress in order to transmit your citizenship. However, your child will not be able to enter the US without a passport, so you'll need to get them set up.

  • One interesting point about the 4-year residency requirement: Is it 4-year AS A CITIZEN, or 4 years total? Say I lived with a green card for 5 years and as a citizen for 3 years?
    – Nathan H
    Mar 13, 2014 at 14:00
  • @NathanH That I'm not certain of, it would be interesting to inquire with Immigration.
    – user100
    Mar 16, 2014 at 11:46
  • "they must reside in the US for four years contiguously after their 14th birthday." Nope. It's 5 years of physical presence in the U.S. total, including 2 years after turning 14. Also, this only applies if only one parent is a U.S. citizen.
    – user102008
    Mar 23, 2014 at 4:21

As a note for statutory requirements for citizenship, you will want to register any children born abroad, as the other two posters mention, as soon as reasonably possible.

The actual requirements are actually a bit complex. In general if both parents are US citizens, then the child is automatically a citizen if either parent has ever resided in the US.

If one parent is a citizen and the other is a non-citizen (ignoring for the time being non-citizen nationals which would be a case unlikely to be relevant unless travelling abroad with a national resident of US Marshall Islands or the like) then the rule is 5 years residency/physical presence, at least two of which have to be over the age of 14. I didn't see anything in the statute relating to citizenship at age of residence, and I doubt that courts have had a chance to adjudicate the issue.

Consequently I don't think anyone can say anything beyond the argument that the simplest way to read the statute is that it is 5 years of physical presence in the US as a resident. The government and courts might disagree if such a case actually came before them however.

  • According to the State Department, it's physical presence in any status: citizen, national, permanent resident, nonimmigrant, and even someone in the U.S. illegally. And it doesn't require maintaining residence. See state.gov/documents/organization/86757.pdf 7 FAM 1133.3-3 (on page 18).
    – user102008
    Mar 23, 2014 at 4:29
  • Yup, it's physical presence, the same kind of presence that a naturalized citizen reports on his/her N-400. Another source is: travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/…. If you don't report it right away, then the child has the option of filling in an N-600 and getting a Certificate of Citizenship in the future; but that would still require proving all the things asked for on the consular declaration (and, they are quite expensive).
    – Flydog57
    Jul 17, 2018 at 23:20

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