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Zork, 12, was born in a foreign country to a US citizen parent and a non-US citizen parent. At the time of Zork's birth, the US citizen parent had (and currently has) all the requirements to pass US citizenship to Zork. The US citizen parent had strong anti-US political views, so they did not want US citizenship to 'oppress the child'. They never registered Zork's birth with the embassy. The US citizen parent left the foreign country and is assumed to be in the US.

If the US citizen parent ignores all communication, what steps should be taken by Zork to confirm his status as a US citizen?

Additional info:

  • The US citizen parent lived 10+ years in the US after turning 18.

  • The US citizen parent and the non-US citizen parent had a marriage ceremony in accordance with local customs, but did not get government official papers: obtaining them requires a substantial application fee/bribe.

  • The US citizen parent lived 8 years in the family household.

  • For this particular foreign country, a police officer's salary is $90/month (just an example) thus the idea of paying retainer fees for a US-based attorney or hiring US private investigators is not viable.

The main issues are:

  • The US citizen parent ignores all forms of contact and is no longer located in the foreign country and won't return to visit the embassy.

  • All posted rules assume that the parent is willing to enter an embassy and submit to a blood test (if required). However if the parent refuses to answer emails, phone calls, and is basically not interested in assisting this process in any way, nor willing to return to the foreign country, etc, since the child is automatically granted US citizenship at birth, is there a way to compel the US citizen parent or (I am out of ideas)..?

  • Is this situation winnable by the child without some "guardian angel" / 'Deus ex machina' type of intervention?

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You need to provide more information. Whether the child is automatically a U.S. citizen at birth depends on the details of the situation:

  • If the child was born in wedlock, and the U.S. citizen parent was physically present in the U.S. for 5 years before the child's birth, including 2 after turning 14, the child is automatically a U.S. citizen at birth. Nobody has the ability to "refuse" this.
  • If the child was born out of wedlock, and the U.S. citizen parent was the mother, if the mother was physically present in the U.S. for 1 continuous year any time in her life before the child's birth, the child is automatically a U.S. citizen at birth. Nobody has the ability to "refuse" this either.
  • If the child was born out of wedlock, and the U.S. citizen parent was the father, then in addition to the physical presence requirement above (physically present in the U.S. for 5 years before the child's birth, including 2 after turning 14), a few other conditions need to be met for the child to be considered a U.S. citizen from birth:
    • A blood relationship between the child and the father is established by clear and convincing evidence
    • The child’s father (unless deceased) has agreed in writing to provide financial support for the child until the child reaches 18 years of age
    • One of the following criteria is met before the child reaches 18 years of age:
      • The child is legitimated under the law of his or her residence or domicile;
      • The father acknowledges in writing and under oath the paternity of the child; or
      • The paternity of the child is established by adjudication of a competent court.

In the first two cases, the child is automatically a U.S. citizen from birth, and the desire of either parent has no effect on it. Any parent (not necessarily a U.S. citizen parent, and doesn't even need custody) or legal guardian can apply for the Consular Report of Birth Abroad. See here, under 7 FAM 1443.1:

d. The Form DS-2029 is to be executed only by a child’s parent(s) or legal guardian(s). Either parent, including an alien parent, may execute the application. [...]

f. Custody dispute: There is no two-parent signature requirement for a Form FS-240 with respect to permission to issue. [...] In the case of a child involved in a custody dispute, either parent may apply for the Form FS-240 regardless of which parent has been awarded custody

(Of course, it may be harder to get evidence of the U.S. citizen parent's physical presence in the U.S. without their cooperation. But you may be able to get some evidence from public records, etc.)

If the child is over 18, you cannot apply for a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, but the child can just apply for a U.S. passport and/or a Certificate of Citizenship.

However, in the third case above (born out of wedlock to U.S. citizen father), the father's refusal to participate could mean the child is not a U.S. citizen. In particular, you need the father to agree in writing to support the child until 18. See here, under 7 FAM 1133.4-2(b)(3)

(3) Father's Statement of Support

(a) A statement of financial support is required except when the father is deceased. A father who refuses to sign a statement of support prevents his child from acquiring U.S. citizenship. A child who cannot present a written support agreement by the father cannot be documented as a U.S. citizen unless it is proven that the father is dead. This is true even if the father cannot be located; unless dead, the father must be located and comply with the requirements of section 309(a), as amended, before the child's 18th birthday.

(b) Since section 309(a) specifies that the father must agree in writing to support the child, a local law obliging fathers to support children born out of wedlock is not sufficient to meet the requirement of that section.

  • This is an excellent answer. Do you have any information about the criteria for recognizing a marriage? Since it seems there's a 50% chance that the US citizen is the father, the question of the marriage's validity is critical. Does the US recognize a "marriage ceremony in accordance with local custom" in the absence of "government official paper"? I would guess not, but common law can be funny sometimes. – phoog Nov 21 '15 at 3:43
  • Agreed, top marks for the answer. The language used is that US recognizes a marriage "performed overseas when they are considered valid in the country where they take place if they are entered into in accordance with local law." OP says 'custom' and notes that the two "did not get government official paper." That may present a problem, along with the difficulty of establishing a biological connection (maternity/paternity); it may require a legal remedy. In the US, a minor child (under 18) may not sue, but a parent or legal guardian can file a lawsuit on their behalf. – Giorgio Jul 19 '16 at 21:27
  • From a practical standpoint, how would the non-US guardian obtain citizenship paperwork (COBA) for minor without proof of citizenship? This proof would be near-impossible to obtain without de-facto assistance from the US parent. You need the proof of the US parent's citizenship + US residency proof. That assumes the person speaks and reads English. – Jon Grah May 13 '17 at 7:43
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If you look at the US embassy page (e.g. the one from UK) you should be able to find a page on claiming US citizenship which states:

If you were born outside the United States, have not been previously documented as a U.S. citizen and are:

  • under the age of 18: please see our instructions for obtaining a Consular Report of Birth Abroad ;

To obtain a Consular Report of Birth Abroad you will need:

You will need to bring the following:

  • Birth certificate showing the parent(s)’s names;
  • Evidence of parent(s)'s identity and U.S citizenship;
  • If married, your original civil marriage certificate. If the document is in a language other than English, a certified translation must be provided;
  • If previously married, the original divorce decree, annulment or death certificate of your former spouse(s). If the document is in a language other than English, a certified translation must be provided;
  • Proof that the U.S. Citizen parent has lived in the United States long enough to transmit citizenship to their child. Examples of acceptable evidence include, but are not limited to: current/previous passports showing entry/exit stamps, school/college transcripts, military records or wage statements. There is no set list of required documents. Further information about the physical presence requirements is available by clicking on this link;
  • Form DS-2029. Complete the form on-line and submit to the U.K.
  • The non-refundable application fee for a CRBA is $100. You will pay the fee in person to the Cashier at the time you appear at the Embassy. Fee information is available here.

You can also go through the page on checking eligibility to pass US citizenship to get more details. There are also additional links regarding documentation of parent's physical presence so you will need to read up on this and in addition I would suggest going to the embassy and clarifying any remaining questions there.

  • What you pasted are instructions for the US Citizenship parent to follow in order for the child to get a Consular Report of Birth Abroad. My question though focuses on cases when US Parent abandoned the child. I appreciate your suggestion to go to US Embassy to get my questions answered, though it be nice to get the answers here instead of wasting the full day after a 3 month wait for an appointment. ;) – NickNo Jul 21 '14 at 13:25
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    @NickNo I'll let the lawyers handle this one but there is nothing that I was able to find to say that the parent submitting the documentation(sorry a 12 year old isn't able to do it for him/herself under most circumstances) must be a US citizen. – Karlson Jul 21 '14 at 13:46

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