US Citizenship by Birth or Through Parents

A child born on American soil automatically gets U.S. citizenship, unless that child is born to a foreign government official who is in the United States as a recognized diplomat. Children born in certain U.S. territories - Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam - may also acquire U.S. citizenship. Anyone born with U.S. citizenship holds it for life unless he or she deliberately gives it up.

There are a few categories of people who may be U.S. citizens without knowing it.  They are:

  • People born in the United States who have lived most of their lives in other countries.

  • People who have U.S. citizens in their direct line of ancestry. If your parents or grandparents were U.S. citizens, U.S. citizenship has been passed down the line, even if you were born elsewhere and your parents or grandparents haven't lived in the United States for a long time.

  • Children of naturalized U.S. citizens. When parents become naturalized U.S. citizens, their minor children with green cards gain U.S. citizenship automatically. (Children under the age of 18 cannot normally apply to become naturalized U.S. citizens.)