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Looking at the "Acquisition of U.S. Citizenship by a Child Born Abroad" page, it seems that there are some combinations where the targeted baby may not be an American citizen by default. So, what happens when the American parent tries taking the baby with them to the U.S.? Does the baby get deported as an illegal immigrant? Possibly to an orphanage/foster-care if the other parent isn't there and/or the U.S. parent doesn't want to travel? Is there a way for the American parent have the baby converted to a (naturalized) citizen?

Oh, and that page doesn't seem to cover what happens if both parents are U.S. citizens, but not in wedlock. Does anyone know the policy in that case?

  • For your second paragraph, two Americans have a child abroad who were not married would likely be the same as a mother and a legal alien for all intents and purposes. – hszmv Aug 31 '18 at 11:59
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    I expect it'd be just like anyone else who tried to enter the US without proper documents - the child would be refused boarding at the origin airport, or refused entry upon arrival. None of these makes them an illegal immigrant (because they didn't actually immigrate) or results in deportation. The parent would be obliged to go with the child, or find someone else to do so, because of their general responsibility to care for the child and not abandon them. The parent could come back on their own later. – Nate Eldredge Aug 31 '18 at 13:49
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    Or are you asking what happens if a US citizen smuggles their alien child into the country and is then caught? – user6726 Aug 31 '18 at 14:43
  • @hszmv an alien who is abroad is neither legal nor illegal with respect to US immigration status. – phoog Sep 2 '18 at 12:59
  • "Oh, and that page doesn't seem to cover what happens if both parents are U.S. citizens, but not in wedlock. Does anyone know the policy in that case?" 8 FAM 301.7-4(E)(1) covers that case – user102008 Sep 11 '18 at 23:42
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So, what happens when the American parent tries taking the baby with them to the U.S.?

If the child has proper documents, the specifics of which depend on the child's citizenship and the purpose of entering the US, nothing will happen.

If the visit is temporary, the child needs the same documents as any temporary visitor with the same citizenship. If the parent intends to remain in the US indefinitely, the child should have an immigrant visa, in which case the child will become a US citizen on arrival.

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Is there a way for the American parent have the baby converted to a (naturalized) citizen?

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 lays out the requirements for non-citizen children of US citizens to be naturalized. It is the primary route by which children adopted from abroad gain US citizenship, but it applies to biological children as well. The basic requirements are that the child has at least one US citizen parent who has legal custody, the child is under 18, and the child is a legal permanent resident in the US. The child's permanent residency can be established by the parent filing a Petition for Alien Relative.

[T]hat page doesn't seem to cover what happens if both parents are U.S. citizens, but not in wedlock. Does anyone know the policy in that case?

Presumably the child could potentially qualify as either "a child born out of wedlock to a US citizen mother" or "a child born out of wedlock to a US citizen father". Depending on the situation, it's entirely plausible that a child could be a US citizen via the father, the mother, both, or neither.

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