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The US constitution states that

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside.

Does this mean that anyone who is born in the US is automatically a US citizen, whether they want it or not? Or does this amendment just offer the possibility of requesting citizenship?

In other words: is there an action to be made in order to become a US citizen when born in the US (and therefore one is not before this action is performed)?

Note: this question is different from another one which deals with the "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof" part. Mine is about the automatism (or lack of) of the acquisition.

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    @DavidSiegel I would distinguish this question from the other because this one asks not about the meaning of the jurisdiction clause but about whether citizenship must be asserted by some affirmative act. – phoog Nov 6 '18 at 20:42
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    I have retracted my vote to close as a duplicate – David Siegel Nov 6 '18 at 20:56
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    A baby does not understand what citizenship is, so "whether they want it or not" is meaningless. – Nacht - Reinstate Monica Nov 6 '18 at 23:09
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    @Nacht: it is not meaningless at all. Having American citizenship has tremendous impacts in the way you handle taxes abroad. Someone born "by chance" in the US without any intent of having the citizenship is then in trouble (especially that it looks like they have to wait before being able to renounce it). This is different from jus sanguinis cases where there is obviously no chance involved (in how the citizenship is transferred) – WoJ Nov 7 '18 at 6:21
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Does this mean that anyone who is born in the US is automatically a US citizen, whether they want it or not?

Yes (subject to a couple of exceptions, namely the children of diplomats with full immunity and the children of a hostile foreign occupier).

Or does this amendment just offer the possibility of requesting citizenship? In other words: is there an action to be made in order to become a US citizen when born in the US (and therefore one is not before this action is performed)?

No. For someone who falls under the 14th amendment's citizenship clause, the only way to avoid being a US citizen is to relinquish or renounce it, which generally means that one is stuck with the US citizenship for at least 18 years.

Most countries' citizenship laws, or at least all of those with which I am familiar, operate this way—automatically—for "normal" cases of acquisition of citizenship by virtue of the circumstances of birth. This is true whether the citizenship derives from the place of birth or from the parents' citizenship.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Dale M Sep 30 at 1:47
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If you're assuming that the child is "subject to the jurisdiction thereof," the child is a citizen of the United States, immediately upon birth.

No waiting, no paperwork, no red tape.

  • But taxes, no matter where you live, and no citizenship renouncement before paying all of it. (This may well apply to a minor with income of some sort.) – Peter - Reinstate Monica Nov 7 '18 at 14:06
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    @PeterA.Schneider most US citizens living abroad pay no tax, benefiting as they do from the foreign tax credit or the foreign earned income exclusion. – phoog Nov 7 '18 at 15:16
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    @phoog But you still have to file. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Nov 7 '18 at 22:21
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    @PeterA.Schneider indeed, and that can be burdensome and costly. – phoog Nov 8 '18 at 4:03

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