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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 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.

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    Repeated throughout the Wong decision is the implication that Wong's parents might have acted to renounce his citizenship during is minority...but did not. – Cos Callis Nov 6 '18 at 20:53
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    @CosCallis that might have been possible in those days, but today it is not. – phoog Nov 6 '18 at 21:01
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    @phoog : As I read the mentions in the WKA decision, it would mean any military vessel. At that time most countries did not distinguish navy from coast guard. I am sure that it would not include non-government foreign ships, those would be "private", not "public". I am not sure about civilian government ships of other countries. I doubt there has been a case in US courts turning on that point. – David Siegel Nov 6 '18 at 21:15
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    @hszmv not one of what countries? Countries whose laws operate automatically at birth? Do you mean that a child born in Kenya or of Kenyan parents must do something to assert Kenyan citizenship, or is that necessary only for dual citizens? (Also, there was no such thing as Kenyan citizenship when Obama was born in 1961, because Kenya was not yet independent. Obama was born a dual US/UK-and-colonies citizen.) (Further, according to Wikipedia, the Kenyan citizenship rules changed in 2010.) – phoog Nov 6 '18 at 22:50
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    The US is one of the few counties where being a citizen, even if you never enter the country can create real-life problem from the counties laws. (Due to the US tax system.) – Ian Ringrose Nov 7 '18 at 9:46
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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 A. Schneider 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 A. Schneider 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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