I'm looking to get my US citizenship, and I am wondering if it is possible to obtain a U.S. citizenship because my mother is a citizen and was so when I was born. I am looking at This Page but I am confused about a couple of things.

I believe the following applies to me:

In a general, a Child Born Outside the U.S. is a Citizen at Birth when the Child’s Parents Are Married to each other at the Time of Birth


One parent is a U.S. citizen at the time of birth and the birthdate is on or after November 14, 1986


The U.S. citizen parent had been physically present in the U.S. or its territories for a period of at least five years at some time in his or her life prior to the birth, of which at least two years were after his or her 14th birthday.

Does November 14, 1986 refer to the birthdate of the parent or the birthdate of child (me)?

Assuming this applies to me, does "citizen at birth" mean I am already technically a citizen, or would my parent's have had to fill out some paperwork when I was born? The Page also mentions the age of 18. If my parents didn't file the paperwork for me to become a citizen at birth or before 18, does that mean it's impossible for me to get a citizenship through this method since I am over 18?

I was born in Canada and have a Canadian citizenship. I'm not sure if that makes any difference.

  • 2
    The answer to your question is "probably not, because you probably already are a US citizen." For an example of someone in similar circumstances who thought he was not a Canadian citizen, see Ted Cruz. He was obviously born before 1986, and it sounds like you may have been born after 1986, but otherwise your situations seem similar, and you're both dual citizens (or were, at least, until he renounced his Canadian citizenship).
    – phoog
    May 23, 2016 at 21:37

1 Answer 1


"the birthdate is on or after November 14, 1986" refers to your birthdate (the birthdate of the parent is irrelevant). "Citizen at birth" means that, if the conditions describe hold, the person has been a citizen ever since they were born, and there is no requirement for parents to register their citizen children as citizens. Mention of age 18 is relevant in case a person's parents are not married to each other at the time of birth. A person who is a citizen at birth does not (technically) have to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship but if you want to document your citizenship, you have to file that form (but simply applying for a US Passport is much simpler and more useful). Since you are at least 18, you can file it on your own, otherwise the ​U.S.​ citizen ​parent or ​legal guardian must submit the application (which is another way that 18 becomes relevant).

  • 1
    Couldn't she just apply for a passport with the evidence of her mother's citizenship? Certificates of citizenship are expensive and relatively useless compared to a passport.
    – phoog
    May 23, 2016 at 21:26
  • Yeah, I see my implication was too strong.
    – user6726
    May 23, 2016 at 21:47
  • 2
    Be aware that as a non-resident US citizen, you will have incurred income tax obligations (and penalties) on your world-wide income for all years up to the present...
    – DJohnM
    May 24, 2016 at 4:16
  • 1
    See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accidental_American, and maybe wait to see if the law changes.
    – user6726
    May 26, 2016 at 1:16

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