All intercountry adoptees need to obtain proof of US citizenship as part of the essential documents required for any immigrant living in the United States. Proof of citizenship is important for the purpose of obtaining state and federal identification, when submitting government documents, applying for government assistance, employment eligibility verification, foreign and domestic travel, banking, as well as for personal security (Adoptee Rights Campaign).


Adoptee Rights Campaign

Adoptee Rights Campaign

Did you know…

It is estimated between 25,000 and 49,000 children adopted to the U.S. between 1945 and 1998 lack U.S. citizenship. Most of them did not become aware of their lack of citizenship until well into their adulthood. Without citizenship, these international adoptees face many barriers, such as having trouble applying for a passport, license, or student financial aid. In some cases, they have been deported to the country in which they were born, where they may have no known family and little chance of succeeding. (Adam Smith, 2019).

What is the CCA?

The CCA guarantees citizenship to most international adoptees, but the law only applies to adoptees who were under the age of 18 when the law took effect on February 27, 2001. The loophole denies citizenship to adoptees who were age 18 or over in February 2001, even though they were legally adopted as children by U.S. citizens and raised in the United States. The legislation introduced today fixes this problem by making citizenship automatic for international adoptees who were legally adopted by U.S. citizens as children, regardless of how old they eventually were when the Child Citizenship Act took effect.

Without citizenship, these international adoptees face many barriers, such as having trouble applying for a passport, license, or student financial aid. In some cases, they have been deported to the country in which they were born, where they may have never lived and have no known family or friends (Adoptee Rights Campaign)

Fast Facts

  • Children and adults who were adopted before February 27, 2001 and were under the age of 18 at that time are automatic citizens. If they lack documentation, it is advisable to apply for and acquire documentation of citizenship.

  • Children that entered on IR-3 and IH-3 visas after February 27, 2001 are automatic citizens. Since 2004, these adopted children generally receive an official Certificate of Citizenship in the mail. • Adoptees who were over the age of 18 on February 27, 2001 must go through a naturalization process and apply for citizenship.

  • Children that arrived on IR-4 or IH-4 visas after February 27, 2001 and are currently under the age of 18 must be readopted before age 18 in order for citizenship to attach. Once they are readopted in their state of residence, citizenship is automatic. If they lack documentation of citizenship, it may be advisable to apply for and acquire documentation of citizenship.

  • Adult adoptees now over the age of 18 who arrived with IR-4 or IH-4 visas are automatic citizens only if they were readopted in the state of residence by their parents. If they were never readopted, they maintain Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) status and must go through a naturalization process to apply for citizenship

  • A Green Card is proper documentation of LPR status. While a Green Card does expire after ten years, LPR status has not expired. However, the Green Card should be reapplied for in order to document legal status until the naturalization process is complete.

  • Adult adoptees currently over the age of 18 who arrived with IR-4 or IH-4 visas and were readopted in their state of residence prior to age 18 received automatic citizenship upon readoption. It is advisable to apply for and acquire documentation of citizenship.

What’s the difference between a passport and Certificate of Citizenship (Naturalization)?

In U.S. Immigration, it’s all about the proof. An individual might be a U.S. citizen, but how can they prove it? A Certificate of Citizenship (COC) or Certificate of Naturalization is direct proof that U.S. immigration authorities have confirmed an individual’s citizenship. The COC is ultimate proof of U.S. citizenship.

The U.S. State Department issues the U.S. passport. What does this mean? Citizenship is not necessarily “registered” with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (“USCIS”). So, it’s possiblet if an agency checks with USCIS, they could be told that there is no record an individual is a U.S. citizen. There have been situations where people apply for government jobs, student aid, or loans and are instructed to bring a Certificate of Citizenship. The U.S. passport was not enough proof of citizenship.


What is the current legislation for adoptee citizenship?

Current Federal Legislation

2019
H.R. 2731/S.1554To provide for automatic acquisition of United States citizenship for certain internationally adopted individuals, and for other purposes. Introduced in the House on May 14, 2019, and the Senate on May 22. It would in part close the loophole for most adult adoptees who do not currently benefit from the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. The bills are limited to adoptees who have been lawfully admitted to the United States but did not meet an age restriction in current law. They apply in a limited basis to adoptees who have also been deported or are residing abroad on the effective date of the bills.

S363. The Intercountry Adoption Advisory Committee Act of 2019. This is a repeat bill from prior sessions. It would create an advisory committee to make recommendations about intercountry adoptions to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.

HR1952/S938. These bills seek to amend the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 “to require the Secretary of State to report on intercountry adoptions from countries which have significantly reduced adoption rates involving immigration to the United States, and for other purposes.” The House passed HR1952 unanimously on May 20 and it is now in the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee along with S938.

Prior Federal Legislation

2018
HR.5233/S.2522: The Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2018. This would have closed a date-based loophole in prior legislation from 2001. HR5222/S2522 would have provided automatic citizenship to nearly all adult adoptees, including those who were born prior to March 1983. The bills, however, had exceptions for adoptees—adopted by US citizens— who had been deported for specific crimes. Both bills died without having been heard.

2015/2016
S.2275/HR.5454: Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2015/16 Introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar in the Senate and later by Representative Adam Smith in the House, these bills would have closed the date-based loophole from 2001 legislation. The bills would have provided automatic citizenship to nearly all adult adoptees, including those who were born prior to February 27, 1983. The bills, however, required criminal background checks, issuance of visas, and lawful admission for any adoptees who were not already lawfully present in the United States at the time of the bills’ enactment.

2001
HR2883: Child Citizenship Act of 2000. HR2883 became law in 2001 and provided automatic citizenship to certain intercountry adoptees, specifically to those who were born on or after February 27, 1983. The law has other requirements, including those related to US citizen adoptive parents; the age at which the child is adopted; the adoptee’s lawful admission to the U.S. through an immigrant visa; and the necessity of the adopted child to reside with the adoptive US citizen parent for a specified time. The law’s loophole that excludes older adoptees from automatic citizenship has led to significant issues for many of those adoptees.