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Some children of military members born overseas won’t automatically be U.S. citizens

Some children born overseas to U.S. service members, State Department or other U.S. officials will no longer be automatically granted the residency status needed to be considered U.S. citizens, the government agency responsible for registering them confirmed Wednesday.

A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services official, who confirmed the policy change to McClatchy on the condition they would not be identified, said the policy change, which was released Wednesday, “explains that we will not consider children who live abroad with their parents to be residing in the United States even if their parents are U.S. government employees or U.S. service members stationed outside of the United States.”

Instead of the previously granted automatic citizenship, the service member or government employee will have to “obtain a Certificate of Citizenship, their U.S. citizen parent must apply for citizenship on their behalf under [Immigration and Nationality Act] 322, by filing Form N-600K, and show they meet the qualifications,” the agency said. “As a result, these children will no longer be considered to have acquired citizenship automatically under INA 320,” the current provision U.S. Code of the Immigration and Nationality Act that grants those children automatic citizenship.

After some confusion over exactly who would be affected by the new policy, the USCIS issued clarification Wednesday evening. The USCIS said the change may impact children born to non-citizens and adopted by a citizen government employee or service member; non-citizen parents who naturalized after the child’s birth; and two U.S. citizen government employees or U.S. service members who did not meet the requirements to transmit citizenship to their child, or one non-citizen parent and one citizen parent who does not meet the requirements.

USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli emphasized on Twitter that the policy change “only affects children who were born outside the US and were not US citizens.”

“The policy update doesn’t deny citizenship to the children of US [government] employees or members of the military born abroad,” Cuccinelli added. “This policy aligns USCIS’ process with the Department of State’s procedures for these children - that’s it. Period.”

The Defense Department did not have an immediate comment on the policy change.

This story has been updated with additional information from the USCIS.

Tara Copp is the national military and veterans affairs correspondent for McClatchy. She has reported extensively through the Middle East, Asia and Europe to cover defense policy and its impact on the lives of service members. She was previously the Pentagon bureau chief for Military Times and a senior defense analyst for the U.S. Government Accountability Office. She is the author of the award-winning book “The Warbird: Three Heroes. Two Wars. One Story.”
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