Immigrant families in Illinois should understand that the Immigration Nationality Act provides two definitions for the word “child.” One of the meanings applies to the visa process. The second definition of the word “child” becomes relevant during the citizenship and naturalization process.
One major difference in the definition of “child” under immigration law is that the citizenship and naturalization process does not include stepchildren. However, a stepchild can enjoy the same rights as a child for visa purposes. Stepchildren are not allowed to become citizens of the United States through the sponsorship of a stepparent in the absence of adoption that meets all legal requirements. More specifically, a “child” for the purposes of citizenship and naturalization purposes must meet the following criteria:
- Under 21 years of age
- A genetic or adopted son or daughter of a U.S. citizen
- The daughter or son of a non-gestational mother who is both a citizen of the U.S. and recognized as the legal parent of the child
The term genetic used in reference to the child signifies that the child shares genetic material with the parent. A gestational mother is one who carried the baby inside of her body before giving birth. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services department will generally consider a birth certificate to represent sufficient evidence to identify genetic parents. The legal adoption process must become complete before children can enjoy a path to citizenship or naturalization under this provision of immigration law.
The immigration laws on the books are often complicated and in a constant state of change. These facts cause the process to become troublesome to navigate for many immigrant families. An immigration lawyer might be the best option for an individual or family involved with the immigration process.