Lots of people think that a child must be born in the US to get an American citizen, but that’s not true. While anyone, regardless of nationality, can give birth in the US and the baby will be a US citizen due to jus soli – law of land, if you or your spouse is an American citizen and you live abroad you might not need to rush back to the US to give your baby a US citizenship.
Both of my kids were born outside of the US and both of them are American citizens at birth. We simply applied for CRBA – Consular Report of a Birth Abroad.
The Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) is a mechanism whereby a US citizen who has a child while living abroad may apply to have his or her child become a US citizen. Your child is not a US citizen before you apply for his/her CRBA. It’s advised to apply as soon as possible. Why?
By law, US citizens, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States. For example, my kids obtained Polish and Mexican citizenship first which would mean they would need a visa to enter the US so without getting their CRBAs we wouldn’t have been able to bring them to the country.
Who Is Eligible for CRBA?
There are rules that might scare some people of and not everyone might be eligible, but I think it’s pretty straight forward and we’ve never had issues. I cannot say the same about my green card procedures and so far my naturalization has also taken forever and ever.
Not everyone is eligible for a CRBA, but it’s safe to say that if you’re a typical adult person who grew up in the US you should be fine.
For your child to benefit from US citizenship at the time of birth, US nationality law requires that certain conditions must be met.
If both mother and father are American, married or not, it’s easy. If, like in our case, one of you is an American citizen and another one is not, it’s pretty straightforward.
The general rule is that a parent giving the child US citizenship must have been physically present in the United States for at least 5 years, 2 years after the age of 14 at some time prior to the birth of the child.
If the father is a US citizen and mother is not and the child is born out of wedlock (parents aren’t married), then you might be asked for a statement or genetic testing to provide a blood relation to a child, but the Consulate will tell you whether you need it or not.
Documents Needed for CRBA
You absolutely do NOT need a lawyer for this, unless your situation is somehow complicated. You can submit all the documents easily by yourself.
This documentation includes, at the very minimum, the following:
- The child’s birth certificate (the original you obtain from a birth registry in the country of birth)
- Evidence of the parent(s)’ U.S. citizenship and identity
- Evidence of the U.S. citizen parent(s)’ physical presence or residence in the U.S. prior to the birth of the child
- Parent(s) marriage certificate, if applicable
- Evidence of the termination of any previous marriages of the parents
- If a person other than a parent of the child is applying for the CRBA, the person must present a certified copy of legal guardianship or a notarized affidavit from the parent(s) authorizing the person the make the application.
- One 2×2″ passport-style photo of the child
- Filing fee of $100 for the CRBA (and an additional $105 if a U.S. passport is desired).
- Form DS-2029
In regards to no.1 – US Embassy in the country of your child’s birth will list all the documents you need specifically. For example, in Mexico we needed a special document with a footprint we were given at the hospital (that’s not part of the birth certificate), while in Poland only the longer version of the birth certificate was accepted (I’ve actually met parents at the Consulate who didn’t read the info correctly and had to resubmit the application because of it).
In regards to no. 3 – it can be anything, from tax returns, proof of house ownership or rental, high school transcripts, college degree, work contract. Anything that situates you in the US for 5 years.
In regards to no. 7 – simply ask any photo studio to do it in a format like “for US visa”. They know the dimensions and everything.
How to Get a CRBA
You can apply for a CRBA by completing Form DS-2029. You need to schedule an appointment at the consulate or embassy, depending on the place. Keep in mind that in some places only specific spots issue CRBAs.
For example, my first son Dylan was born in Warsaw, Poland and we were able to get it all done in Warsaw at the Embassy.
My second son Holden was born in Cancun, Mexico and while there is a consulate in Cancun this particular spot doesn’t issue CRBAs so we had to take a road trip to Merida consulate.
These appointments do get booked up quickly. If you’re not in a rush to fly to the US that’s fine, but it does take time and you can only apply after the baby is born.
In Poland, we scheduled it for the same day we got out of the hospital and we received it relatively quickly – 2 weeks later, but it was really the only appointment available.
In Mexico, the situation was a bit more complex due to the pandemic and the fact that appointments were not given. We had to email the consulate to request an emergency appointment due to the fact we wanted to return to the US and we got it, but the caveat of that was that they mailed us our CRBA so we didn’t have to drive all the way back, but could only issue us a same-day emergency passport valid for 1 year. Once we got back to the US we basically reapplied for the regular passport.
Both parents and a baby need to attend the interview at the consulate. Both times it was a very standard interview asking my husband (the citizen) about his presence in the US, our story, why was the baby born abroad and so on.
The interviewer will tell you then and there that you’re fine and CRBA will be mailed. The decision is made instantly.
How Long Does it Take to Get a CRBA?
While it says 4-8 weeks in normal circumstances, we always got it within a week. Not sure if it was our luck, but that was it.
Keep in mind that if you live far from the consulate they can simply mail you the documents but you need to provide a prepaid envelope for this. Otherwise, you can just pick it up in person.
Any questions? Ask in the comments below!