Q: My 5-year-old son and I have been in the US as permanent residents and I recently married a US Citizen. My new US Citizen wife has adopted my son. What steps do we need to follow to get my son US Citizenship? Can he naturalize more quickly now that he has been adopted by a US Citizen?
A: Congratulations on your recent marriage! Your child has a couple options, but none of the options will allow him to immediately become a US Citizen (USC). The process will involve simply applying for a US Passport for him. He does not likely need to go through the naturalization process.
There are 2 paths your son could follow to become a USC:
-path 1- Based on your USC wife who adopted your son. An adopted child is eligible for US Citizenship after residing legally in the US in the legal and physical custody of a US Citizen. However, the child also needs to meet some specific requirements:
-The child was adopted before his 16th birthday (or 18th birthday for certain children with siblings) Your son meets this requirement since he is only 5 years old.
-Also, the USC parent had legal custody of the child and resided with the child for at least 2 years. Here, it sounds like your son was recently adopted by your USC wife, so you need to wait 2 years, and then you can apply for a US passport for him.
-path 2- Based on you becoming a US Citizen. You may be eligible to naturalize if you have been a permanent resident for 5 years and meet certain other requirements. Once you become a USC, your child is eligible for US Citizenship and can apply for a passport.
Whether your son applies for a passport based on your wife’s US citizenship, or based on your US citizenship, the process will involve applying for a US Passport through the department of state. A list of requirements and instructions can be found here: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/apply.html
Note: in some situations it may be necessary or advisable to apply for a certificate of naturalization for a child through USCIS (instead, or in addition to obtaining a US Passport via DOS). An attorney can advise and provide counsel on this process.