Finally, some cheerful news related to U.S. immigration law! Yes, I’m among those getting distracted today by pictures of the British royal baby.
But I’m also seeing a lot of misleading information in the press, which impels me to fix it.
For starters, little Archie, also known as Baby Sussex, is a U.S. citizen already. (And of course he is also a British one, by virtue of his U.K. citizen father.)
Under U.S. law, a concept known as “acquisition” of citizenship confers this status automatically on children born outside the United States, on two conditions. At least one parent needs to have been a U.S. citizen at the time of the child’s birth, and that parent needs to have spent a minimum amount of time living in the United States at some point prior to the child’s birth. (See 8 U.S.C. Section 1401.)
In this case, with one of the child’s parents a U.S. citizen when the child was born and the other a foreign national, the child automatically acquired U.S. citizenship if, before the birth, the U.S. citizen parent had been physically present in the United States for at least five years, including at least two years after reaching age 14. From all I’ve read in the tabloids while cycling at the gym in the evening, Meghan Markle meets those requirements.
Legal determinations around acquisition of citizenship are rarely simple, as the laws on this topic have changed over the years. The law that applies depends on the year in which the child was born.
So, for example, if Baby Sussex had been born between 1952 and 1985, Meghan Markle would have had to have been physically present in the United States for at least ten years at some point prior to the birth, and at least five of those would need to have been after her 14th birthday. (See Was I a U.S. Citizen When I Was Born Outside the U.S. (Between December 24, 1952 and November 13, 1986)?)
The next thing to understand is that acquisition of citizenship is not something one needs to apply for. Baby Sussex is a U.S. citizen at birth, period. Ignore any press queries as to whether he will apply for it! If he (or more likely, his parents) want or need proof of that status, they’ll need to apply for a relevant document, either now or at some point in the future. They could seek either a U.S. passport or a certificate of citizenship. With or without such proof, however, Archie is a U.S. citizen—at least for now.
What about the issue of his being a dual citizen? It’s legal and possible under both U.S. and British law.
Reports have it, however, that the royal family frowns upon any of its members holding dual citizenship. (Beware the royal frown.) Part of the issue in this case is U.S. tax law, which requires citizens to report their income and potentially pay tax regardless of where they live and work.
It doesn’t take much imagination to understand why the Queen et al. might not be eager to start paying taxes to the U.S.government, or even telling it what they’re worth. So, it’s speculated that both Meghan and little Archie might at some point seek to renounce their U.S. citizenship, though Archie can’t do that until he’s 18. (See the Foreign Affairs Manual at 7 FAM 1292.) Be sure to check the news 18 years from now!