As part of complicated maneuvering to address the lack of US citizenship for thousands of intercountry adoptees in the US, a stripped down version of the Adoptee Citizenship Act has passed the House. But it’s not the actual ACA. It’s now an amendment to a much larger and unrelated bill. Here’s what that means for intercountry adoptees who are currently without citizenship and what to look for in the next few months.
What happened in the House?
The quick answer is that the House passed the massive COMPETES Act on a largely partisan vote. And that a slew of amendments were added to the COMPETES act before passage, including one that addressed intercountry adoptees without citizenship.
What is the COMPETES Act?
It’s a massive $350 billion bill, now with dozens of House amendments, that is intended to address US technological competitiveness around the globe, particularly with China.
Just get to the chase. Is this good news?
Yes, it is good news, though there’s a lot of work ahead to keep the current amendment in the larger bill.
Whats the skinny? What does the amendment do?
The amendment does one thing: it removes a prior date-based restriction that requires an intercountry adoptee to be younger than 18 years of age on February 27, 2001 (here’s a separate earlier FAQ about the current law, including how it works and where it falls short). If the bill is ultimately enacted, then any intercountry adoptee who qualified for citizenship while a child—no matter the date of birth—would acquire US citizenship.
Which adoptees does the bill include?
It includes all intercountry adoptees. That said, there are two requirements under the bill (and under current law) that must be met, no matter your date of birth:
- You must have been admitted to the United States as a legal permanent resident (i.e., you received a green card when you entered the US)
- Your adoption must have been full and final prior to age 18, whether that adoption was completed in the country of origin or in the United States.
While there are other issues that must be met, those are the two big qualifiers for any intercountry adoptee seeking US citizenship under current law (and under the language of this bill).
Does the bill include adoptees who have already been deported?
Yes, but only if they qualified for US citizenship as a child but did not obtain citizenship because they were too old on February 27, 2001, the effective date of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. The amendment eliminates the need to be younger than 18 on that date and applies “to individuals who satisfy the requirements of [the Child Citizenship Act] before, on, or after the date of the enactment of [the Child Citizenship Act]”
My adoption was never finalized abroad or in the United States. Do I qualify for citizenship under this bill?
No. The adoption must have been finalized while you were a child, whether abroad or in the United States. To put it simply, you must be an adoptee—legally. For the most part, those who do not qualify under this amendment would be people who 1) entered the country on a non-immigrant visa (e.g., a visitor or tourist visa); or 2) entered the country on an IR-4 or IH-4 visa but whose parents never finalized the adoption in a state court. I have a number of clients in this boat and neither the amendment nor the actual Adoptee Citizenship Act would fix this. They must still naturalize or seek a different path to citizenship.
I was never a legal permanent resident. Do I qualify for automatic US citizenship under this bill language?
No. See the previous questions, but you must have been admitted to the United States as a legal permanent resident, which means you entered on an immigrant visa and received a green card. Those who entered on non-immigrant visas (e.g., tourist, student, visitor) do not qualify for acquired U.S. citizenship unless they adjusted their status to a legal permanent resident while still a child.
Do you have a copy of the amendment language?
Yes. This is the full amendment, and it is part of a much larger list of amendments that were added to the COMPETES Act in the House.
SEC. 80306. CITIZENSHIP FOR CERTAIN CHILDREN BORN OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES.
(a) IN GENERAL.—Section 104 of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (8 U.S. C. 1431 note) is amended to read as follows:
‘‘SEC. 104. EFFECTIVE DATE.
‘‘The amendments made by this title shall take effect 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act and shall apply—
‘‘(1) to individuals who satisfy the requirements of section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1431), before, on, or after the date of the enactment of this Act; and
‘(2) to individuals who satisfy the requirements of section 322 (8 U.S.C. 1433) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as in effect on such effective date.’’.
(b) EFFECTIVE DATE.—
(1) IN GENERAL.—The amendments made by this section shall take effect on the date of the enactment of this section
(2) LIMITATION.—An individual who, before the date of the enactment of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-395), satisfied the requirements of section 320(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1431(a)), or section 320(b) of such Act, if applicable, is deemed to be a citizen of the United States as of the date of the enactment of this section if such individual is not a citizen of the United States under any other Act.
The Senate version of the COMPETES Act has already passed, with bipartisan support. Since the House COMPETES Act differs significantly from the Senate version, a conference committee will be appointed and they will attempt to work out the differences. So, it’s still very much up in the air as to whether this amendment will remain in a finalized bill—or if a finalized bill is enacted at all. Be ready to contact your senators to ask for final enactment and to keep this amendment in the bill.
Note: this article was originally published on the Adoptee Rights Law Center website. It has been republished here for wider distribution.