Children Born Abroad to Expats – Issues

When a child is born to you while overseas, questions come up regarding citizenship and birth records.  There are things you need to know, and there are things you need to do.  Let’s take an initial look.

Birth Certificates and Birth Records: You’ll want to get a birth certificate for the child.  It will be needed at critical times throughout life.  It’s also your guarantee that the birth was recorded properly and correctly with the local government, which could be important later.  Some governments issue a birth certificate automatically upon notification from the hospital.  Others take no action until the birth is reported to them and a certificate is requested.  If the certificate is in a foreign language, get a certified translation from a reputable translator.  (For a “how-to” on dealing with translators, see TranslationMaven.)

Consular Report of Birth: In addition to the birth certificate, you should report the birth to your nearest consulate.  American consulates issue a “Consular Report of Birth of an American Citizen Abroad”, which looks like, and serves as, a birth certificate, but it’s in English and issued by the U.S. government.

Citizenship Issues: Some countries, like the U.S., consider your child a citizen by virtue of birth within their territory.  With that citizenship come all the rights and responsibilities of a citizen, such as, perhaps, obligatory military service.  It is not unheard of for a young man to visit his birthplace, out of curiosity, and be pressed into military service.  Some countries don’t grant citizenship to anyone but the children of citizens and to persons who go through a naturalization process, so the newborn is not a citizen.  This is something you must look into.  Your embassy or consulate will be able to answer your questions.

Citizenship in your home country is conveyed by you, so your child is likely to become a citizen at birth, but this is not certain.  If you have a foreign-born spouse, talk to your embassy or consulate and learn the laws that govern citizenship.  They are many.  Your child’s citizenship may come down to a question of how long you or your spouse have lived in your homeland.  Don’t leave this until later.  Learn now.

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