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I am a 45 year old permanent resident, my stepfather petitioned for me and my siblings to come to US, when I was 5 years old. I was recently speaking to a friend about getting my citizenship, I was told that I didn't need to apply, because I am a derivative citizen, under my stepfather. He and my mother were married for many years, having two children of their own, he raised my brothers and I as if we were his biological children. My question is does this status still apply to us, even if he and my mother are divorced?

Eileen Chun-Fruto, Los Angeles immigration lawyer writes:

Dear Rebecca,

Thank you for your very thoughtful question.  i wasn't able to respond sooner because derivative citizenship is a very very concise area of immigration, often sending even seasoned attorneys like me into conniptions.

Let me start with basics and see if I can't point you in the right direction.

Derivative citizenship is when a child derives US citizenship when one parent becomes naturalized while that child was under 18 and that child was residing in the US after a lawful admission for permanent residence at the time of that parent's naturalization OR at began to reside permanently in the US under the age of 18 and was in the custody of that parent.  Since, 2000, the Child Citizenship Act changed some of these rules, but neither of these scenarios apply  apply to your situation since immigration law does not consider step children as a CHILD, for purposes of immigration benefits, including derivative citizenship.  

I think therefore that your real query might be whether your mother naturalized before you turned 18 and whether you might have derived citizenship from her, rather than your step father.  Now, if your mother naturalized before you turned 18 and you are obviously her biological child (ie not a step-child), you might have already derived citizenship.  

If you want a full legal analysis of your situation, you can seek the services of any knowledgeable immigration attorney and there are a few attorneys in the nation who specialize in naturalization.  You can contact me directly if you'd like references on how to find them.  Good luck.

Kind regards,
Eileen Chun-Fruto  

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Eileen Chun-Fruto


I can answer any employment-based immigration question including questions about PERM labor certifications, H-1B skilled workers, L-1A multinational managers or executives and L-1B specialized knowledge, R-1 and I-360 religious workers, investor cases (E Treaty Trader and E Treaty Investors and EB-5 "million dollar investors") and O-1 extraordinary ability cases. I can also answer any questions regarding family-based immigration, such as adoptions, waiver cases, consular processing (using foreign consulates to enter as an immigrant), marriage and fiance/fiancee cases, 245(i) cases, VAWA (Violence Against Women's Act), battered spouses, and Child Status Protection Act (CSPA).


I have over 12 years of experience in business and family immigration. I was a former law clerk for the Executive Officer for Immigration Review (the immigration courts) in San Francisco and I current serve as the California Service Center's (CSC) liaison on behalf of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. I represent individuals and corporations alike, ranging from professionals in the high tech, science, liberal arts fields. I have a special niche in working with start-up companies and individuals with more complex immigration issues.

Member, American Immigration Lawyers Association Member, Los Angeles County Bar Association, Executive Committee on Immigration

J.D., University of California at Davis - King Hall School of Law (1997) B.A., University of California at Irvine, cum laude (1994)

Awards and Honors
2005, 2006, 2007, 2008: Selected to Southern California Rising Star - Super Lawyers List (an honor shared by no more than 2.5% of the attorneys practicing in the entire Southern California region) Faculty/Moderator on various AILA and LACBA continuing legal education seminars in the following topics: H-1B, O-1, religious workers, business immigration visas

Past/Present Clients
My typical business clients can range from a start-up company, established engineering and software research and development companies, manufacturing, trade and distribution companies, public and private schools, and religious organizations. Family clients include spouses, parent-child petitions, siblings, naturalization, and most especially, representation of abandoned and neglected children viewed as orphans under the immigration law. I have represented many clients who relied on special provisions of the immigration law to preserve or "grandfather" benefits to family members in limited (and complicated) circumstances, to avoid re-application fees and longer waiting times.

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