What is House Bill H.R. 4803?
Cost of House Bill H.R. 4803
In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) introduced this bill to fix a problem in current citizenship laws that disadvantages certain children born abroad and residing with a parent serving overseas in the military or as a federal government employee. Under current law, these children must establish U.S. residency to obtain citizenship, which can be difficult with parents overseas:
“This small but important change is the least we can do for the men and women who serve our country in the U.S. armed forces and in federal government positions overseas, and I am glad we could work together to introduce this legislation that provides greater flexibility and support to those who have dedicated their careers to serving our nation. I look forward to next week’s hearing in the Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee, where we will explore this issue, and we hope to move the Citizenship for Children of Military Members and Civil Servants Act as soon as possible.”
Original cosponsor Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) adds:
“American citizens who are deployed members of our military or government officials working abroad should have confidence their children will receive U.S. citizenship. The Citizenship for Children of Military Members and Civil Servants Act would ensure children born abroad who do not currently satisfy the residency requirements for acquiring automatic citizenship because their parents are deployed will now satisfy those requirements. Families making tremendous sacrifices to serve our country shouldn’t have to jump through additional hoops for their children to become American citizens.”
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), sponsor of this bill’s Senate companion, says:
“Children of Americans serving their nation abroad are just as worthy of automatic citizenship as any other children. Forcing military families to jump through bureaucratic hoops and spend hundreds of dollars applying for citizenship on behalf of their children is not right. That is why I’m proud to be working across the aisle with my good friend Senator Isakson on this common-sense bill to ensure that when U.S. servicemembers and civil servants start a family while stationed abroad, their children automatically gain citizenship of the country they proudly serve.”
The Trump administration argues that the overall impact of its policy change removing automatic U.S. citizenship for the children of some U.S. military members and government employees working overseas will be minimal. In late August 2019, USCIS clarified that the new rule would only affect three categories of people: 1) children of non-U.S. citizens adopted by U.S. citizen government employees or service members; 2) children of non-U.S. citizen government employees or service members who were naturalized after the child's birth; and 3) children of U.S. citizens who do not meet residency requirements.
Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli wrote on Twitter that people were “freaking out over nothing.” He described the new policy as a “highly technical policy memo” used by career employees at USCIS and nothing more. In a statement released by USCIS, Cuccinelli clarified:
“This policy update does not affect who is born a U.S. citizen, period. This only affects children who were born outside the United States and were not U.S. citizens. This does NOT impact birthright citizenship. This policy update does not deny citizenship to the children of US government employees or members of the military born abroad. This policy aligns USCIS’ process with the Department of State’s procedure, that’s it.”
In a statement to The Hill, a USCIS official said that the policy update was made to make the INA internally consistent. According to the official, the previous definition of residency in Section 320 conflicted with the definition of “residence” in the rest of the INA and specifically in INA 322(d), which refers to children residing abroad with members of the U.S. armed forces as “residing outside of the United States.”
The official also added that the previous policy conflicted with State Dept. guidance:
“In addition, the current policy conflicts with the Department of State guidance. Having conflicting policies can lead to inconsistent decisions on citizenship claims by USCIS and the Department of State and can cause confusion as to the date children of U.S. service members and government employees stationed abroad become U.S. citizens.”
This legislation has seven bipartisan House cosponsors, including four Democrats and three Republicans. Its Senate companion, sponsored by Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), has three bipartisan Senate cosponsors, including two Republicans and one Democrat.
Of Note: Under previous presidential administrations of both parties, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) considered children of members of the U.S. Armed Services and employees of the U.S. government stationed outside the U.S. as “residing in the United States” for the purpose of automatically receiving citizenship under Section 320 of the INA. However, in August 2019, USCIS announced plans to change this policy, ending automatic citizenship for certain children of U.S. servicemembers and civil servants working for and residing outside the U.S.
This policy, which targets the “derivation process,” would force some affected Americans to navigate a complex bureaucratic process without a guarantee of their child receiving citizenship at an application fee of $1,170 per child. The derivation process is a fast-track to citizenship for children of U.S. citizens, and it allows children to fulfill a residency requirement by living in a home abroad with their U.S. citizen parents. Under the rule change, this option would be eliminated, and children would have to fulfill their residency requirement on U.S. soil before turning 18. Additionally, their parents would have to complete a citizenship application for affected children (which would have to be processed) before the child’s 18th birthday.
When this policy was announced, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) sent USCIS and the U.S. of Homeland Security (DHS) a letter demanding that both agencies quickly rescind this policy update. She wrote:
“This [change] represents the worst type of policy: it is confusing, cynical, unnecessary and unfair. Worst of all, this policy update harms our national interest and disrespects the service of certain U.S. servicemembers and civil servants. If even one active duty U.S. servicemember deployed overseas is forced to spend $1,170 to ‘prove’ their child is worthy of U.S. citizenship, that is one too many.”
Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) also criticized the policy change. She argued that it opened the door to ending birthright citizenship:
“This move by the administration will make it harder for Americans serving our country overseas to have families. This also appears to be an initial step towards ending birthright citizenship, something which the president has threatened to do—and which would be unconstitutional."
The policy change took effect on October 29, 2019 and is only expected to affect 20-25 people each year.
- House Judiciary Committee Press Release
- Senate Sponsor Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) Press Release
- Senate Sponsor Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) Letter to Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan and Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli (Context)
- Senate Sponsor Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) Press Release (Context)
- The Hill (Context)
- Countable (Senate Companion)
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / FatCamera)
Citizenship for Children of Military Members and Civil Servants Act
To facilitate the automatic acquisition of citizenship for lawful permanent resident children of military and Federal Government personnel residing abroad, and for other purposes.
- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The senate Passed on a voice vote
- The house Passed on a voice voteIntroducedOctober 23rd, 2019