The Trump administration announced this week that some children of U.S. service members who were born abroad will no longer receive automatic citizenship. 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) confirmed the change Wednesday in a policy alert titled Defining “Residence” in Statutory Provisions Related to Citizenship. The agency states that it "no longer considers children of U.S. government employees and U.S. armed forces members residing outside the United States as ‘residing in the United States’ for purposes of acquiring citizenship under INA 320." 

Under the former policy, children who were born overseas to U.S. troops or U.S. government employees working abroad received automatic U.S. citizenship as if they were within the country; however, beginning Oct. 29, the parents for some of these children will have to apply for citizenship on their kids' behalf prior to his/her 18th birthday. So, no, the change doesn't deny these children U.S. citizenship, but will make the process more arduous in some cases.

"The child of a member of the U.S. armed forces accompanying his or her parent abroad on official orders may be eligible to complete all aspects of the naturalization proceedings abroad," the memo stated. "This includes interviews, filings, oaths, ceremonies, or other proceedings relating to naturalization."

The policy alert sparked outrage across social media, with many criticizing the change for seemingly denying birthright citizenship for all children born abroad to U.S. citizens. The USCIS has since clarified that the update will affect only a "small" number of children: Those who were born to non-U.S. citizen parents and later adopted by a "U.S. citizen U.S. government employee or U.S. service member"; those of U.S. government employees or service members who were naturalized only after the child's birth; and those of citizen government employees or service members who do not meet the residence or physical presence requirements.

"This policy update does not affect who is born a U.S. citizen, period," acting U.S.C.I.S. Director Ken Cuccinelli tweeted Wednesday. "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."

According to the USCIS website, the new policy will not affect the following children:

  • Those who were born to two U.S. citizen parents, at least one of whom has had a residence in the United States or one of its outlying possessions before the child’s birth;
  • Those who were born to married parents, one of whom is a U.S. citizen and one a foreign national, if the U.S. citizen parent was physically present in the U.S. or one of its outlying possessions for at least five years, at least two of which were after they turned 14 years old;
  • Those who were born to unmarried parents, one of whom is a U.S. citizen and one a foreign national, if the U.S. citizen parent meets the requirements listed in INA 309;
  • Those who are otherwise eligible to receive a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) or a Certificate of Citizenship documenting U.S. citizenship acquired at birth; or
  • Those who are residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of their U.S. citizen parent after being lawfully admitted to the U.S. for permanent residence.

You can read some of the reactions to the policy change below.