March 06, 2020

Bipartisan Duckworth, Graham Bill to Fix Immigration Policy for Children of U.S. Servicemembers and Civil Servants Passes Senate


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – The U.S. Senate passed the bipartisan Citizenship for Children of Military Members & Civil Servants Act, which is now headed to the President to be signed into law, this week. U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and former Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) introduced this bipartisan legislation in the Senate to fix a problem in current law that disadvantages certain children whose parents are serving our nation abroad in uniform or in the civil service by modernizing Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to cut burdensome red tape that harms those willing to serve our nation abroad. Specifically, this update would honor the service of our military and the dedication of our civil servants by making sure that their children born while stationed abroad, as well as stepchildren and adopted children, automatically acquire U.S. citizenship. U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is the lead Republican co-sponsor of this legislation.

“Children of Americans serving their nation abroad are just as worthy of automatic citizenship as any other children,” Duckworth said. “Forcing military families to jump through bureaucratic hoops and spend hundreds of dollars applying for citizenship on behalf of their children is not right. I’m proud that this bipartisan, commonsense bill to ensure that children of U.S. servicemembers and civil servants abroad automatically gain citizenship is now closer to becoming law and I urge the President to sign it.”

“I am extremely pleased that the legislation that I co-sponsored with Senator Duckworth from Illinois has passed the Senate and is one step closer to becoming the law of the land,” Graham said. “The legislation ensures that any child of a military member born overseas may automatically acquire American citizenship. There have been some questions in our law, and this should remove all doubt.”

Under previous Republican and Democratic presidential administrations, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) considered children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces and employees of the U.S. Government stationed outside the U.S. to be considered “residing in the United States” for purposes of automatically acquiring citizenship under Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Trump’s USCIS announced this past August it would change its policy to end automatic citizenship for certain children of U.S. Servicemembers and civil servants working and residing outside the U.S., forcing some of these Americans to navigate a complex bureaucratic process that carries no guarantee of their children receiving citizenship and to pay an application fee of $1,170 per child.

Senator Duckworth also sent a letter last August to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) demanding both agencies quickly rescind this policy update. U.S. House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Ranking Member Doug Collins (R-GA) introduced the Citizenship for Children of Military Members & Civil Servants Act’s House companion, which passed the House in December and today cleared the Senate. Duckworth’s Senate companion is cosponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-IL), Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Jon Tester (D-MT).