October 23, 2019

Duckworth, Isakson Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Fix Immigration Policy for Children of U.S. Servicemembers and Civil Servants


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) today introduced the Citizenship for Children of Military Members & Civil Servants Act, bipartisan legislation that would fix a problem in current law that disadvantages certain children whose parents are serving our nation abroad in uniform or in the civil service. The bipartisan bill would modernize 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 service by making sure that their children born while stationed abroad, as well as stepchildren and adopted children, automatically acquire U.S. citizenship. House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and House Judiciary Ranking Member Doug Collins (R-GA) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“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. 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.”

“This commonsense legislation to help our military families is overdue, and I’m glad to be part of an effort to ensure that the children of service members who are born while stationed overseas are automatically recognized as U.S. citizens,” said Isakson, who serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “We should be doing all we can to ease the lives of our all-volunteer force, not add needless hurdles for them and their families.”

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). Yet, 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.

Duckworth sent a letter in August of this year 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.