An adopted child can meet the definition of “child” to become a US citizen if the child is:
- Adopted in the United States or abroad;
- Adopted before he or she turns 16 (except for certain cases where the child may be adopted before turning 18); and
- In the legal custody of the adopting parent or parents at the time of the adoption.
The adoption must also:
- Be legally valid in the country or place granting the adoption;
- Create a permanent legal parent-child relationship between a child and someone who is not already the child’s legal parent; and
- Terminate the legal parent-child relationship with the prior legal parent(s).
An adopted child may be eligible for citizenship through a US citizen parent. In addition to meeting the above requirements for a lawful adoption for immigration purposes, the child must also meet the particular requirements of the specific citizenship or naturalization provision, which may include references to birth in wedlock or out of wedlock, and which may require that certain conditions be met by 18 years of age instead of 21.
A stepchild is not eligible for citizenship or naturalization through the US citizen stepparent. The child must be adopted and the adoption must meet the requirements above.