Determining Nationality

U.S. embassies represent the US government to their host country governments. The ambassador is the personal representative of the President of the United States to the foreign government. There certainly is some amount of representational activities that embassies participate in. The stereotypical cocktail party where people dress in tuxedos and hobnob with leaders of foreign governments.

That certainly happens in the diplomatic world, but I am not going to be part of it. At least, not for several years. I am going to be a consular officer for two years at least. No striped pants and platters of cookies for me. I am going to do blue-collar diplomacy. I am going to earn my paycheck through seriously hard work.

Most of the people who work in embassies spend their days providing services to U.S. citizens and to people who want to travel to the United States. That is what I am learning about now. I am in a six week course during which I learn how to help Americans who have gotten into trouble overseas, and to do something called “adjudicate” a visa application.

The American Citizen Services portion of this concert at work is very interesting. I am learning a lot about U.S. law regarding citizenship and nationality. For example, there is a common perception that if your parent was a US citizen, that you automatically are a U.S. citizen by birth. While this is true in certain circumstances, it is not always true. The law is quite complex. Part of our job is to apply the citizenship laws of the United States went we determined that child who was born abroad acquired citizenship at birth.

For example, if a woman who was born in the United States gives birth to a child outside the United States, her child is that U.S. citizen automatically. But what about a woman who is not a U.S. citizen, but who is married to a U.S. citizen and gives birth outside the United States? Is her child U.S. citizen by birth? The answer, but the answer to most questions regarding the law, is: “it depends.” The truth is that U.S. citizenship is not as simple as a lot of people assume. The law is complicated, and so the process to determine if someone is a U.S. citizen is complicated as well.

We spent over a week learning about the various conditions under which a child born abroad acquires or doesn’t acquire U.S. citizenship. Reflecting back on my own life, in retrospect, I am really glad that my children were born in the United States. Otherwise, because their mother was not a U.S. citizen when they were born, I would have had to jump through some hoops in order to ensure that our kids were U.S. citizens. I know now that because they were born after 1986, that I am a U.S. citizen, and that I lived in the United States for five years, two years of which were after my 14th birthday, that my children, even if born abroad, would be U.S. citizens by birth. However, we would have had to establish those facts with the U.S. Embassy before they could be issued a Consular Record of Birth Abroad (CRBA, pronounced “criba”), which would be evidence that they were U.S. citizens at birth.

I was going to write about immigrant visas, but after all of that information about nationality, my brain is tired, and after reading all of that, yours probably is, too. More later.

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