Correcting Anomalies in the United States Law of Citizenship by Descent

Current U.S. citizenship-by-descent law produces many anomalies. A foreign-born child raised by his American father may not be a citizen, while any child conceived from an American egg donor likely will be. An American-born woman who moves overseas between her first and sixteenth birthdays can only transmit citizenship to her child by a foreign father if she is unmarried, while an American woman raised in an overseas military household often must marry to transmit citizenship—and even marriage may not suffice if her child’s father is from American Samoa. The law capriciously penalizes those who overlook its details, and is so complex that this occurred even in the landmark Supreme Court case of Nguyen v. INS: Tuan Nguyen probably could have successfully claimed citizenship with the right approach, but was deported. This Article explains how these problems, and others, arise, and proposes new statutory language that would eliminate them.