Citizenship Rules for People Born Outside the United States
All persons born in the United States are citizens of the U.S. (with the minor exception of certain children of diplomatic personnel). This is perhaps the only simple rule of U.S. citizenship.
Persons born abroad before May 24, 1934, to a U.S. citizen father who had resided in the U.S. at any point before the birth are considered U.S. citizens at birth. The status of the mother did not matter unless the child was born out of wedlock.
In 1940, Congress passed a law making illegitimate children born abroad to U.S. citizen women citizens if the mother had resided in the U.S. However, under this law, if the child was legitimated by the foreign national father before his or her eighteenth birthday, the child would not be considered a citizen. The U.S. citizen parent must have resided in the U.S. prior to the birth. This residence could have been in the U.S. itself, or in certain U.S. territories.
The rules changed for people born between May 24, 1934, and January 13, 1941. In 1934, Congress passed a law allowing U.S. citizen parents, regardless of their gender, to pass citizenship to their children born abroad. If both parents were citizens, only one was required to have resided in the U.S., and as with the previous law, there was no required length of time that the parent must have resided in the U.S. Illegitimate children born aboard between 1934 and 1941 became citizens under the general provision.
The rules changed again for people born between January 14, 1941, and December 23, 1952. When one parent was a citizen and the other a foreign national, the rules changed substantially. To pass on citizenship, the citizen parent must have resided in the U.S. for at least 10 years before the birth of the child, and at least five of those years had to be after the parent turned 16. Children born out of wedlock to a U.S. citizen mother who met the residence requirements were automatically citizens. For a child born out of wedlock to a U.S. citizen father, to obtain U.S. citizenship the child must have been legitimated before the age of 21.
The rules changed again for people born between December 23, 1952, and November 13, 1986.(BHO was born in 1961...so this would pertain to him) When one parent was a U.S. citizen and the other a foreign national, the U.S. citizen parent must have resided in the U.S. for a total of 10 years prior to the birth of the child, with five of the years after the age of 14. (Ann Dunham was only 18...so she was~according to the law in effect at the time~UNABLE to confer US citizenship to BHO,Jr) Children born out of wedlock to a U.S. citizen mother were U.S. citizens if the mother was a resident in the U.S. for a period of one year prior to the birth of the child. Children born out of wedlock to a U.S. citizen father acquired U.S. citizenship only if legitimated before turning 21.
Edited by 2SHEA - 4/29/11 at 10:56am