May, 2022

Child Refugee to Citizen

By CIAC client “G”

Child Immigrant Receiving CitizenshipI came to the United States when I was one year old as a refugee from Somalia. After being born in a refugee camp and traveling across the world, I felt blessed to to have the opportunity to learn English and to grow up in the United States. But I was not a citizen.

My journey to become a citizen began in 2017 after my parents naturalized. They had to go through a lot of paperwork, appointments and expenses to become citizens. I understood that I became a citizen automatically because I was a child, but immigration did not give me my own citizenship certificate. So I was a citizen but could not prove it to get a photo ID, or for financial aid for college.

In 2021, I met a wonderful representative, Jessica Weaver, at CIAC where I started receiving services to obtain my certificate. Things actually started to feel real. I was so close to being a citizen. It was a long journey where sometimes I felt rejection by the government agencies to be approved. But I don’t regret the long process because it taught me patience. I am so grateful to Ms. Weaver and CIAC.

On the day I spoke the oath of allegiance and received my certificate, I was surprised how emotional I felt. Thanks to obtaining my U.S. passport and citizenship certificate, I was able to start college, which will give me a chance at a better future.


Citizenship for Children

When an immigrant becomes a United States citizen by applying, and passing an interview and English test, their minor children automatically become citizens.

However, immigration does not give any paperwork for the children to prove their citizenship. The child must apply on their own in a separate process that can cost $1,300.

That certificate is needed for applying for a passport, obtaining a drivers’ license, obtaining public benefits, obtaining financial aid for college and many other benefits for citizens.

Many refugees arrive from refugee camps or countries that do not issue birth or marriage certificates and yet those documents are required to obtain a certificate for a child.

It is a frustrating grey area of paperwork that traps many immigrants from being able to access rights and benefits they are entitled to. CIAC works diligently to help our clients to gather other supporting documents and advocate for them through the lengthy process.