This is a type of citizenship granted to children through adoption or the naturalization of their parents. Specific conditions must be met for derivative citizenship to be acquired. Derivative citizenship is something that is granted automatically under the law in certain conditions. There is no application process.
The laws for this type of citizenship are considered to be very complex. It can be difficult for many people to know if they qualify and the laws that determine if they do are the ones that were in place in the year the child was born. This means that the laws today may not be applicable to a child born five years ago.
Typically, a child must have one parent who is a U.S. citizen, be under the age of 18, not be married, currently residing in the United States, in physical custody of the parent who is a citizen, and hold their own green card. A child born on foreign soil who is adopted by U.S. parents will become citizens automatically once the adoption is legally complete. In the case that the child was not an actual orphan, they must have been legally adopted before their 16th birthday.
Because these laws are so complex, it is recommended that people with questions regarding derivative citizenship should speak to a qualified immigration attorney. Again, these laws are complex and can be applicable to different children in different situations. An attorney can determine the laws that apply to a specific child depending on the year they were born.