WTB: 1 Young American Operating Manual, pref Canadian translation
October 2, 2009 12:50 PM   Subscribe

Young Canadian couple is expecting to have a newborn American added to their family. Wonders if the child will need any special care above and beyond what would be given to a newborn Canadian.

So, my wife and I are currently living in the USA on a three year work visa. My wife is pregnant with our first child, and we fully expect that the baby will be born here in the States. I understand that this would entitle him/her to American citizenship.

We don't intend to immigrate to the USA. In fact, it is our hope to be back in either Canada or the EU (where we have lived before and where my wife has citizenship) well before our child reaches school age.

We would, however, like to do everything we can to make it so that, should our son or daughter later want to make use of their American citizenship, it is easy for them to do so.

To be clear, I'm not looking for legal advice or visa-related advice for the present. We already have access to an immigration lawyer to answer those questions for us. Also, we're not particularly looking for general baby advice, we have plenty of family, friends, literature and doctors already quite happy to provide that.

What we're really looking for is particular gems about non-American parents having a baby with multiple citizenship which includes American. I can't provide a really good example of the sort of thing I'm looking for because, by definition, I'm not in a position to know it. Okay, here's an example: Make damn sure that the circumstances surrounding the child's legal right to American citizenship is well documented because it passing snuff now won't prevent people from wanting to go over it with a microscope should our child choose to run for political office in America some time down the road.

I'm hoping that there are more interesting tidbits than that but, hive mind, I'm leaving it in your hands to determine what it is you think we need to know.
posted by 256 to Society & Culture (17 answers total)
Make sure you get his/her birth certificate. According to the Birther Movement, I must not be an American citizen because all I have is a "Certification of Live Birth" from the state of Illinois. My children also appear to not be American citizens because they were issued "Certifications of Live Birth" as well. Go figure.

Also, my children were issued Social Security numbers upon their births (I think we had to apply for them at the hospital before we were discharged). I don't know if it would be useful for you to have one of those.
posted by cooker girl at 1:02 PM on October 2, 2009

And make sure you GET that certification of live birth in the first place! At least where I lived (NY State), it was mailed to us via regular mail, about 2 weeks after the birth. And if it got lost in the mail, oh well – you had to fork out a fee to get another one.
posted by yawper at 1:11 PM on October 2, 2009

I'm pregnant with a child that will be born in the US but will also have Canadian citizenship. (Father is Canadian). My understanding is that we will do all the normal birth certificate/SSN filing in the hospital and then have to travel to the Canadian consulate to apply for Canadian citizenship.

From what I've heard, it is a myth that you can't have dual citizenship in the US. They don't advertise it a lot, but the child does not have to choose between countries at 18 or whatever. Just do nothing. They aren't going to "take away" US citizenship unless there is a good reason (crime commited, etc.) You can also have two passports, as long as you are consistent with which passport you use on trips. Not sure if this is what you are looking for, but thought I'd throw it out there.
posted by Bueller at 1:14 PM on October 2, 2009

Best answer: This is really important - anyone with claim to American citizenship must enter and exit the United States using an American passport.

This means get an American passport for the baby ASAP and always try to keep it current.

Two of the more common situations when this causes problems:
1. The dual citizen is a baby. The parents have sorted out one passport but haven't sorted the American one out yet. The need for travel to or from the US arises, and you figure hey, they can just use their (Canadian, British, whatever) passport for this trip. Admittedly, this is usually more of an issue with American babies born abroad and coming to the US for a short visit.
2. The dual citizen has lived in another country for awhile and has let their US passport expire (or never had one). They then want to or need to take a trip to the US, and either don't want to or don't have the time to renew.

Canada may have a similar law.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 1:40 PM on October 2, 2009

Bueller, my children were born in the US with the exact same circumstances except my husband was the US citizen and I'm Canadian. We didn't have to travel to the consulate to obtain Canadian citizenship for our kids. We just mailed in the documents - so, Bueller and OP, I would double-check that before you make an unnecesarry trip.

And I agree with the fact that the dual citizenship thing is a myth, at least in practice. If you read the fine print on the US passport, it clearly states that you will lose your US citizenship if you take on the citizenship of any other country. However, I’ve not experienced this in real life. Anecdote: I am a Cdn citizen who lived in the US for several years and obtained US citizenship. I now live in Canada once again. I was once crossing the border into the US and had an interesting conversation with the border guard:

Guard: Citizenship?
Me: Canadian. (I was driving a car with Canadian plates.)
What’s your business in the US?
I’m visiting a friend.
How do you know your friend?
I used to work with her.
You lived in the states?
(feeling some panic set in) Yes.
What was your legal status in the US?
(nervous wreck) Uh...I started out as a green card holder, but now I have citizenship.
Oh. Well why didn’t you just tell me that? I can’t deny you entry if you’re a citizen.
Uh, well...I thought since I live in Canada now...
Do you have your US passport with you?
(sheepishly fishing it out and handing it to him) Yes.
Ok. Next time, just show your US passport. Have a nice day.

The key here is he never asked which citizenship I had first. That should have made a difference, but it didn't. Now, can you count on all border guards taking this attitude? Of course not. But it happened to me.

On preview, this story illustrates what PB Milkshake just said above. Although the guard I had made it seem like he was suggesting it to make life easier for me, not because it was a requirement.
posted by yawper at 2:00 PM on October 2, 2009

Birthright citizenship isn't something that vests later or you apply for. You either have it or you don't. If the baby is born in a hospital, 90% of your work is done for you. Get a passport for the kid once you get the birth certificate and you'll be fine.

I think the child, if male, will have to register for the draft upon turning 18. It's not a big deal here because they register you for it when you get a driver's license or register to vote, but if you don't do those things you'll probably have to mail something in.
posted by lockestockbarrel at 2:07 PM on October 2, 2009

The child, if born in the USA, will be a US citizen whatever other nationalities it may have (in your case Canadian and anything else that can be claimed by descent). The US will consider it to be a national unless at the appropriate time he or she specifically renounces US citizenship.

As pointed out above this means that when entering the US, USCIS will expect a US passport, but there are also other issues Later on, when the child has an income, it will be subject to US tax on global income wherever it is domiciled. If a boy, he will be expected to register for selective service. Things like (until they change the law) travel to Cuba would , as far as the US is concerned, need to follow US rules, not those of any other nation.

Of course, if you and the child leave and he or she never wants to come back to the States to visit or live, none of this will make much difference, but if the child ever wants to return you and (and later the child) will need to be aware of US rules and bureaucracy so that he or she doesn't have unexpected problems later.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 2:21 PM on October 2, 2009

Something to be aware of is that a US citizen is expected to file tax US returns every year, even if they don't live in the USA or owe any taxes to the IRS due to tax treaties. I'm not sure about the details of this (so get confirmation from a professional), but what I've heard is that if your child never ever files a US tax return it's fine, but if your child ever gets a job in the USA and files a tax return he/she will have to continue to do so for the rest of his/her life even if he/she comes back to Canada.
posted by Emanuel at 2:54 PM on October 2, 2009

This is really important - anyone with claim to American citizenship must enter and exit the United States using an American passport.

This means get an American passport for the baby ASAP and always try to keep it current.

Thanks for this- but I've been entering the US with a Canadian passport (dual citizen here as of June 2001 when I took Canadian citizenship) for the last three years. Only on the last trip, one of maybe 10 in those three years, did the US customs person (at the Calgary airport; Canadian airports have US customs on site) even inquire about the existence of my US passport (since my place of birth is US, and is stated as such on my Canadian passport). I said it had expired and I hadn't got round to renewing it, which was the truth, and he let me pass. The incident did shake me up enough to get my shiny new (and very cool) US passport finally, but nobody's ever demanded that I produce a US passport even though I identify as a US citizen.

But also- peanut butter milkshake, you don't "exit" the US with a US passport. You ENTER the other country. Nobody checks your US passport on departure (aside from those just seeking ID); when a US-Canadian dual citizen enters Canada they do so with their Canadian passport, or they should.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 2:59 PM on October 2, 2009

Best answer: That thing in every passport that talks about the limits of consular protection for dual citizens? It's not kidding.

The non-standard thing will be registering 256 Jr. as a Canadian citizen, and to bear in mind that 256 Jr's children won't automatically be Canadians by descent if they're born outside Canada with another non-Canadian parent.
posted by holgate at 3:13 PM on October 2, 2009

Seconding ethnomethodologist on which passport to use when. I'm Canadian, a German, and I have naturalized American citizenship, with valid passports for each. I always use the passport of the country that I'm entering (e.g. going to Canada, use the Canadian), and never mention the other one. I have done this ever since I told a US border guard that I had two passports, and he told me in strong terms to always do it that way. There has never been a problem since.

Emanuel is right about having to file American tax returns for the rest of your life after you get a job in the US, even if you haven't worked in the US for years. But! You also get the occasional happy personal stimulus cheque, which you have to apply for (I got $300 from Bush, complete with a lipstick kiss).

lockestockbarrel, maybe it's because I'm only a naturalized US citizen, but I was never asked to register for the draft until I applied for a US student loan at the age of 20.
posted by Beardman at 3:18 PM on October 2, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks guys, this is really interesting. I had considered the draft thing. Hopefully that won't be an issue in eighteen years. If it is, well, at least my child will have another country of citizenship as an option, unlike many Americans.

I hadn't even considered, as holgate mentions, the possibility that my grandkids wouldn't qualify for Canadian citizenship. Again though, if my child is someday having children outside of Canada with someone else who wasn't born in Canada, well then, hopefully they've got a new home country and a plan. It's a long way in the future anyway.

This does bring up another question that I hadn't considered and should probably consult the lawyer about: I understand it will be quite easy to get the child an American passport quickly after birth, but I haven't looked into how quickly we'll be able to get a Canadian one or if we would have trouble entering Canada to visit the baby's grandparents with my wife and I using Canadian passports and the baby using an American one.
posted by 256 at 3:55 PM on October 2, 2009

The wait to get a Canadian passport for kids born outside Canada is long, long, long. (It's something like a year just to get the citizenship card, which the kid needs to have before even submitting a passport application.) I doubt the mixed passport thing would be a problem as long as you bring a copy of the birth certificate and both parents are traveling together (otherwise they might suspect you of kidnapping).
posted by phoenixy at 6:42 PM on October 2, 2009

I had considered the draft thing. Hopefully that won't be an issue in eighteen years.

It's just registration, not actually being drafted. It's very easy to get emotional or ideological about it, but it's not an issue for two reasons:

(1) The probability of a draft is really REALLY small. It would need to be a war on the scale of WW2, but that for some reason wasn't going nuclear.
(2) In the very unlikely event that there were an actual draft in 18 or 19 years, just because your son hadn't registered wouldn't mean they couldn't grab him anyway if they could physically get their hands on him.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:49 PM on October 2, 2009

Best answer: You will have no problem taking your kid to Canada with the kid on an American passport and you with Canadian passports. I do this all the time. In fact, your border crossings will become quicker and easier because in my experience they hassle parents with young children less often.

You must always carry your child's birth certificate when crossing the border, regardless of the mixed passport thing, to prove you are not kidnapping. Bring an original, not a copy. Order several copies once your child is born so you can spread them around to the various authorities to get your paperwork done without being restricted from travel.

phoenixy is right, the citizenship card takes over a year now. Passports by mail are getting quicker but it can still take up to 12 weeks. It's a long process. I see no need to get your kid a Canadian passport until you're ready to go home for good. They make minors renew their Canadian passports every three years, which is a pain in the ass. The citizenship card is sufficient.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:35 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

My sister was born to Australian parents in the US in 1989. We moved away when she was still a baby, and she definitely didn't have a US passport when we left and travelled on an Australian one. She got her first US passport about a year ago (she's 20), no 'trouble' but a bunch of paperwork (from Australia). She has never filed a tax return in the US and when I asked a US tax lawyer, he said that in general nobody cares until you start claiming your citizenship benefits, for instance by visiting the US as an independent person. But once you start making a noticeable amount of money, it is probably easier to start filing them and have it all squared away for when you want to make that trip.
posted by jacalata at 10:20 PM on October 2, 2009

If you read the fine print on the US passport, it clearly states that you will lose your US citizenship if you take on the citizenship of any other country.

Only "voluntarily and with the intention to relinquish U.S. citizenship." If you don't intend to give up your citizenship, you are at no risk of losing it. Your child's use of a Canadian passport outside the U.S. is of no concern to the U.S.

The other thing to mention is that the child won't be able to get full consular assistance from the U.S. while in Canada and vice versa.
posted by oaf at 5:32 AM on October 3, 2009

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