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Becoming an American Citizen Through International Adoption

Téa Tamburo

(Information has been covered in photos to protect identity)

Generally, U.S. citizenship is acquired when a parent finalizes the adoption in the United States. That process was very similar when I was adopted in 2005, from Hunan, China, by American parents. I was nine months old when I was adopted, so I was unable to sign any documentation, thus all the paperwork and legal forms were signed with my parents’ names.

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA) grants children adopted by American citizens automatic U.S. citizenship; this is the legislation that granted me immediate citizenship when I arrived. However, there were a lot of steps that made this possible.

To become a U.S. citizen by adoption or biological, one must have at least one parents that’s a citizen by birth or naturalization, in custody of the parent and be in the U.S. as a permanent resident. This process would have not been possible for me, had my adoption not be legalized before I came home.

By the time my parents and I met in Changsha, they were confirmed as my adoptive family. In Guangzhou, we filed the requests for my visa and passport. Given that I was not yet a U.S. citizen, I was given a temporary Chinese passport that I moved to the U.S. with. Since I wasn’t able to go home, to Chicago, without either document, we stayed in Guangzhou for several days.

After receiving both of those documents, I was able to move home. The flight to Chicago was about 13 hours. As soon as the wheels of the plane touched down in Chicago’s O’Hare airport, I was officially a U.S. citizen. As an international adoptee, I tend to have more citizenship papers, compared to my friends. I have a certificate of citizenship, something one born in the U.S. would have to apply for.

Certificate of citizenship

My parents took extra measures when I arrived home to further secure my guardianship and adoption. In the State of Illinois building, they readopted me and got me a birth certificate that shows my “record of a foreign birth.”

Birth certificate

Categorized as a “naturalized citizen,” I’m entitled to the same rights someone born in the U.S. is, such as voting, a U.S. passport and more. However, this is not the case for all adoptees. The CCA took effect in 2000, but only affected adoptees under the age of 18 at the time it was instated.

"I sometimes overlook the rights citizenship grants me but must remember not all adoptees are as lucky to have full rights in the country they were raised in."

While the CCA gave me citizenship in 2005, adult adoptees in 2000 might not be citizens. I sometimes overlook the rights citizenship grants me but must remember not all adoptees are as lucky to have full rights in the country they were raised in. This is why we must advocate for adoptee rights, even if we have ours.


Image descriptions:

Image one:

Light gray background with small images of Téa's citizenship certificate, visa, and current headshot. Two gray flower outlines in the corners and four vertically stacked boxes in pastel colors. Across the boxes reads: "Becoming a Citizen Through International Adoption."

Image two: (in gallery)

Photo of the inside of Téa's visa. There's a headshot of her as a baby looking up, her name and birth place.

Image three: (in gallery)

Photo of Téa's passport. There's a headshot of her, name and other crucial information. A red seal is above the page, along with a statement from the Chinese government (authentication).

Image four:

Photo of Téa's certificate of citizenship. There's a headshot of her and form fields are filled out by her parents.

Image five:

Photo of Téa's birth certificate. State of Illinois but has subtext that says "record of a foreign birth."


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