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In-vitro Twins of American Expat Denied Citizenship

20 April, 2012 09:06  Erin Erin

The issue of citizenship is always a tricky one when living abroad. Countries may offer citizenship through several ways.

  • Parents are citizens - If a person has one or both parents who are citizens of a given nation, then the person is generally presumed to be a citizen. This is refereed to by the Latin legal term jus sanguinis meaning "right of blood".
  • Born within the nation - Many people are presumed to be citizens of a nation if they were born within the physical geographic territory of the nation. This is refereed to by the Latin legal term jus soli meaning "right of soil".
  • Marriage to a citizen - Citizenship can be obtained by marrying a citizen, which is termed jure matrimonii.
  • Naturalization - Citizenship can be obtained by immigrating to a nation and fulfilling its requirements for citizenship.

However, there are cases that fall out of these clear cut guidelines. The media is currently following one American mom in Israel, Ellie Lavi, who is finding it difficult to bestow American citizenship to her twins. MSNBC's Today News reported "Born to American mom, in-vitro twins denied citizenship"
"The twin babies of an American woman, born abroad through in-vitro fertilization, are being denied U.S. citizenship because there is no proof that either the egg donor or sperm donor is American. "

A Chicago native, Lavi received IVF treatment in Tel Aviv and gave birth to twin daughters in 2009. Under certain circumstances, children may acquire U.S. citizenship from their parents.

  • If both parents are U.S. citizens, the child is a citizen if either of the parents has ever legally resided in the U.S. prior to the child's birth
  • If one parent is a U.S. citizen and the other parent is a U.S. national, the child is a citizen if the U.S. citizen parent has lived in the U.S. for a continuous period of at least one year prior to the child's birth
  • If one parent is a U.S. citizen and the other parent is not, the child is a citizen if: the U.S. citizen parent has been "physically present" in the U.S. before the child's birth for a total period of at least five years and at least two of those five years were after the U.S. citizen parent's fourteenth birthday.

This becomes even more complicated for children born overseas out of wedlock.

Title 8 U.S.C. 1409 paragraph (c) provides that children born abroad after December 24, 1952 to unmarried American mothers are U.S. citizens, as long as the mother has lived in the U.S. for a continuous period of at least one year at any time prior to the birth.

8 U.S.C. 1409 paragraph (a) provides that children born to American fathers unmarried to the children's non-American mothers are considered U.S. citizens only if the father meets the "physical presence" conditions described above, and the father takes several actions. Though Lavi would seem to qualify under Title 8 U.S.C. 1409, the inability to biological link the children in the anonymous process has proved a major obstacle.

An issue here appears to be the development of technology. Most citizenship laws do not address the sophisticated process of in-vitro fertilization. In contrast, babies that are adopted are automatically eligible for citizenship. All hope is not lost for Lavi and her children as there is a process in place for her to establish citizenship, but it does involve time, effort, and moving back to the United States of America for a period of time.

This story has brought criticism from some expats.

@atlanticist
"@BlogExpat @todayshow If THE EGG were HERS, they'd be US citizens. Because they'd be "of her". She's essentially a surrogate, who adopted."
"@BlogExpat @todayshow And they aren't "children without a country." They're Israelis. If she domiciles in the US., they can be US citizens."

A valid point, and reminder about the sensationalism of journalism. What's your opinion? Have you struggled to have your child recognized for citizenship? Share your experiences, questions, or comments below.

For a guide to the immigration process, explore EasyExpat's city guides and Expat FAQ with extensive information on visas and citizenship.

   



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