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Appeals court finds citizenship law unconstitutional

Fathers in California may now have an easier time conferring citizenship onto their children who were born in foreign countries. On July 8, a federal appeals court decided that a law that treats mothers and fathers of foreign-born children differently was unconstitutional. Immigration attorneys have noted that the law, which directly discriminates against petitioners based on their gender, may eventually be revisited by the Supreme Court.

Up until now, U.S. citizen fathers of foreign-born children had to reside in the United States for five years before their children could become U.S. citizens. The requirement applied only to fathers who had children outside of marriage with a non-U.S. citizen partner. Unwed U.S. citizen mothers who were in the same situation were only required to spend one year residing in the U.S. before they could confer citizenship onto their foreign-born children.

The case that brought the law to the attention of the appeals court involved a Dominican-born man who is the son of a U.S. citizen father. The man has been unable to obtain U.S. citizenship because his father resided in the U.S. just 20 days less than the requirement of five years. While the man is fighting a deportation order, his lawyers have argued that he should be considered a U.S. citizen.

A lawyer may be able to help a person who has been unable to obtain U.S. citizenship to appeal a deportation order. A person who was brought into the U.S. as a child or is the child of one U.S. citizen parent might be eligible for citizenship. A lawyer may also be able to help a fiancé or spouse of a U.S. citizen to apply for a green card.

Source: Reuters, "U.S. court: citizenship law's gender differences unconstitutional," Joseph Ax, July 8, 2015

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