Who is considered a United States citizen?

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed January 2020

You are a United States citizen is if you were born anywhere in the United States or its territories, including Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. And if you were born in another country and then naturalized, you are also a U.S. citizen. 106 C.M.R.§362.200.

If you were born abroad and at least one of your biological parents was a U.S. born citizen at the time of your birth and lived in the U.S. at any time prior to your birth – you may have “derived citizenship.” If both your parents naturalized to U.S. citizenship before you turned age 18, you may also have derived citizenship. See 106 C.M.R.§362.210. Check with an immigration specialist if you think these rules apply to you.

Under the SNAP program, you are not required to verify U.S. citizenship.106 C.M.R. §362.210. The federal and state SNAP rules allow you to self-declare your U.S. citizenship, unless the information you provide is considered “questionable.”See What information can I self-declare?

Advocacy Reminders

  • It may be helpful to ask individuals born abroad if either parent was a U.S. citizen or if the parents naturalized before the individual turned age 18. Some clients may not know they have a right to claim “derived” citizenship and should be referred to an immigration or naturalization specialist.

DTA Online Guide Sections:

Additional Guidance:
● DTA guidance on handling cases for individuals with “voided” Puerto Rican birth certificates. F.O. Memo 2010-49 (Nov. 1, 2010)
● U.S. citizenship of children should not be considered questionable solely because parents are immigrants. Transitions Hotline Q&A (March 2006)

Show DTA Policy Guidance

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