Think Immigration: “But the Royal Baby Actually is a U.S. Citizen…”

by Joseph McKeown

Last week, Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, announced the birth of their first child. Given that Prince Harry is, of course, a (rather famous) British citizen, and Meghan is a US citizen waiting for her British citizenship to be approved, immigration attorney John Manley examines the very important question of what citizenship the child has. While Manley notes that in general the “automatic acquisition of US citizenship at birth by a foreign-born child is actually pretty complicated,” thankfully for Harry and Meghan’s royal baby the question of his citizenship is simpler, despite some confusion in some publications. Manley writes: 

For the royal baby in question, the answer is pretty simple and sweet.  Under INA §301(g), a child is a citizen at birth if born outside the geographical limits of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents one of whom is an alien, and the other a citizen of the United States who, prior to the birth of such person, was physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for a period or periods totaling not less than five years, at least two of which were after attaining the age of fourteen years. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are clearly married, and Meghan was born in California and lived most of her life in the United States prior to marrying Harry and moving to the U.K. This constitutes U.S. citizenship for the royal baby.

Where does all the confusion come from? Automatic acquisition of US citizenship at birth by a foreign-born child depends on the law in effect on the date of the child’s birth. To transmit citizenship, Manley writes, the US citizen parent must reside or be physically present in the US for a certain amount of time prior to the child’s birth. Additionally, different laws apply for in-wedlock births abroad to US citizen parent and foreign parent and a child’s birth abroad to unmarried parents. Moreover, separate laws apply for children born to married parents who are both citizens. USCIS has a webpage that explains this complex area of law.

But does the royal baby even want US citizenship? Manley argues that while a US passport can be beneficial for foreign travel, there are some drawbacks, namely paying US taxes. IRS law states that a citizen’s worldwide income is subject to US income tax no matter where they reside. Which is, of course, something for the royal baby to keep in mind.