House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., left, speaks with Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the committee's ranking member, in September.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., left, speaks with Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the committee's ranking member, in September. Patrick Semansky/AP

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House Passes Bill to Guarantee Citizenship for Kids of Overseas Feds

Bipartisan bill passed in response to a recent Trump administration policy change.

The House on Tuesday unanimously passed a bipartisan bill to ensure children born to federal employees serving overseas automatically receive U.S. citizenship in an effort to clean up confusion sparked by a Trump administration policy change issued earlier this year. 

Lawmakers introduced the Citizenship for Children of Military Members and Civil Servants Act (H.R. 4803) following a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services policy update in August that required children of some employees serving abroad to establish residency in the U.S. before becoming citizens. The bill, introduced by Reps. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., and Doug Collins, R-Ga., the chairman and ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, would ensure those children are instead automatically granted citizenship. 

The policy affected a small number of overseas feds and military members who are U.S. citizens but have not lived domestically for at least five years, as well as recently naturalized citizens and those who adopt a child while working abroad. USCIS said it issued the change in order to bring its policies in line with those of the State Department. The update sparked significant confusion, and critics lamented that federal employee parents overseas would have to go through the steps of applying for citizenship for their children rather than having citizenship conferred automatically. 

House Democrats said their bill would help federal employees abroad avoid the “inconvenience, expense and paperwork delays” involved in the citizenship application process and enable them to continue their service uninterrupted without having to come back to the U.S. to establish residency. 

The measure will now move to the Senate, where Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., have already introduced companion legislation. 

“This small but important change is the least we can do for the men and women who serve our country in the U.S. armed forces and in federal government positions overseas,” Nadler said when introducing the bill, “and I am glad we could work together to introduce this legislation that provides greater flexibility and support to those who have dedicated their careers to serving our nation.”

Collins said children of federal workers overseas “shouldn’t have to jump through additional hoops” to see their kids become U.S. citizens. 

“American citizens who are deployed members of our military or government officials working abroad should have confidence their children will receive U.S.citizenship,” Collins said.