Physical Presence

What is Physical Presence?

If you are an American citizen, and your child is born overseas, your child can also be an American citizen, through you.

You will have to show, however, that you can meet some basic legal requirements. Depending on your situation, you will have to show that you were actually in the United States for enough time to qualify to transmit U.S. citizenship to your child.

Physical presence means the actual time you were in the United States. It is an exact accounting. If you were a student in the United States for an academic year, and went abroad for the summer, you have only 9 months of physical presence, not 12. The only exceptions to being on U.S. soil day for day for a minimum of 5 years are if you were in active U.S. military or U.S. Government service, and sent overseas.

How can you show it?

There are several ways to prove your physical presence. Official records from the United States, such as school transcripts, university and advanced degree transcripts are very helpful. A simple letter from the school saying you were a student there is usually not enough, but can supplement other records. Employment records or your social security statement in concert with a letter from an employer are helpful too. If you have copies of your W2 tax forms from your employer, salary slips, and tax returns, they will help to establish your presence.

We are also open to less standard verifiable evidence. For example, records of time spent volunteering in the U.S., records from court cases and vaccination and doctor records all can be used to show time in the United States.

Remember, the burden of proof is on you. You must be able demonstrate to the consular officer’s satisfaction that you meet the physical presence.

These lists are not exhaustive and are meant to provide guidance only.  Some of these documents alone are not sufficient evidence of physical presence, but combined could help you establish the necessary physical presence in the U.S. as required by the INA.

 To establish residence in the U.S:

  • U.S. passport with place of birth in the U.S.
  • Marriage certificate with residence address in the U.S.
  • Property rental leases and payment receipts
  • School transcripts

To establish physical presence in the U.S.:

  • Elementary, middle school, high school, and/or college transcripts
  • Employment letter specifying dates of employment with supporting W2s
  • Service in the U.S. armed forces, employment with the U.S. government and/or employment with an international organization abroad (as defined in Section I of the International Organizations Immunities Act)
  • Time spent abroad as a dependent child of a U.S. citizen parent in one of the aforementioned categories as long as you can provide documentation (i.e. travel orders).
  • Your complete U.S. passport showing entry/exit stamps
  • If a dual national, your complete foreign passport showing entre/exit stamps