The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has just issued a recent decision that will likely have an impact on the future adjudication of derivative citizenship suits.
In the past, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) has held that minors would only be eligible for derivative citizenship if they became lawful permanent residents before the age of eighteen. However, in Nwozuzu v. Holder, the court has interpreted INA Section 321(a) to provide that a child whose parents have naturalized and who “began to reside permanently in the United States prior to the age of eighteen” are also eligible for derivative citizenship, regardless of whether or not the child actually became a lawful permanent resident before the age of eighteen.
This particular case concerned a Nigerian immigrant who was brought to the United States by his parents at the age of five. Gerald Nwozuzu lawfully immigrated in 1982, as the child of F-1 nonimmigrant students. He applied to become a lawful permanent resident at the age of seventeen, but his application was never decided, for unknown reasons. He eventually did become an LPR at age twenty-one, but was subsequently convicted for criminal possession of a weapon and possession of marijuana.
The BIA had previously ruled that Nwozuzu did not qualify for derivative citizenship because he did not become a lawful permanent resident before turning eighteen, and issued a final order of removal, ordering Nwozuzu to be deported in 2011.
On appeal, the Second Circuit opined that Congress spoke directly to this issue, and construed the statutory language as allowing derivative citizenship for all children of naturalized citizenship who began to reside permanently in the U.S. before the age of eighteen.
Thus, the court overruled the BIA's interpretation of the statute, and remanded for a ruling consistent with its statutory interpretation. This breakthrough case could signal an evolution in the way derivative citizenship cases are adjudicated nationwide.
For more information about derivative citizenship, please contact the Law Offices of Matthew H. Green.