So You Want to Be an American

For most American parents, the question of their child’s citizenship isn’t one that needs to be considered.  By virtue of being born in America, to American parents, it’s all very simple.  But what happens if you’re not in the country when you give birth, or are not yourself an American citizen?


America is unique in that it subscribes to several theories of granting citizenship.  Jus soli (right by soil) grants citizenship to anyone born on American soil, regardless of the citizenship the parents hold.  Also, there is the rule of jus sanguinis (right by blood), where no matter where in the world you are born, if you have at least one American parent, you can receive citizenship too.  But what if you are living outside the country and your children are not biologically yours?  The grey area of adoption and fertility treatments is one that the US State Department now has to deal with.


Ellie Lavin is a dual American/Israeli citizen, currently living overseas in Israel.  When she gave birth to her twin daughters a few years ago, she thought it would be a simple matter to get them dual citizenship as well.  However, the problem Ms. Lavin is facing, is that her children are not biologically hers.  She used in vitro fertilization with both a donor egg and donor sperm, though she was the one to physically carry the pregnancy and give birth.  This is an issue now, because the U.S. State Department is refusing to grant her children citizenship since neither of the donor ‘parents’ can be confirmed as US citizens.  The State Department asserts that this rule is to prevent people from fraudulently obtaining American citizenship.


This is a troubling concept for many parents, since it could have the effect of leaving their child ‘stateless.’  Though America follows the rule of jus soli, they are in the minority, with most countries discontinuing this practice.  Therefore, a child could be denied American citizenship since they don’t have a biological American parent, as well as being denied citizenship in the country where they are born, if they don’t have a parent who is a citizen there.


As of right now, there are about 200,000 Americans living in Israel.  This issue could begin to cause more and more parents trouble, as fertility treatments are offered for free in Israel, and are becoming more common.  In order to try and skirt the trouble that Ms. Lavin is having, some expats briefly return to America specifically to give birth, whereas other parents are simply lying to officials.


At this point in time, Ms. Lavin does have one option.  She could return to the US with her children and live there for a minimum of six months after which she could re-file her application with the State Department.  However, this would mean uprooting her family and leaving behind her home and her life in Israel.


Do you think this is a fair policy?  Should the State Department update their policies to reflect new advances in science/medicine?

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