Washington D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) and Congressman Rob Woodall (R-GA), along with Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), reintroduced the bipartisan Adoptee Citizenship Act to guarantee automatic U.S. citizenship to international adoptees. The legislation would close a loophole in the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA), which has prevented internationally-adopted children, who are now adults, from receiving U.S. citizenship despite being raised by American parents.

“I am proud to introduce the bipartisan Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2019 to help achieve the vision of the original Child Citizenship Act of 2000, which sought to ensure that adopted children and biological children are treated equally under U.S. law. By closing an existing loophole in the Child Citizenship Act, this bill will extend citizenship to thousands of foreign-born adoptive children who have joined their families here in the United States," said Congressman Adam Smith. "Unfortunately, not all adoptees were able to benefit from the Child Citizenship Act when it originally passed, as it was limited to apply only to minors age 18 and under. Adopted individuals should not be treated as second class citizens just because they happened to be the wrong age when the Child Citizenship Act became law.”

“It is estimated that between 25,000 and 49,000 children adopted to the U.S. between 1945 and 1998 lack U.S. citizenship. Most of them did not become aware of their lack of citizenship until well into their adulthood,” said Congressman Rob Woodall. “The Korean American community is home to tens of thousands of adoptees that lack eligibility for U.S. citizenship despite their legal entry and life-long residency here. Our legislation will provide a solution to close this loophole and grant the adoptees the right to citizenship they deserve.”

The CCA guarantees citizenship to most international adoptees, but the law only applies to adoptees who were under the age of 18 when the law took effect on February 27, 2001. The loophole denies citizenship to adoptees who were age 18 or over in February 2001, even though they were legally adopted as children by U.S. citizens and raised in the United States. The legislation introduced today fixes this problem by granting international adoptees automatic citizenship, regardless of their age at the time the CCA was passed.

Without citizenship, these international adoptees face many barriers, such as having trouble applying for a passport, license, or student financial aid. In some cases, they have been deported to the country in which they were born, where they may have never lived and have no known family or friends.

In addition to the broad, bipartisan congressional support for the Adoptee Citizenship Act, the bill has garnered widespread praise among the leading adoption advocacy organizations and Korean American civic and community organizations. 

“Tens of thousands international adoptee children of American parents have lived their entire lives without the their U.S. citizenship they should have for too long, due to an oversight in a the law that was intended to help them,” said Daniel Sakaguchi, President, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. “Congress now has a chance to fix the that law and change lives. We thank Congressman Adam Smith and Congressman Rob Woodall for their leadership and commitment to these adoptees. We urge all Member of Congress to support the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2019.”

“We appreciate Congressman Smith's continued compassion and bold leadership on shedding a light on this critical issue and providing a sensible solution to the crisis tens of thousands of intercountry adoptees face. The bipartisan support for this issue over the years is a testament to its humanitarian nature. Due to a bureaucratic loophole, tens of thousands of intercountry adoptees who were promised a home here in the United States decades ago have been left hanging. The Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2019 brings us closer to finally fulfilling the promise. The Korean American community is home to the greatest number of impacted adoptees, and KAGC along with its partner organizations is committed to shedding a light on this critical, yet overlooked issue,” said Wonseok Song, Executive Director, Korean American Grassroots Conference.

“Adoptees who join American families as children grow up with American values and contribute to our nation’s communities in every way. Passing the Adoptee Citizenship Act will provide the benefits and protections that many adoptees did not receive during their adoption process. Citizenship is critical for economic stability, family preservation, and social legitimacy. Finally, equal citizenship rights will strengthen our national values by empowering adoptees to participate in American democracy. We thank Representative Adam Smith and Representative Robert Woodall for their bipartisan leadership and urge all Members of Congress to support the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2019.” – Adoptee Rights Campaign

“As part of our mission and vision, National Council For Adoption supports U.S. citizenship for all individuals legally adopted by U.S. citizens,” said Chuck Johnson, President and CEO, National Council For Adoption. “The Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2019 takes strides to recognize citizenship to the many adopted individuals not covered by the Citizenship Act of 2000 due to their birthdate or visa type. We thank the bill’s co-sponsors for introducing this legislation, and we urge Congress to grant internationally adopted children and adults the same citizenship rights as any child born to U.S. citizens.”

“The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute is so grateful to Representatives Smith and Woodall for introducing this long awaited legislative fix, to fully enshrine in U.S. law the legal precedent of treating children who are adopted as equal to biological children. This bill will help remove an impossible barrier for adoptees whose adoptive parents did not know they needed to take additional steps to seek U.S. citizenship for their children after their adoption finalizations,” said Bethany Haley, Interim Executive Director, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. "The adoption community is grateful for congressional champions whose initiative and leadership will solve this problem once and for all for adopted children of U.S. citizens."

“Many believe that adoptive children of U.S. citizen parents inherited the same rights as their biological children.  Unfortunately, this is not true and thousands of inter-country adoptees did not receive U.S. citizenship when they were children and now as adults face legal and immigration challenges.  To right this wrong, the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2019 will grant automatic citizenship to all qualifying intercountry adoptees adopted by U.S. citizen parents.”  - Kristopher Larsen, constituent and Co-Director, Adoptees For Justice