Reject Child Support to Deny U.S. Citizenship
I haven't had the need to visit that many U.S. embassies abroad, but can say without question that the complex in Lima is the most striking I've seen to date.
The doors to the main building that contain the citizen services wing are tall, heavy, and intimidating. With a large bronzed seal of the United States boldly placed above the entryway, and a building design tailored to exaggerate the size of the opening, I couldn't help but be reminded of the grand entrance that needed to be passed to see the Wizard of Oz.
…Perhaps for so many of those seeking entry or citizenship, the United States is the Land of Oz. It's a shame that applicants never see such things, as they are relegated to a separate building.
Inside the reception cloister, and past yet another metal detector and armed Marine, the ceiling above caught my attention. The room was rather cube shaped, and spread all above me (running partially down the walls) were large blue tiles with silver stars set in the center. I was rather mesmerized by it while I waited for the receptionist (sitting behind several inches of bulletproof glass) to direct me to the appropriate room. It was almost as if I was wrapped up inside the blue section of the American flag—I was quite impressed.
Perhaps I was still just feeling pleased at catching a long glimpse of the large flag flying outside the building on my approach. There's something very special about seeing such things, especially when it's a rather uncommon sight after traveling abroad for prolonged periods of time, and stepping foot on home turf—even if it's sovereign soil abroad.
Tatiana, Aidric (now almost three weeks old), and I traveled by minibus for an hour to reach the embassy. Today's visit was simply to pick up the paperwork needed to register his birth and get him a passport, and establish what additional documents would be necessary to bring to our interview with an embassy staff member (on appointment only).
Thumbing through the many pages of paperwork that needed to be filled out, a footnote caught my attention. The sentence it belonged to read:
That, if any child named above was born out of wedlock and I am the father through whom such child is claiming United States citizenship, I agree to provide financial support for such child until such child reaches the age of eighteen years.
The footnote added:
This phrase may be deleted; however, if it is deleted by a United States citizen who father a child born out of wedlock to a foreign woman, the child will not be eligible for citizenship under Section 309(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended on November 14, 1986.
My curiosity peaked, I looked up Section 309 (Children Born out of Wedlock) in the Immigration and Nationality Act, and found that agreeing to financially support the child until s/he is 18 years old is one of the four conditions (of that subsection) that need to be met to for the child to qualify for U.S. citizenship.
I'm not sure what the original spirit of that particular part of the amendment was, but my interpretation is that it's a fail-safe to keep foreign mothers from leveraging children to gain financial benefits or U.S. citizenship for themselves (by "accidentally" getting pregnant from a U.S. male abroad).
Now that doesn't mean that the mother can't hit the father up for child support in her own country, but let's face it, unless their government has some type of reciprocity established for such things (see below), nothing much would come of it except the father's inability to travel back to that country again (without risking things like jail time).
Q. WHAT COUNTRIES DOES THE UNITED STATES HAVE CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT AGREEMENTS WITH AT PRESENT?
A. Since 1996, when Congress for the first time specifically authorized federal-level agreements regarding child support enforcement, the United States has entered into a number of reciprocal agreements, which do not require U.S. Senate advice and consent. Currently, the U.S. has Federal reciprocal arrangements in force with Australia, Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Branswick, Newfoundland/Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Czech Republic, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, and the Slovak Republic.
Some women think that getting pregnant by an American is the solution to the exit from their country, or a financial hardship. And up until today, I thought that my citizenship automatically passed to Aidric the moment he was born; when it turns out that I have to grant it to him by declaring that I'll support him.
But it appears that it's entirely possible to register the child's birth abroad—which the parent(s) should do with the U.S. embassy to avoid agonizing situations later—but not consent to pay child support (at that time). Although, I suspect that a father is able to later declare such things at any time before s/he turns 18, thus paving the way for the rest of the child's citizenship/passport paperwork to go through.
I really don't know what happens when the child turns 18 years old and no longer qualifies for child support. It's possible the birth registration and father's sworn declaration of paternity would grant the young adult his or her U.S. citizenship at that time.
If the father finally declares he'll financially support the child many years after the child's birth, and the mother turns out not to be the nicest of people, it's possible she could sue in U.S. court for back-payments of child support. And then, suddenly, the father has a six-figure debt to pay off.
I really think this can be a difficult decision for men in this situation to deal with. It's hard to know what the demeanor of the child's mother will be in a decade, for it is she who holds the power to help or hurt under these circumstances. Sadly, the child is caught in the middle of some difficult decisions that will directly impact them, and their future.
So, I think the big question that looms over the head of any American male with a child born abroad (and out of wedlock) to a woman who isn't a U.S. citizen is: Will I obstruct my child's citizenship simply to limit my financial liability?
My answer is no, I won't, but it's nice to know the checks and balances are in there for guys ensnared by a passport hunter.