Who is considered a United States citizen?

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus
Reviewed January 2018

You are a United States citizen if you were born anywhere in the United States or its territories, including Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Individuals from the American Samoa or Swain’s Island are also considered U.S. citizens for benefits purposes. And if you were born in another country and then naturalized, you are also a U.S. citizen.  106 C.M.R.§ 362.200

In addition, “derived citizenship” is based on the U.S. citizenship of one’s parents. If you were born abroad and at least one of your biological parents was a U.S. born citizen at the time of your birth -- and lived in the U.S. at any time prior to your birth – you may have derived citizenship. And if you were born abroad and both your parents naturalized to U.S. citizenship before you turned age 18, you may also have “derived citizenship.” 106 C.M.R.§ 362.210.  Check with an immigration specialist if you think these rules apply to you. 

Under the SNAP program, you are not required to verify U.S. citizenship unless the DTA finds the information provided is questionable. 106 C.M.R.§ 362.210. The federal and state SNAP rules allow you to self-declare your U.S. citizenship, unless the information you provide is considered “questionable.”  See What if DTA questions the proofs I sent them or asks for more proofs?  

Advocacy Reminders:

  • It may be helpful to ask individuals born abroad if either parent was a U.S. citizen or if the parents naturalized before the individual turned age 18. Some clients may not know they have a right to claim “derived” citizenship and should be referred to an immigration or naturalization specialist.

DTA Policy Guidance

DTA Online Guide: SNAP > Eligibility Requirements > Citizenship > Citizenship Overview

Show DTA Policy Guidance

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

Ask a Law Librarian

If it's
9am and 4pm