In a comment, bubblebustin asked for statistics on the number of Consular Reports of Birth Abroad. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find the actual numbers, but the State Department does make Paperwork Reduction Act filings with the Office of Management & Budget giving estimates on DS-2029 (the form parents fill out to apply for a CRBA).
State started out with an estimate of 70,000 filers per year in 1975, but apparently they found this was an overestimate and quickly revised that downwards to 35,000 per year in 1980. In about two decades after that, State increased their estimate of DS-2029 filers by about 31% to 46,000 in 2002, then increased by about 50% more over the decade to 68,627 per year. In other words, it took more than three decades for the estimated number of reported births to double. Yet the doubling time for the total population of Americans abroad is far shorter than that, apparently around a decade: in 2002 State estimated that 3.2 million Americans lived abroad, while last year they said 6.3 million.
In other words, the proportion of overseas Americans requesting Consular Reports of Birth Abroad has decreased by nearly 25% in the last decade. The obvious question: is this due to a drop in birthrates, or a drop in the proportion who choose to report their babies’ births to the U.S. government?
Aside from the actual numbers, you’ll notice that the State Department has been even worse than the IRS in keeping up-to-date with their OMB filings. We’ve previously discussed the State Department’s OMB filings on DS-4079 — which is filled out by people giving up U.S. citizenship — and concluded that their estimates are not compiled with much care. Their DS-2029 numbers seem a bit better, though not by much. Unlike the renunciation figures, there’s no reason for them to be low-balling their estimates: higher numbers make them look better, and they’re quite far away from the time & cost burden threshold where any changes to the form might be deemed a “significant regulatory action”.
However, apart from the fact that State didn’t even bother filling out the “cost burden to Federal government” field correctly until 2009, there’s a bigger problem: information collections are only approved for three-year periods, but in many cases there’s four and five-year gaps between State’s extension requests. This means that their expenditures to process these forms during several years were illegal. So far I am not aware of any evidence that State Department employees have been fined a fifth of their life’s savings for these minor paperwork lapses.
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In 2002 there were an estimated 14.4 registered births for every thousand Americans abroad, and even as recently as 2008 (when State estimated that about four million resided abroad) there were 13 registered births per thousand Americans abroad. However, according to the 2012 figures there were only 10.9 registered births per thousand Americans abroad. And if the May 2013 Bureau of Consular Affairs Fact Sheet is correct in stating that there are 7.6 million Americans abroad, there might be as few as 9 registered births per thousand Americans abroad.
Back in the Homeland, the crude birth rate among U.S. residents — the number of births per thousand population — barely moved over the same period: it’s been about 14 for the entire decade. The conclusion I’d like to draw from this is that while most Americans abroad having babies in 2002 chose to register them, beginning around 2008 large proportions of parents began not to register their babies, reaching perhaps a quarter to a third of all new parents by 2012. Is this plausible? I personally think so.
The alternative theory — that the birth reporting rate is the same, and that the slow growth in CRBAs compared to the population of Americans abroad reflects a sharp decrease in the actual birth rate — does not seem so likely. This would require either that Americans abroad are having far fewer babies than Homelanders of the same age, or that the age structure of Americans abroad has shifted towards a higher proportion of people of non-child-bearing age. Hard data is sadly lacking on the latter point, but anecdotally, far more Americans who have gone abroad in the last decade are early-career young people, i.e. of child-bearing age and far more likely to end up in a relationship with a local person in their country of residence, as compared to earlier decades when Americans abroad were primarily retirees and married mid-to-late-career executives (with trailing spouses & children) on assignment.
With regards to the former point, there are far more countries today than in 1980 which can offer first-world wages & standard of living to their populations, and an even greater number of middle-income countries which used to be “hardship posts” but now have an acceptable level of educational & health infrastructure for those with the money to pay. This fact has two implications, both of which we’d expect to result in an increase rather than a decrease in the number of Americans having babies abroad. First, American couples temporarily resident abroad are today more likely to trust their local hospital rather than delaying pregnancy until their international assignment is over or flying the wife back to the U.S. during the first trimester. Second, bi-national couples at the beginning of their new lives together are more likely to choose to settle outside the U.S.; in particular, as the European Union has expanded and the provisions on freedom of movement for workers apply to an increasing number of countries, even Americans married to people from poorer countries of Europe may move, for example, to the United Kingdom.
A view from the Homeland
A New Jersey resident identified only as “Jean Public” submitted one comment on the most recent OMB filing during the 60-day period after it was announced in the Federal Register:
ds2029 must now require a picture of the claimed birth person and a fingerprint of
the claimed birth person.it is time to truly document who is being claimed as a us
there is alot of lying and fakery and bribery in this entire process.since
citizenship is worth thousands of dollars, it is clear that workers in this area can
make money for themselves by
allowing people to pay them off for fake documents.we need investigation of the
alleged 68,000 births abroad. we want birth pictures of the claimed citizen to be
attached to the file, we want indication of the race and color fo the claimed new
citizen and we want fingerprints.
it is clear there is criminality in this area of our govt.
Nothing much to say about this, except that it reflects the typical Homelander view that U.S. citizens who inexplicably choose to live outside the Greatest Country on Earth are un-American criminals who would happily sell out the U.S. and help fraudsters get U.S. citizenship. On the other hand, in the unlikely event that this woman’s conspiracy theory is true, it would suggest that my above estimate of 25% of new parents choosing not to request CRBAs for their own children is too low, because the other 75% would include many fraudulent applications filed on behalf of non-citizens hoping for their children to get U.S. citizenship by posing as the children of U.S. citizens.
What happens if you don’t register your child?
If both parents of a baby born abroad are U.S. citizens, or one parent is a U.S. citizen who fulfills the five-year residence requirement, then in theory the baby is automatically a U.S. citizen at birth under 8 USC § 1401. In practise, there are obvious barriers to the U.S. government’s ability to identify such children if they have another citizenship and do not wish to be identified, to the extent that dual citizenship is demonised as a “loophole” in FATCA.
Naturally, it is more difficult for a child born abroad to remain an “undocumented American” if both parents are U.S. citizens — a U.S. border guard who sees two parents presenting U.S. passports but their two children presenting non-U.S. passports will probably get suspicious. Similarly, it’s hard for citizens of non-Visa Waiver Program countries: visa application forms ask for biographical details on the applicants’ parents. Even if a determination is made that the children are non-citizens (for example because the American parent did not reside in the U.S. for long enough), the consular officer may well deny them tourist visas to go visit Grandma on grounds of alleged “immigrant intent” and force them to get green cards instead as the only way to get around this de facto travel ban — which also has the effect of turning them into U.S. persons for tax purposes.
However, I believe that “shall” in the context of subsection 7, where one of the child’s parents is not a US citizen and the child has obtained citizenship by birth or heritage of a country other than the United States, to mean that the child has the absolute right to US citizenship upon providing adequate proof of his heritage AND that his US citizen parent meets the residence requirements of the section.
However, Mr. Y’s citizenship is not “self-executing”. Someone must do something to establish his citizenship. His mother did not obtain a certificate of registration of birth abroad before Mr. Y turned 18 and cannot now do so. Mr. Y has not yet sought to assert US citizenship by obtaining proof of same which he would do by obtaining a US passport. That process would require him to present evidence of his US citizenship. He is, of course, free to do that at any time he wishes. However, until he takes some action, his US citizenship in an “inchoate right”, that is, something that he can assert and cannot be taken away from him by the US government. Clearly, he must be a “citizen” to obtain a passport. However, being “entitled” to citizenship is not the same as “being” a citizen. In other words, US citizenship in Mr. Y’s case is not self-executing.
Anyway, if the birth and registration rates among Americans abroad had remained the same from 2002 to 2012, we’d expect the State Department to project 90 to 110 thousand applications for Consular Reports of Birth Abroad in 2012; instead they estimated not even seventy thousand.
Those missing registrations — potentially as many as twenty to forty thousand per year — represent a population of Americans abroad who, though not willing to make the big jump of renunciation for themselves, either don’t consider proof of U.S. citizenship to be important enough to be bothered to fill out a 20-minute form for their children, or are actively choosing to keep their children hidden from the U.S. government in their tender age. Presumably they plan to let the children themselves make the decision whether or not to register as U.S. citizens when they are old enough to understand the restrictions it will impose on their ability to lead a normal life outside of the United States.
Along with the rising number of people giving up citizenship — an estimated eight thousand last year, based on the FBI’s report of 4,650 renunciants added to NICS — this is more evidence of a shift in attitudes among Americans abroad towards their relationship with the country from which they emigrated.