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Curtis, Smith Introduce Bipartisan Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2021

Today, Representative John Curtis (R-UT) and Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced the bipartisan Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2021 to provide U. citizenship to international adoptees brought to the U.S. as children but were never granted citizenship. 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 US citizenship despite being raised by American parents.

“The importance of the family is something that Utahns treasure and a value that I have worked to protect while in Congress,” said Curtis. “I am proud to introduce the Adoptee Citizenship Act which will give peace of mind to international adoptees and parents and reunify many Utah families. Specifically, this bill will ensure automatic citizenship for all international adoptees and close a loophole that barred thousands from US citizenship. I look forward to working with my colleagues, such as Representative Smith, to advance legislation like the Adoptee Citizenship Act that strengthens and supports families.”

“I am proud to introduce the bipartisan Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2021 with Congressman John Curtis to finally give U.S. citizenship to these international adoptees,” said Smith. “Through no fault of their own, there are thousands of adoptees who were brought to the U.S. for adoption as children but never gained citizenship. These individuals grew up in the US, started careers and families here, yet they do not live with the privileges of being citizens. Our legislation will end this injustice and bring much needed certainty for impacted adoptees, granting them US citizenship.”


The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA) eliminated the need for many adoptive families to apply to naturalize and gain citizenship for their newly-adopted children, but the law only applied 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; it did not apply retroactively to those adoptees who faced the same dilemma but aged into adulthood before the CCA took effect.

For these international adoptees, the U.S. is the place they grew up and the place they call home. Yet, through no fault of their own, they never received their citizenship and are living in uncertainty about their future. 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. 

The Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2021 introduced today corrects this gap in the law by confirming international adoptees’ US citizenship status, regardless of when they were adopted or their age at the time the CCA was passed. This important bill provides much needed certainty to adopted Americans who have had difficulties attending college, accessing banking services, and starting their careers simply because of paperwork and process oversights during their childhood. 

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, immigration groups, faith-based organizations, and Korean American civic and community organizations. 

Endorsing Organizations: Adoptee Rights Campaign, Korean American Grassroots Conference, National Council For Adoption (NCFA), National Immigration Forum, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, NAKASEC, The Niskanen Center, Adoptees for Justice, Adoptee Advocates, Family Coalition for Adoptee Citizenship, US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Center for Adoption Policy, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association

Statements of Support

Adoptee Rights Campaign: “Children adopted into American families grow up on the principles of productive work and independence. However, without citizenship, adoptees are economically and politically disenfranchised and lack a sustainable way forward. The Adoptee Citizenship Act is the only remedy for ensuring all intercounty adoptees can fully access their rights as Americans. We are encouraged by Representatives Smith and Curtis's bipartisan sponsorship and we look forward to advancing this critical legislation.”

Korean American Grassroots Conference:  “We appreciate Rep. Smith and Rep. Curtis for their bipartisan leadership on providing a sensible solution to the crisis tens of thousands of adoptees face,” said Wonseok Song, executive director of the Korean American Grassroots Conference, the largest nationwide network of Korean American voters. “Based on family values and compassion, the Adoptee Citizenship Act is a major step in fulfilling the promise of providing a home to the intercountry adoptees who are part of American families in all aspects but paper. The Korean American community is home to the greatest number of impacted adoptees, and KAGC along with its partner organizations is committed to supporting all those affected.”

Chuck Johnson, President & CEO, National Council For Adoption:  “NCFA supports the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2021. Congress intended citizenship for children being internationally adopted by American citizens, but a complicated and confusing immigration and visa system confused many adoptive families and many parents failed to complete the citizenship process on behalf of their minor children.  The Adoptee Citizenship Act provides the citizenship that was originally promised to these children through their adoption and coming to America.” – Chuck Johnson, National Council For Adoption.

National Immigration Forum: “The Adoptee Citizenship Act is an example of the kind of bipartisan, proactive cooperation on immigration that Congress needs more of,” said Jacinta Ma, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the National Immigration Forum. “Immigration legislation that recognizes and protects families with just, compassionate solutions is a step in the right direction for all Americans. Congress should move forward with this legislation and uphold the values that define our nation.”

Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute: “The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) is so grateful to Representatives Smith and Curtis 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. 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."

NAKASEC: “As an Asian American network that has always had intercountry adoptees within our leadership, the NAKASEC network applauds the re-introduction of the Adoptee Citizenship Act. We are excited to work with our co-sponsors to ensure citizenship for all intercountry adoptees during this legislative cycle.”-Becky Belcore, Executive Director & intercountry adoptee/NAKASEC

National Asian Pacific American Bar Association: “The Adoptee Citizenship Act represents an opportunity for Congress to positively change lives in a deserved and meaningful way,” said A.B. Cruz III, president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. “Through this bipartisan legislation, tens of thousands of international adoptees will be granted the citizenship they deserve. We thank Congressmen Adam Smith and John Curtis for their leadership. We urge all Members of Congress to support the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2020.”

Family Coalition for Adoptee Citizenship: "The family is the fundamental unit of society and it must be safeguarded. Adoption creates a family and providing citizenship to all intercountry adoptees helps preserve the family." – Kurt Cappelli, Founding Partner, Family Coalition for Adoptee Citizenship  

Kristopher Larsen, Adoptees for Justice: "Intercountry Adoptees have been left out far too long, this bill would bring a relief to so many impacted adoptees in the US and provide them with the securities of US Citizenship."

Anissa Druesedow, Adoptee Advocates: "This bill will help reunite many impacted adoptees with their families and lead to citizenship. It will finally bring the rights that should have been granted at the time of adoption so many years ago.”