But in an 11-page "policy alert", the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency said it found the prevailing rules contradictory and at odds with other parts of federal immigration law and State Department procedures.
The new policy means that some members of the military and government employees would no longer be able to automatically pass on their citizenship to their foreign-born children if they themselves haven't lived in the US for a specified amount of time.
A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services official, who confirmed the policy change to McClatchy on the condition they would not be identified, said the policy change, which was released Wednesday, "explains that we will not consider children who live overseas with their parents to be residing in the United States even if their parents are U.S. government employees or U.S. service members stationed outside of the United States". Some children born in facilities such as US military hospitals overseas or not in the United States would have to apply for USA citizenship before turning 18, according to CBS News.
"Military members already have enough to deal with, and the last thing that they should have to do when stationed overseas is go through hoops to ensure their children are US citizens", said Andy Blevins, executive director of the Modern Military Association of America.
Garcia Hernandez said that throughout American history, the residency requirements to pass on citizenship to children have shifted, but previous administrations had taken a broader interpretation of what met those standards.
Historically, children born to USA citizen parents in foreign countries have been automatically granted citizenship under Immigration Nationality Act 320.
But the change could conceivably give Trump room to argue that his administration curtailed birthright benefits that a citizen with little or no actual US residency can automatically confer to their foreign-born offspring.
The policy manual update is highly technical and contradicts parts of an 11-page memo the agency initially put out that implied American citizens were among those whose children would no longer be automatically granted citizenship if born overseas.
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Bolsonaro has previously described rainforest protections as an obstacle to Brazil's economic development. Brazilian farmers sometimes start fires at this time of the year to illegally clear land for livestock.
The new guidance applies only to a small group of children born overseas and does not affect children who are citizens at birth or who have already acquired citizenship.
He later said in a statement that the policy "does not affect who is born a USA citizen, period".
"Considering children who are living outside of the United States to be "residing in the United States" conflicts with the definition of "residence" at INA 101 (a)(33), which defines "residence" as a person's 'principal, actual dwelling place in fact, '" the policy said. "My dad and mom served in the U.S. Airforce".
"US laws allow children to acquire United States citizenship other than through birth in the US".
The prior guideline also "resulted in confusion" as to the date a child acquired USA citizenship, the new policy said.
"This does not impact birthright citizenship". That is expected to change on October 29 this year.
Officials said the existing policy conflicts with State Department guidance and a 2008 law, leading to confusion when issuing citizenship decisions. President Donald Trump has occasionally voiced his support for ending birthright citizenship and said last week he was "seriously" considering ending it, though it's unclear how he'd have the legal authority to do so.