FAQS FOR TEENS AND ADULTS WHO HAVE BEEN THE SUBJECT OF INTERNATIONAL PARENTAL CHILD CUSTODY DISPUTES/ABDUCTION

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Q1. I was born in the United States but came to Japan on a Japanese passport when I was a child and have lived here ever since. I have a Japanese family register (“koseki”).  Am I still a U.S. citizen?  Will I lose my U.S. citizenship if I tell (or have already told) a Japanese government official that I choose to be a Japanese citizen?

A. You are still a U.S. citizen. The United States does not prohibit or restrict dual nationality, including having another passport.  U.S. citizenship can only be given up by formally renouncing or relinquishing it in person at a U.S. embassy or consulate.  It cannot be lost automatically or accidentally, nor can a parent renounce U.S. citizenship on behalf of a child.  For more information, please see https://jp.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/citizenship-services/loss-u-s-citizenship/.

Q2. Now that I am an adult, do I have the right to apply for a U.S. passport and live in the United States? Will I have any problems due to my Japanese parent bringing me to Japan?

A. As a U.S. citizen, you are eligible to apply for a U.S. passport on your own when you turn 16 years of age, although in some circumstances a custodial parent could object to issuance before age 18. As an adult, you are free to travel to the United States with your U.S. passport, and live, work, or study there, regardless of the circumstances of your departure as a child.

Q3.  Now that I am age 18 or older, if I apply at the U.S. Embassy to renew my passport, will the Embassy tell my parent in the United States about my application?

A.   As an adult U.S. citizen, the information collected and maintained about you in Department systems is protected by the Privacy Act of 1974, and information about your passport application will generally not be shared with your parents without your written consent or without the existence of some serious emergency situation.

Q4.   Now that I am an adult, will my parent in the United States be informed if I travel there for any reason?

A.   As an adult U.S. citizen, the information collected and maintained about you in Department systems is protected by the Privacy Act of 1974, and information the Department may become aware of regarding you travel or travel plans of will generally not be shared with your parents without your written consent or without the existence of some serious emergency situation.

Q5.   If I apply at the U.S. Embassy to renew my passport now that I am 18 or older, will the Embassy tell my parent in Japan?

A.   As an adult U.S. citizen, the information collected and maintained about you in Department systems is protected by the Privacy Act of 1974, and information about your passport application will generally not be shared with your parents without your written consent or without the existence of some serious emergency situation.

Q6.   Will my applying for a passport at the U.S. Embassy as an adult create any hardship or legal problems for the parent that brought me to Japan?

A.   Once you are an adult, your ability to obtain a passport is not related to your parent’s past actions. The Department may only share information in your records as authorized by law in the Privacy Act of 1974.

Q7.   Since I have a valid Japanese passport, why should I bother to apply for a U.S. passport? Can’t I just travel to the U.S. as a Japanese citizen?

A.   While the United States does not prohibit you from having another nationality, U.S. law requires U.S. citizens to enter and exit the country on their U.S. passports. Additionally, a U.S. passport is an important document for you to have.  Evidence of citizenship allows you to study, work, vote and exercise all your rights in the United States.  If you are traveling between the U.S. and Japan, you should travel with both passports so you can enter and exit Japan as a Japanese citizen.

Q8.   I’m over 18 years old now. Is my custody case closed?  Is it on my record with the U.S. government?  Will this cause me any problems when I travel to the United States?  Specifically, will I have any trouble with child protection agencies and/or law enforcement when I’m in the United States?

A.   Now that you are adult, any abduction case that may have been opened with the Department of State has been closed. It’s possible that residual information from other sources, such a previous state of residence, may remain.

Q9.   I want to travel to the United States with my parent. Is it safe for us to travel?  Can we find out he or she has a warrant and, if so, what we can do about it?

A.   The U.S. Embassy and the Department of State are not able to advise whether your parent may or may not have an outstanding warrant. You may wish to consult with an attorney, ideally in the state and county where you lived before coming to Japan.  You may also wish to contact law enforcement in the state and county where you lived before coming to Japan. They may be able to assist you in determining your parent’s legal risks, if any.

Q10.   Now that I’m an adult, I’m thinking about contacting my parent in the United States, but I don’t know how. Can the Embassy help me with this?

A.   We’ll be happy to try to pass along your message to your parent in the United States . Please call us at 03-3224-5000 and ask for ‘American Citizens Services’ or send us an email at TokyoACS@state.gov.

Alternatively, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)’s Family Advocacy Division is always available to help support you with navigating any kind of contact or reunification with your parent in the U.S.  You can submit an inquiry with NCMEC through a form on their website at https://www.missingkids.org/footer/contactus  or by calling them at 010+1+703-224-2150.

Q11.   I’m an adult but my name is still posted online as a “missing” or “abducted” child. How can I have this information removed from websites like the NCMEC?

A.   The agency that initiated the action usually needs to make a request to remove the posting; however, you may wish to contact NCMEC and find out about the procedure for adult U.S. citizens. You can submit an inquiry with NCMEC through a form on their website at https://www.missingkids.org/footer/contactus  or by calling them at 010+1+703-224-2150.  Other agencies and organizations may also have posted this information and may need to be contact individually.  Please also be aware that even after the posts are removed, the information may continue to linger on the internet, depending on how it was originally posted, disseminated, shared, and/or archived.  NCMEC understands that you may not wish to share your whereabouts or contact information and may only be comfortable sharing limited information about your wellbeing, and that’s ok.  NCMEC will treat your sensitive information carefully and will not unnecessarily share any information that might cause harm or traumatize you.

If you have any questions or concerns, please email us at TokyoACS@state.gov.

Q12.   What else do I need to know now that I am an adult?

A.   Now that you are an adult, you should become familiar with your rights and responsibilities as a U.S. citizen, and may be eligible to receive certain services and/or federal benefits.  Two important considerations for you right now are Voting and Registering with the Selective Service.  Even though you do not reside in the United States, as a U.S. citizen you have the right to participate in the election process.  For more information about elections and how to register to vote, please visit https://jp.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/voting/ and https://www.fvap.gov/citizen-voter .  Secondly, all male U.S. citizens between the ages of 18 and 25 living in the United States or overseas are required to register with the Selective Service before their 26th birthday.  Men who have registered remain eligible for federal student aid, most federal jobs, and federal job training.  Registering with the Selective Service does not mean you are volunteering to join the military. No one has been drafted since 1973 and no one can be ordered for induction by Selective Service unless ordered by Congress and the President.  For more information, please visit https://jp.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/selective-service-registration/.  If you have trouble registering online, please contact us about getting a copy of the mail-in form.   Please call us at 03-3224-5000 and ask for ‘American Citizens Services’ or send us an email at TokyoACS@state.gov.

Q13.   Now that I’m an adult, I hope that my parents move forward to have an opportunity to compromise with each other. Can the Embassy help me with this?

A.   The Embassy cannot mediate between your parents, but we have posted a list of English and Japanese-speaking family counseling resources available in Japan. Please visit https://jp.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/emergency-contact/sources-of-help/; under the “Counseling Services” heading halfway down the page.

Q14.   How can I get a copy of my records from the U.S. Department of State?

A.   You may request to obtain a copy of your personal records from the Department of State through its website. For more information please visit https://foia.state.gov/Request/PersonalRecords.aspx .

Q15.   As a U.S. citizen, will my own child or children also be U.S. citizens?

A.   There are two paths to citizenship to children born to U.S. citizens overseas.

You may apply for a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) and/or a passport for your child (see https://jp.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/child-family-matters/birth/).

If your child does not qualify for a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, he or she may be able to acquire U.S. citizenship under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.  For more information, please visit https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/Intercountry-Adoption/adopt_ref/adoption-FAQs/child-citizenship-act-of-2000.html .

If you have any questions about obtaining U.S. citizenship for your children, please contact the Embassy at TokyoACS@state.gov.

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