Will Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's Baby Be an American Citizen?
By Stacy Lambe
Chris Jackson/Getty Images
With Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, expecting their first child sometime this spring, there’s no shortage of questions about the royal baby and the next phase in the couple’s life together. One of the most pressing questions, especially among American fans, is surrounding its nationality. Will Baby Sussex have American citizenship?
The short answer is yes. But the explanation is slightly more complicated than that, and over time that may change.
Born Aug. 4, 1981 in Los Angeles, California, to Doria Ragland and Thomas Markle Sr., Meghan is a native-born citizen of the United States. The former Suits actress grew up in Hollywood before earning a bachelor's degree from Northwestern's School of Communication in 2003. She didn't start dating Harry until June 2016, when she was 34.
When Meghan and Harry announced their engagement, it was soon revealed that the bride-to-be would change her citizenship. "She intends to become a U.K. citizen and will go through the process of that, which some of you may know takes a number of years," Jason Knauf, Prince Harry's communications secretary told the BBC in December 2017, ahead of the couple’s May 2018 wedding ceremony. That journey can’t even start until Meghan has spent 12 months living in the U.K. In the meantime, she would be "compliant with immigration requirements at all times," he added, meaning that she will still be an American citizen when she gives birth.
According to the State Department, a child born abroad to a U.S. citizen (Meghan) and "an alien" (Harry) in wedlock acquires U.S. citizenship at birth if the American parent has lived in the U.S. for the requisite amount of time. In the case of Baby Sussex, being born after 1986, the parent’s required time period is five years, with two of those years after the age of 14, which Meghan has satisfied.
With that said, the royal baby will be born as an American citizen. Additionally, according to the U.K. government, a child born to at least one British or Irish citizen (Harry) will be a British citizen, meaning that the royal baby will essentially have "dual citizenship."
However, in order for their child to be considered a dual citizen, Harry and Meghan would have to report the birth to an American consulate, Doris Meissner, former Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioner under President Bill Clinton, tells the New York Times. That would serve as "proof of U.S. citizenship," making their child eligible to apply for a passport.
While born as an American citizen, it's unlikely the royals will do anything to officiate the status beyond that. Royal expert Kelly Lynch tells Time magazine that "the child will be fully British."
Additionally, it's believed that Meghan will eventually renounce her U.S. citizenship in order to protect the royal family's finances to audit by the IRS and have to pay double taxes. The same move would also be applied to her child. Royal expert Marlene Koenig tells Town & Country, "I would expect that when they reach adulthood, they would go through the process of renouncing… The U.S. may be the only country that taxes the income of citizens who live outside the country. Meghan may have investments that will earn income -- and even abroad, she will have to pay US income tax."
No matter what, the whole thing is unprecedented. "No one in royal history has had an American mother," Lynch says. "It will be interesting to see what happens."