Kensington Palace announced on Monday that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are expecting a child in the spring.
The announcement comes only five months after the couple married at Windsor Castle in May. With a British father and an American mother, the child might ordinarily expect to be able to apply for dual U.S.-U.K. citizenship, no matter in which country it is born. But is that the case for a royal?
Under U.S. law, a child born outside of the U.S. and in wedlock can gain U.S. citizenship if its American parent has lived in the United States for at least five years. According to the State Department, two of the years spent living in the U.S must be after the age of 14.
The Duchess of Sussex was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and only relocated last year around the time of her wedding announcement. Therefore, under these legal definitions, their child would be entitled to apply for American citizenship.
But it is unclear for how much longer Markle will herself hold U.S. citizenship. Though the royal family has been quiet about her plans, if Markle were to maintain dual citizenship she might be subject to IRS audit. This would have the potential to expose the royal family’s personal finances, which they have long kept private. As a result, she is highly likely to renounce her American citizenship as a precautionary measure.
Yet Meghan has several hoops to jump through before becoming fully British. Like any American marrying into a British visa, the former Suits actress must stay on an “indefinite leave to remain” status for at least 12 months before she can begin her journey towards citizenship. She will also be expected to take a citizenship test, which has been taken two million times since its launch in 2005.
According to royal expert Kelly Lynch, the question of the baby’s citizenship will set a royal precedent. “No one in royal history has had an American mother, it will be fairly interesting to see what happens,” Lynch said. But upon its birth, she added, “the child will be fully British.”
The couple told Queen Elizabeth and other senior royals about the pregnancy while gathered in Windsor on Friday for Princess Eugenie’s wedding.