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How to Obtain Proof of Citizenship

So, you've obtained U.S. citizenship. Now how do you obtain proof of citizenship? If you were born on U.S. soil, including U.S. military grounds and U.S. territory abroad, then your birth certificate is your primary proof of citizenship. This doesn't refer to the birth certificate your parents got at the hospital when you were born. It refers to the standard U.S. birth certificate issued by the state government. If you were naturalized in the U.S., you were given a naturalization certificate instead of a birth certificate.

If your birth took place outside the territorial United States and you have a right to U.S. citizenship through your parents, however, you won't have either of these documents. In this case, you'll have to apply for either a U.S. passport or a certificate of citizenship.

Certificates of Consular Registration of Birth

When U.S. citizens give birth to children outside of the U.S., they have five years to register that birth with the U.S. consulate. When they do, the consulate issues them a Consular Registration of Birth Abroad. This is sufficient proof of American citizenship. If you have these documents, do not lose them. There is no way to get duplicates.

If the parents do not register the baby's birth before the baby's fifth birthday, there is no way to have a Consular Registration of Birth Abroad certificate issued. In this case, or in the case that you have lost your certificate, you must apply for a passport or certificate of citizenship to obtain proof of citizenship.

U.S. Passports

In general, applying for a U.S. passport if you were born in the U.S. is pretty straightforward, since U.S. born individuals (other than those born to foreign diplomats) automatically receive "birthright citizenship." The legal authority for this is found in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

If your parents are U.S. citizens and you were born abroad, you may apply for a passport the same way, with a few additional steps. These steps include the following:

  • Proving your parents are U.S. citizens;
  • Providing evidence that your parents followed all residency requirements; and
  • Providing evidence that you have followed all residency requirements (unless you have been excused from them by not knowing the laws).

This evidence may be in the form of citizenship records, tax records, employment records, or affidavits from you or relatives explaining why you were unaware of your claim to U.S. citizenship. You may apply for passports in U.S. passport offices, but people who file directly with the U.S. consulate abroad typically have better success.

Certificates of Citizenship

The American Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues certificates of citizenship to those with a confirmed claim to American citizenship.

Obtaining this document is usually a bit more difficult than obtaining a passport, because it tends to take a lot longer. Some people have waited over a year to receive their certificate of citizenship. People whose citizenship was obtained via naturalization of a parent have the best luck with a certificate of citizenship, because the evidence is so obvious and easy to obtain.

Evidence of your citizenship claim should include the following:

  • Parents' birth certificates;
  • Marriage certificates; and
  • Naturalization certificates.

You'll also need to prove what your name is and show any changes to your name (such as through marriage), so include your birth certificate, marriage certificate, or decree of divorce with your application.

Having Trouble With an Immigration Matter? An Attorney Can Help

United State immigration law is notoriously complex, so it's crucial that you understand the steps required for adjusting your status, obtaining proof of citizenship, or other processes. If you would like legal assistance with your citizenship, you can contact an immigration and naturalization attorney in your area.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you with the citizenship process.

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