November 24th, 2009 by Eric J. Ramos
U.S. citizenship carries a wealth of benefits and privileges, including the ability to travel without a visa to many countries, the right to vote in federal, state and local elections, and greater eligibility to qualify for federal benefits and jobs. In order to qualify for these benefits, one must be able to provide proof of citizenship.
Proof of citizenship can be documented in a variety of ways. Among the most common documents that establish US citizenship are:
- A U.S. Birth Certificate;
- A U.S. Passport;
- A Certificate of Citizenship; and
- A Naturalization Certificate.
If you were born in the United States, you were a US citizen at birth. You do not need to apply to USCIS for any evidence of citizenship. Your birth certificate (issued where you were born) is proof of your citizenship.
If you are not a U.S. citizen by birth or did not acquire U.S. citizenship automatically after birth, you may still be eligible to become a citizen through the normal naturalization process. Qualifying individuals who are 18 years and older may submit an “Application for Naturalization” (Form N-400) to become naturalized citizens. If you are already a naturalized U.S. citizen, then a copy of your naturalization certificate will prove your citizenship.
How do I prove U.S. Citizenship if I was born outside the U.S. to U.S. Citizen parents?
If you were born outside the United States, but one or both of your parents were U.S. citizens when you were born, you may still be a U.S. citizen. This is called citizenship through derivation. There are usually additional specific requirements, and sometimes citizenship can be through a combination of a parent and grandparent.
Whether or not someone born outside the U.S. to a U.S. citizen parent is a U.S. citizen depends on the law in effect when the person was born. These laws have changed over the years, but usually require a combination of at least one parent being a U.S. citizen when the child was born and having lived in the U.S. or its possessions for a period of time. Persons who acquired citizenship from parent(s) while under 18 years of age may apply for a certificate of citizenship on Form N-600.
If you were born abroad to U.S. citizen parents, you can apply for a U.S. passport in the same manner as someone born in the United States. However, you will have the added requirement of establishing your citizenship claim. Passport applications are made at passport offices in the United States, including local post offices, or at U.S. consulates abroad.
How do I prove U.S. Citizenship if my birth was registered abroad?
If your parents were U.S. citizens and registered your birth with a U.S. Consulate in the first five years of your life, then they were issued a certificate called a Consular Registration of Birth Abroad. This form will prove your citizenship. If they didn’t do this or they lost the form, you will need to apply for a passport or Certificate of Citizenship on Form N-565 instead.
How do I prove U.S. Citizenship if I am a Naturalized Citizen?
If you were born outside of the U.S. and filed an application for citizenship on Form N-400, then the citizenship certificate that you were issued when you appeared for the naturalization oath ceremony is your proof of citizenship.
If you have lost your Naturalization Certificate or Certificate of Citizenship, you should file Form N-565, Application for Replacement Naturalization Citizenship Document, with USCIS to replace the lost certificate. You may also contact the Department of State for information on how to obtain a passport.