There are many situations in which an individual might need proof of citizenship. All United States employers are required to verify that a newly hired employee can legally work in the U.S. One must also prove citizenship to obtain a U.S. passport. For someone born in the U.S., proving citizenship is usually straightforward. For those born outside the U.S., whether to U.S. citizens or to non-citizens, there may be additional requirements.
Documents That Can Prove Citizenship
There are at least five types of documents that can help to prove citizenship.
- Birth Certificate. For individuals born in the U.S., a certificate from the state in which they were born is usually all that is needed. The Bureau of Vital Statistics in each state can usually provide this. It must be an official birth certificate, filed with the state's registrar, signed and embossed.
- Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA). A CRBA is generally available to individuals born outside the U.S., provided that one parent was a U.S. citizen and lived in the U.S. for a required period of time. After 1986, the minimum period is usually 5 years, during two of which the citizen parent was over age 14. Parents must register their child's birth at the nearest consulate or Embassy when the child is born.
- Certificate of Citizenship. Individuals born to a U.S. citizen abroad who do not obtain a CRBA by the age of 18 cannot use that option. They can, however, apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a Certificate of Citizenship by providing detailed information on Form N-600 about their parents and the circumstances of their birth.
- Naturalization Certificate. Applicants who became U.S. citizens after turning 18 through the naturalization process can obtain one of these.
- Passport. Issued by the U.S. Department of State, a U.S. passport is proof of citizenship. It helps to have one of the preceding proofs of citizenship already in hand when seeking a passport. There are, however, ways to obtain one without them.
Secondary Evidence of Citizenship
Secondary evidence of citizenship may be used to obtain a passport. Early Public Records from the first five years of one's life -- e.g. baptismal certificate, hospital birth certificate, census record, doctor's record, early school record -- may sometimes serve as evidence of U.S. citizenship.
Applicants born abroad who do not have a CRBA or a USCIS Certification of Birth but who claim citizenship through a U.S. citizen parent can also obtain a passport. They must submit foreign birth documents with evidence of their parents' citizenship, including all of the following:
- Foreign birth certificate (translated to English);
- Evidence of citizenship of the U.S. citizen parent;
- Parents' marriage certificate; and
- A statement of the U.S. citizen parent detailing all times and places of residence or physical presence in the U.S. and abroad before the applicant's birth.
If you need to prove your citizenship for work or other purposes, you should contact an experienced immigration attorney to help you through the process.