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How to Obtain Proof of Citizenship

So, you've obtained your American 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 does not 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 American citizenship through your parents, however, you will not have either of these documents. In this case, you will 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 issued. In this case, or in the case that you have lost your Consular Registration of Birth Abroad 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. 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

  • 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 American 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 issues certificates of citizenship to those with a confirmed claim to American citizenship. These certificates can only be obtained from American citizenship and Immigration Services, located in the U.S.

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

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

You will also need to prove what your name is and show any changes to your name, so include your birth certificate, marriage certificate, or decree of divorce with your application

More Resources

The path to U.S. citizenship can be complex. You can find the Application for Citizenship and the Application for Naturalization online. If you would like legal assistance with your citizenship, you can contact an immigration and naturalization attorney in your area. You can also fine more introductory information in FindLaw’s Citizenship section.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help
you with the citizenship process.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)