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Proof of U.S. citizenship must be established when dealing with all levels of U.S. government. Documents proving citizenship must be provided when applying for Social Security benefits and when applying for a U.S. passport.
Increasingly, states are requiring proof of citizenship when applying for “enhanced” drivers licenses as required by the federal Real ID Act.
Documents Serving as Primary Evidence of U.S. Citizenship
In most cases, documents serving as “primary” proof or evidence of citizenship are required. Documents serving as primary evidence of U.S. citizenship are:
- Birth Certificate or certified copy of Birth Certificate issued by a U.S. State or by the U.S. Department of State (for persons born abroad to U.S. citizen parents who registered the child's birth and U.S. citizenship with the U.S. Embassy or consulate);
- U.S. Passport, issued by the U.S. Department of State;
- Certificate of Citizenship issued to a person born outside the United States who derived or acquired U.S. citizenship through a U.S. citizen parent; or
Naturalization Certificate issued to a person who became a U.S. citizen after 18 years of age through the naturalization process.
The Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth should be obtained by persons who were born abroad to U.S. citizens.
If you cannot present primary evidence of U.S. citizenship, you may be able to substitute secondary evidence of U.S. citizenship, as described by the U.S. Department of State.
Secondary Evidence of U.S. Citizenship
Persons who cannot present primary evidence of U.S. citizenship may submit secondary evidence of U.S. citizenship. Acceptable forms of proof of secondary evidence of U.S. citizenship depend on the appropriate situations as described below.
Early Public Records
Persons born in the United States but unable to present primary evidence of U.S. citizenship may submit a combination of early public records as evidence of your U.S. citizenship. Early public records must be submitted with a Letter of No Record. Early public records should show name, date of birth, place of birth, and preferably be created within the first five years of the person's life. Examples of early public records are:
- Baptismal certificate
- Hospital birth certificate
- Census record
- Early school record
- Family Bible record
- Doctor's record of post-natal care
Early Public Records are not acceptable when presented alone.
Delayed Birth Certificate
Persons born in the United States but unable to present primary evidence of U.S. citizenship because their U.S. Birth Certificate was not filed within the first year after their birth may submit a Delayed U.S. Birth Certificate. A Delayed U.S. Birth Certificate filed more than one year after your birth may be acceptable if:
- It lists the documentation used to create it (preferably early public records, and
- It is signed by the birth attendant or lists an affidavit signed by the parents.
If the Delayed U.S. Birth Certificate does not include these items, it should be submitted together with Early Public Records.
Letter of No Record
Persons born in the United States but unable to present primary evidence of U.S. citizenship because they do not have a previous U.S. passport or a certified U.S. birth certificate of any kind must present a state-issued Letter of No Record showing:
- Date of birth,
- The years for which a birth record was searched, and
- Acknowledgment that no birth certificate was found on file.
A Letter of No Record must be submitted together with Early Public Records.
Form DS-10: Birth Affidavit
Persons born in the United States but unable to present primary evidence of U.S. citizenship, you may submit Form DS-10: Birth Affidavit as evidence of your U.S. citizenship. The birth affidavit:
- Must be notarized,
- Must be submitted in person,
- Must be submitted together with early public records,
- Must be completed by an affiant who has personal knowledge of birth in the U.S.,
- Must state briefly how the affiant's knowledge was acquired, and
- Should be completed by an older blood relative.
NOTE: If no older blood relative is available, it may be completed by the attending physician or any other person who has personal knowledge of the person's birth.
Foreign Birth Documents and Parent(s) Citizenship Evidence
Persons who claim citizenship through birth abroad to U.S. citizen parent(s), but are unable to submit a Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth must submit all of the following:
- Foreign birth certificate (translated into English),
- Evidence of citizenship of the person's U.S. citizen parent,
- Parents' marriage certificate, and
- A statement of the person's U.S. citizen parent detailing all periods and places of residence or physical presence in the United States and abroad before their birth.
- See Documentation of U.S. Citizens Born Abroad for additional information.
- For information on foreign-born children adopted by U.S. citizens, see the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.
- Foreign language documents should be accompanied by an informal or formal English translation.
The following will not be accepted as secondary evidence of U.S. citizenship:
- Voter registration card
- Army discharge paper
- Social Security Card