United States citizenship is a right generally reserved for those that were born in the United States or moved to the country and completed the naturalization process. However, those that were born abroad to parents that are U.S. citizens also have a claim to U.S. citizenship. The two documents that establish a person's citizenship claim include a U.S. birth certificate and naturalization papers. Those born outside of the country will usually not have these documents.
Two Ways to Prove U.S. Citizenship
Just because a United States birth certificate or naturalization papers may not be present does not mean that a person does not have a legitimate claim to citizenship. There are two ways a person can obtain the necessary documentation proving their American citizenship: a United States passport or a certificate of citizenship.
United States Passport
A person seeking to prove citizenship can apply for a passport in the same manner that anyone else would, but have the additional burden of establishing a citizenship claim on top of the other passport requirements.
A way that citizenship can be proved when applying for a passport is to prove the parent's citizenship by providing their birth certificate or naturalization records and work/tax records. A person will also be required to prove their own work and tax history. It may also be necessary to provide personal statements detailing why a person was unaware of their citizenship claim or why they are currently seeking to prove citizenship. A passport can be obtained from a passport office in the United States or through a U.S. consulate in another country.
Certificate of Citizenship
Any person with a claim to citizenship can file for a certificate of citizenship. This can only be done by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services located within the United States.
While this may take longer to receive than a passport, it can be a better option for those whose parents were naturalized citizens in the United States.
To apply for a certificate of citizenship, a person must provide:
- Their own birth certificate and those of their parents
- Their parent's naturalization papers
- Applicable marriage certificates
- Divorce decrees or other applicable name-change documents
These documents are often easier to obtain than those required for the passport since work and tax history documents are not necessary.
Immediate Proof of Citizenship
There is a way to immediately prove citizenship for American parents that have given birth abroad. Until a child is five years old, the parents can register the birth with the U.S. consulate in the country they are in. The child will be issued a Consular Registration of Birth Abroad, which also proves citizenship.
If the parents did not file within five years or those papers have been lost, a person must prove citizenship through applying for a passport or a certificate of citizenship.
Proving citizenship can be stressful, especially when all necessary documents may not be readily available. United States citizenship is a right for those born to American parents. If this right is being denied, it is in a person's best interests to hire an immigration attorney!