How to Prove U.S. Citizenship

If you are a U.S. citizen you probably have one of the primary pieces of evidence listed below. However, there are also other options for establishing citizenship.

Last updated on May 15th, 2019

The necessity to prove U.S. citizenship could arise in many different situations. Among the most common are instances of a job application, application for government aid or benefits, or obtaining a passport.

Regardless of the reason why you need to prove your United States citizenship, there are a number of ways, discussed below, to prove it.

“Primary Proof” of U.S. Citizenship

Typically, primary proof of United State citizenship will be required and accepted for any instance where you find yourself needing to prove your citizenship.

Such instances may be satisfied with the production of:

  • A certified Birth Certificate issued by the State – Copies of your birth certificate may be obtained by contacting the Bureau of Vital Statistics in the state where you were born.
  • A Naturalization Certificate – Documentation verifying new citizens have completed the requisite naturalization requirements (i.e. the naturalization exam and the oath of citizenship).
  • A Certificate of Citizenship – Should you be unable to locate either of the documents above, your Naturalization Certificate or your Certificate of Citizenship may also be required. You may seek a replacement by filing the N-565 form with USCIS.
  • A passport (expired or new).
  • A Consular Report Detailing Birth Abroad – A report detailing a U.S. citizen born in another country to United States Citizens.

Additionally, any paperwork containing photo identification, issued and certified by the United States government, may be useful, or even sufficient, in proving your United States citizenship.

Should the above mentioned “primary proof” of United States citizenship or documentation be unavailable, there is secondary evidentiary proof of United States citizenship that may be acceptable in your effort to prove you are a United States Citizen.

Secondary Evidentiary Proof of U.S. Citizenship

As mentioned above, the primary proof of United States citizenship is generally acceptable, as determined by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to meet most situations where you may need to prove United States citizenship.

However, should primary proof be unavailable, you should determine which secondary evidentiary proof is acceptable in your particular need for proof of United States citizenship.

Depending on that need, one form of secondary evidentiary evidence may be insufficient or sufficient.

Typically, the presentation of only one of the following secondary evidentiary proofs of United States citizenship is insufficient on its own; please try and gather as much secondary evidentiary proof as possible.

Secondary evidentiary proof of U.S. citizenship may be proved in the submission or presentation of:

  • Various Public Records – Any record displaying your name, place of birth, and the date which you were born may be sufficient in proving your United States citizenship. Although not required, it is recommended that these public records stem from the first five years of your life.
  • State Issued Letter of “No Record” – Typically, this documentation includes your name, the years your birth record was searched by the state, your name, and formal documentation that no birth certificate was found.
  • A Delayed Birth Certificate – Typically, these documents are produced in instances where a United States birth certificate was not provided in your first year of birth. Delayed birth certificates are usually acceptable provided they include the sources it used to verify and create the certificate (i.e. early public records) and it is signed by the parents with a listed affidavit or the birth attendant present at your birth.
  • Foreign Birth Documentation – If you were born outside the United States to parents who are United States citizens, but are unable to complete the Consular Report of Birth Abroad noted above, you may submit: your parent’s evidence of their United States Citizenship, your parent’s marriage documentation, your parent’s statement addressing their citizenship and residency within the United States and outside prior to your birth, and your foreign birth certificate.
  • DS-10 Form – This form is a birth affidavit. It is required to be: submitted with a DS-11 Application for Passport Form, submitted in combination with any available early termed public records, completed by someone detailing how they are familiar with you and their knowledge of your United States birth and presence thereafter (preferably by an older relative), and notarized.

Again, usually, these forms are insufficient on their own. If possible, research which secondary evidentiary proof is sufficient and try to submit any secondary proof available to you.

Lower Evidentiary Proof

If primary and secondary evidence is unavailable to you, there are alternative means to demonstrate your United States Citizenship.

However, these alternative means are usually only accepted in the total absence of primary or secondary evidentiary proof.

Additionally, this lower accepted level of proof regarding United States citizenship must have been created at least five years prior to your application attempting to prove your citizenship with the United States.

The lower evidentiary proof may or may not be sufficient. Depending on your reason(s) in attempting to prove United States citizenship the following may be acceptable:

  • Hospital record on the hospital’s letterhead created five years before your respective application in an attempt to prove United States citizenship indicating your birth place.
  • Insurance record demonstrating your birth place, within the United States.
  • School record displaying your early school years, your name, the dates you attended the school, your date of birth, the place you were born, and your parent’s names as well as the places they were born.
  • Any religious record documented in the United States within three months of your birth demonstrating that the birth was in the United States and provides the date you were born. If your birth date is not included, your age at the time of the religious record’s construction may be displayed in the alternative.
  • Documentation of application to Medicaid, provided it shows your birth place, that birth place was in the United States.
  • Any institutionalization papers that contain your pertinent biographical information.
  • Any medical records containing pertinent biographical information.
  • Federal or State census records verifying your United States citizenship or demonstrating your birth place.

Insufficient Proof in the Demonstration of Your U.S. Citizenship

Although secondary evidentiary proof or lower evidentiary proof is not as persuasive as the primary proof listed above, it still may suffice in proving your United States citizenship.

In contrast, there are certain documents that are unacceptable in your attempt to prove United States citizenship. These various documents include:

  • Social Security cards.
  • Military documentation demonstrating enlistment or discharge.
  • Your voting credentials.

Conclusion

Chances are that if you are a U.S. citizen you probably have one of the primary pieces of evidence listed above. However, if you are unable to locate primary evidence, know that secondary evidence may be sufficient in certain circumstances.

If you feel that you may be a U.S. citizen, but don’t have documentation to prove it, contact an immigration attorney to discuss your options.

An attorney may be able to help you obtain a Certificate of Citizenship in unique situations where you weren’t able to get another piece of primary evidence proving your citizenship early in life.

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