If you are a U.S. citizen, it is often necessary that you provide proof of your citizenship. For example, when traveling internationally, you may need to provide proof of U.S. citizenship in order to re-enter the U.S. Proof of U.S. citizenship is often required in other areas, such as obtaining employment or receiving government benefits.

U.S. citizenship is usually granted in two ways: either by birth or through the process of naturalization. However, both natural-born U.S. citizens and naturalized citizens need to furnish proof of U.S. citizenship at times.   

What Types of Documents Can Serve as Proof of U.S. Citizenship?

Proof of U.S. citizenship can come in different forms. The most common form is a birth certificate. If you were born in the U.S. or on U.S. territory abroad (including military grounds), then your birth certificate will provide the primary proof of U.S. citizenship. 

“Birth certificate” does not refer to the document issued at the hospital where you were born; it refers to a standard U.S. certificate that is issued by the U.S. government. 

Some other types of documents that provide proof of U.S. citizenship include:

  • U.S. Passport:  A valid U.S. passport can provide proof of citizenship. When applying for a passport, you may need to provide additional evidence, such as  proof that your parents are U.S. citizens. Passports can be applied for at a U.S. consular office located abroad. 
  • Certificate of Naturalization:  This is a document issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It provides proof that an alien has been naturalized after immigration to the U.S. and is currently a U.S. citizen.
  • Certificate of Citizenship: The U.S. citizenship and immigration services department issues certificates of citizenship to those who are U.S. citizens by birth (abroad) or derivation (not through naturalization). This document can take a long time to obtain, sometimes as long as one year.   
  • Certificate of Consular Registration of Birth Abroad:  U.S. citizens who give birth to a child outside of the U.S. have five years to register the birth with a U.S. consulate. If the parents are unable to register the birth before the child’s 5th birthday, the Certificate will not be issued, and a certificate of citizenship must be obtained. Also, it is very difficult to get copies of a Consular Registration Certificate if it is lost.

The filing requirements and eligibility factors are different for each of these types of citizenship proofs. You may need to consult with a lawyer if you have questions about which type of document you need to obtain, or if you need to replace a certificate.

How Long Does It Take to Obtain Proof of U.S. Citizenship?

It depends on which type of document you are trying to obtain. In general, passports usually have the shortest processing and waiting time. It usually takes only 4-6 weeks to secure a U.S. passport. In some cases expedited or rush service can shorten the waiting period to 3 weeks.

The next shortest waiting periods are for the Certificates of Naturalization and Certificates of Consular Registration of Birth Abroad. These can take several months due to the registration processes involved. 

Lastly, the longest wait periods are for Certificates of Citizenship. These can take as long as one year to process.

Do I Need Lawyer for Assistance with U.S. Citizenship?

Obtaining proof of U.S. citizenship can sometimes be a complicated process. However, it is important that you have a current, valid form of proof, especially if you have just recently been granted citizenship. You may wish to contact an immigration lawyer for advice. Your lawyer can help you compile all the documents that will be needed during the application process.