A certificate of citizenship is a legal document that provides proof of an individual’s status as a legal United States citizen. Generally proof of citizenship is easy, as any child born on United States soil is considered to be a United States citizen automatically. However, not every child is born on United States soil. In these cases, a Certificate of Citizenship may be required.
It is important to note that a Certificate of Citizenship does not grant legal citizenship status. However, the certificate recognizes and confirms the status of citizenship that the holder has already obtained.
In general, there are two different categories or methods by which individuals may obtain a Certificate of Citizenship:
- Derivation of Citizenship: In the case of derivation, the child seeking to provide proof of citizenship is said to obtain citizenship automatically, so long as they are a lawful permanent resident when their parent is a naturalized citizen
- Additionally, the child must live with their parent and be below the age of 18;
- Acquisition of Citizenship: In the case of acquisition, legal citizenship status is conferred automatically to a child who is born outside of the United States, as long as that child has at least one parent who is a United States citizen and the United States citizen parent meets certain residence or physical presence requirements in the United States prior to the child’s birth.
Specifically, a Certificate of Citizenship contains all of the following information:
- The certificate number, which in general is a red 6 to 8-digit alphanumeric number;
- The date the person became a citizen;
- The date of issuance of the certificate;
- The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) registration number, also known as an “A-Number;”
- The United States citizen’s full legal name;
- The citizen’s marital status;
- The citizen’s place of residence;
- The citizen’s country of birth;
- A photograph of the citizen;
- The signature of applicant; and
- Other descriptors of the citizen include their sex, date of birth, and height at the time of the application.
The Certificate of Citizenship will also include the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) seal and a statement and signature by the USCIS Director that provides that the applicant has complied with all the eligibility requirements for citizenship under the laws of the United States.
A Certificate of Citizenship is important when applying for a United States passport, as the person seeking a passport may use the citizenship certificate as evidence of their United States citizenship. In fact, a photocopy of the certificate will need to be provided as one of the requirements to obtain a passport when submitting the application for the passport. As such, properly filling out a citizenship certificate application is essential for individuals born outside the United States.
What Is a Certificate of Naturalization?
It is important to note that a Certificate of Citizenship and a Certificate of Naturalization are NOT the same. A certificate of naturalization is a legal document that serves as proof that an individual has become a citizen of the United States through the process of naturalization. This is different than a Certificate of Citizenship, which serves as proof that an individual already has citizenship.
Naturalization is the immigration process in which a person seeks to become a United States citizen by following the immigration laws of the United States. Naturalization is also the only way in which a person can become a citizen if they were not born a United States citizen or if they did not acquire citizenship status immediately after they were born.
In terms of who can apply for naturalization, only an individual who has a permanent visa, which is known as a green card, may apply for naturalization. Naturalization can frequently be a lengthy and complicated process. This is largely because the applicant is required to submit various forms and documents in order to prove their eligibility.
- Once again, an individual is considered to be a United States citizen by birth if they were born within the boundaries of the United States. This includes territories such as Guam, Puerto Rico, and The Virgin Islands.
Additionally, individuals who are born abroad may be declared United States citizens at birth if both of their parents are United States citizens at the time of their birth or as long as at least one of their parents lived in the United States at some point during their lifetime. Importantly, this also applies to children who were legally adopted by a United States citizen. However, the laws in place at the time of the adoption will control.
How Can I Apply for a Replacement of My Certificate?
If you have lost or misplaced your or your child’s Certificate of Citizenship, then you are able to request new citizenship certificates through USCIS. Requesting a replacement for a Certificate of Citizenship is as simple as properly filling out “Form N-565, Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document” with USCIS.
In general, an individual can request a replacement of their Certificate of Citizenship under the following circumstances:
- Their certificate was lost, stolen, destroyed, or mutilated;
- Their certificate contains content mistakes due to a USCIS typographical/clerical error;
- Their name has legally changed;
- Their date of birth has legally changed;
- Their gender identification has legally changed.
Although requesting a replacement seems straightforward, properly filling out the required form is oftentimes tedious. All of the following are required:
- Part 1 of Form N-565 requires individuals to fill out all of their personal information, including their full legal name, date of birth, country of birth, and the number of the certificate that is being sought to be replaced. A mailing address must also be provided.
- Part 2 of the Form requires individuals to select the application and indicate the reason that the application is being submitted, i.e., choose one of the reasons noted above.
- Part 3 of the Form requires individuals to confirm their gender, height, marital status, and information about the issuance of their original certificate.
- Part 4 requires individuals who are applying for a new certificate due to the current one being incorrect to explain why it is incorrect and to attach copies of any documentation supporting the request.
- Parts 5, 6, and 7 all ask for information related to requests on the basis of name change, on the basis of date of birth change, or on the basis of change in gender.
- Part 8 requests that individuals seeking to apply for a special certificate of naturalization submit their personal information.
- Part 9 must contain the USCIS or Consular Official’s signature, along with the date that the application request is being made.
- Below Part 9 in the Form, the applicant must complete an “Applicant’s Statement,” in which the applicant selects whether the applicant can read and understand English and whether the applicant has read and understood the questions, instructions, and answers to the application.
- Once the applicant completes the “Applicant’s Statement,” the applicant must then complete a certification, certifying under penalty of perjury that the applicant provided or authorized all of the information in the application, understands all of the information contained in, and submitted with the application, and that all of the information is complete, true, and correct.
- Finally, the applicant must sign their name and enter the date of signature.
Along with the application itself, applicants are also required to submit two identical passport-style photographs and a sworn statement or police report if the individual is applying for the replacement of a certificate that was lost, stolen, or destroyed.
In order for the application to then be processed, the applicant must submit a required filing fee along with the application. The current filing fee amount (as of 01/2024) is $555. Applicants filing the N-565 online with USCIS may submit the fee online, and applicants mailing the N-565 may pay the fee with a personal check, cashier’s check, personal check, or credit card.
Under What Circumstances Will My Application Not Be Processed?
There are some circumstances in which an individual’s application will not be processed. Specifically, USCIS will not process a replacement Certificate due to a change of name unless the applicant provides evidence such as a marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order.
USCIS will also not process a replacement request based on a change of birth date on a Certificate of Citizenship unless the applicant provides documentation such as a United States court order or state-issued documents.
Further, any applications that contain mistakes within the application will often be sent back or denied outright. Applicants who have their request denied will be notified in writing of the reasons for the denial of the request. Finally, USCIS will not process any applications that are not signed or accompanied by the required processing fee.
Do I Need Help From an Immigration Law Attorney?
If you need assistance with replacing a Certificate of Citizenship or a Certificate of Naturalization, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced citizenship lawyer.
An experienced lawyer will be able to advise you as to what documentation is required to properly complete the application. Further, an attorney will also be able to help you prepare and file the application.