What is a Certificate of Citizenship?

T. Briseno

A Certificate of Citizenship is a document providing proof of United States citizenship for those born to or adopted by a U.S. parent or parents abroad. It is distinct from the naturalization forms required for foreign-born nationals seeking to establish citizenship. Typically, the Certificate of Citizenship is issued to individuals born outside of the United States to a U.S. citizen father or mother, or both. This certificate is provided by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) division of the Department of Homeland Security.

A birth certificate needs to be filed with the application.
A birth certificate needs to be filed with the application.

Filing for citizenship by parentage involves completing a form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship, which is available for download from the Internet, may be ordered by phone, or can be picked up at a local USCIS field office in the applicant’s state. Completed applications can be submitted online, filed in person, or mailed to the field office. Setting an appointment is often advisable if filing in person. Applying for the Certificate of Citizenship requires a filing fee and can require follow-up interviews as requested by the USCIS officer assigned to the request. In some cases, and with the filing of another form, this application fee can be waived at the discretion of the USCIS.

Proof of marital status usually accompanies a citizenship application.
Proof of marital status usually accompanies a citizenship application.

Applicants for a Certificate of Citizenship can be either the individuals needing the certificate or the parents of the child requiring documentation. Forms also can be completed and signed by a specialist or social worker in the immigration field who is representing the applicant. Application questions include those related to the applicant’s birth country and current place of residence; date of arrival into the U.S. and documentation used for entry; and dates and details of travel in and out of the country. Separate sections of the form require residence information, marital history, and citizenship status of the applicant’s father and mother.

Typically, a photograph of the applicant and copies of birth certificate papers need to be filed with the application documents, and additional proofs of status are detailed in the application instructions. If the USCIS requests an interview, the applicant may be asked to complete and sign an affidavit before the officer signs off on the application. Processing times for receiving a determination and written confirmation of the awarding of a Certificate of Citizenship can vary, though a USCIS representative may provide an estimate based on the field office of the applicant and other variables.

Establishing the U.S. citizenship of the parent or parents of the child is essential when providing proofs for status by parentage. Documentation must be translated and complete in order for the processing of the Certificate of Citizenship to begin, and incomplete applications may be stopped and held in the system until all necessary documentation is received. Providing false information is a serious matter to the Department of Homeland Security, and warnings regarding falsification of documents are generally stated plainly on forms and in correspondence.

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