What is a Citizenship Certificate? (Updated-2024)

A Citizenship Certificate is a document issued to a person who was born outside the United States and derived or acquired U.S. citizenship through a U.S. citizen parent(s).

Why do you need a Citizenship Certificate?

A citizenship certificate is required to authenticate a person’s citizenship status. If you possess a usual U.S. birth certificate issued by the State Government of the U.S. as a record of you being born on U.S. soil that is your chief proof of being a U.S. citizen by birth. Hospital–issued birth certificates are not considered proof of citizenship, as these are not authorized reports.

Similarly, if you are a U.S. citizen by the process of Naturalization, you will have a naturalization certificate.

A citizenship certificate is issued after applying for it by people who are born outside the U.S. to an American citizen parent(s). As a person born outside the U.S., they might not have a State Government-issued birth certificate to prove citizenship status, and in some cases like when applying for Social Security benefits, driver’s license or learning permit, financial aid, employment, or a U.S. passport a person must prove their Citizenship Status. That’s why you need a citizenship Certificate.

Who can Apply for the Citizenship Certificate?

If you satisfy any one of the conditions mentioned below, you would be allowed to apply for the Citizenship Certificate:

1. U.S. Citizenship through Parents: If a child is born outside the U.S., he/she can eventually obtain a citizenship certificate of the U.S., if at least one parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of his/her birth.

2. U.S. Citizenship through Adoption: If U.S. citizen parents or legal custodian gets naturalized as a U.S. citizen and then files a petition for a child who is below 18 years and owns a green card, the child can become a U.S. citizen. Nevertheless, if an individual was 18 years when his/her parents got naturalized, he/she will have to apply for naturalization on their own merit.

3. U.S. Citizenship through Retention: The Doctrine of Constructive Retention, allows individuals to claim U.S. citizenship, who have not been aware of their citizenship resulting from their parents or grandparents and have in turn not been able to meet the requirements of U.S. residency.

How to Apply for a Certificate of Citizenship?

When any one of the criteria mentioned above is fulfilled, you could file Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship with the USCIS to apply for your citizenship certificate.

This citizenship form is divided into 10 segments, asking for information about your parents and yourself. The facts mentioned in the citizenship form will help the immigration officer decide whether you are eligible to claim the citizen certificate or not. The general time taken to process the certificate is about 5-6 months.

Do you need a Citizenship certificate if you have a passport?

A citizenship certificate is one of few documents that can be used to prove your citizenship status. Other documents that prove your citizenship status are Birth certificates issued by the State Government of the U.S., U.S. passports, and naturalization certificates (issued to immigrants who obtained citizenship through the process of naturalization). There are differences between naturalization certificates and citizenship certificates even though they serve the same purpose.

Since a U.S. passport is provided only to U.S. citizens it acts as proof of your U.S. citizenship on its own. So you don’t need a citizenship certificate when you have a U.S. passport.

If you already had a citizenship certificate but it is lost or damaged and you need a new one, then you can request a copy of your citizenship certificate with the USCIS.