Who actually needs a Certificate of Citizenship?

wagecuck3

Member
The N-560 certificate of citizenship, obtained by filing form N-600, is not needed in order to obtain a US passport, and a US passport is proof of US citizenship. Furthermore, a US passport can be renewed 9 times for the cost of a N-600. So, why would anyone need to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship?

I have seen some sources claim that it's needed to apply for federal student loans or security clearances. I haven't been able to validate either of these claims. For federal student loans, it seems that the certificate of citizenship is only needed in cases of derivation where the social security record for the student still indicates that they are an alien. However, this could be easily solved by bringing your US passport to the social security office to have them update the record. For security clearance, I looked at the SF-86 form and it seems that if you have a US passport, you don't have to submit a certificate of citizenship.

The only situation I can think of where someone would need a certificate of citizenship is when they're not allowed to get a US passport, for example because they are on probation or are behind on child support obligations. Are there any others?
 

SusieQQQ

Well-Known Member
Nope, it’s not ”needed” for anything. A US birth certificate or US passport are fine for proof of citizenship for anything you need proof for. It is really a case of, to use that common American term, “an abundance of caution”. The only person I can think of who might need one is someone who does not have a naturalization certificate or US birth certificate, in other words, a child who naturalized automatically as a minor.

There have been rare cases of Dept of State deciding a passport was issued in error to someone who wasn’t actually a citizen, so a CoC (issued by USCIS, not DoS) would be useful in such a rare instance. I recall seeing a report of a judgment that uscis decision would always take precedence over DoS decision in such a case, but I cannot remember now what the specific case details were.

Another reason someone might want one revolves around potential future loss of documentation for an automatically naturalized child who might need it one day after you are gone. A CoC is a permanent record on file with uscis and so even if the actual physical certificate is lost, a record remains and a replacement can get issued. Someone who has lost (or never had) a passport and has also lost (or never personally had) all other evidence of how they naturalized originally may have a harder time proving citizenship (parent has died, the documents showing conditions for naturalization were met have all been long lost etc). I have also seen one or two cases of people who naturalized as children but never got passports, finding it hard later to find proof of citizenship for later passport application, or for sponsoring immigrants, because they no longer had access to any of the relevant documents.
 

newacct

Well-Known Member
Nope, it’s not ”needed” for anything. A US birth certificate or US passport are fine for proof of citizenship for anything you need proof for. It is really a case of, to use that common American term, “an abundance of caution”. The only person I can think of who might need one is someone who does not have a naturalization certificate or US birth certificate, in other words, a child who naturalized automatically as a minor.
People born in the US can't get a Certificate of Citizenship. It is only for people who got citizenship as minors, or who were born abroad and who were citizens at birth (the latter group of people can usually get a CRBA, but CRBA can only be issued before age 18).

I guess one thing that a Certificate of Citizenship provides that a passport doesn't is the date that the person became a citizen, for any rare situations when establishing this date might be important, e.g. to establish that the person was a citizen on a specific date during which they didn't have a valid US passport. I agree this is rare though.

There have been rare cases of Dept of State deciding a passport was issued in error to someone who wasn’t actually a citizen, so a CoC (issued by USCIS, not DoS) would be useful in such a rare instance. I recall seeing a report of a judgment that uscis decision would always take precedence over DoS decision in such a case, but I cannot remember now what the specific case details were.
Another situation I recall seeing on a forum somewhere is if the person's parent (who the person derived citizenship from as a minor or at birth) lost their Certificate of Naturalization and it can't be replaced, where if the child applies for a Certificate of Citizenship, USCIS would be able to look up the parent's naturalization, but if they applied for a US passport, the Department of State wouldn't be able to. I'm not sure how true this is.

Someone who has lost (or never had) a passport and has also lost (or never personally had) all other evidence of how they naturalized originally may have a harder time proving citizenship (parent has died, the documents showing conditions for naturalization were met have all been long lost etc).
On this section of the Department of State website, it says you can "request a file search" instead of submitting evidence of US citizenship if you have had a passport in the past. Wouldn't this work for someone who lost their passport?
 

SusieQQQ

Well-Known Member
I guess one thing that a Certificate of Citizenship provides that a passport doesn't is the date that the person became a citizen, for any rare situations when establishing this date might be important, e.g. to establish that the person was a citizen on a specific date during which they didn't have a valid US passport. I agree this is rare though.


Another situation I recall seeing on a forum somewhere is if the person's parent (who the person derived citizenship from as a minor or at birth) lost their Certificate of Naturalization and it can't be replaced, where if the child applies for a Certificate of Citizenship, USCIS would be able to look up the parent's naturalization, but if they applied for a US passport, the Department of State wouldn't be able to. I'm not sure how true this is.


On this section of the Department of State website, it says you can "request a file search" instead of submitting evidence of US citizenship if you have had a passport in the past. Wouldn't this work for someone who lost their passport?

Hm, yes, establishing a date of citizenship might be needed in some circumstances, didn’t think of that, though I agree day to day it’s probably not needed. (Again, it is probably most important in factors that relate to sponsoring other immigrants, it is a question I’ve seen in various forms on uscis forms.)

I am not sure about the second point. Both passport and N600 applications require a copy of the parent’s naturalization certificate, so the implication is that DoS doesn’t keep records? I’d be surprised. I also cannot understand why the parent would simply be unable to apply for a replacement naturalization certificate at USCIS?

re passport file search, possibly, I don’t know. I understand getting a replacement certificate of citizenship or naturalization is straightforward, i don’t know if this would be. I got a CoC for my kid because I figured it was a small price to pay for peace of mind long term, and I reached that conclusion after seeing a few posts on various forums by people who knew they were citizens but couldn’t prove it because they had no documentation and no idea of how to search for it.
 

wagecuck3

Member
I've heard some stories about people with US passports being asked to show a certificate of citizenship although they never explained exactly why. Should I assume these were isolated incidents or that these people misunderstood what was required?
 

SusieQQQ

Well-Known Member
I've heard some stories about people with US passports being asked to show a certificate of citizenship although they never explained exactly why. Should I assume these were isolated incidents or that these people misunderstood what was required?
Hard to tell without knowing details or what the context was, but my instinct would be that they confused an ”either/or“ with an ”and”. I know a lot of people just never apply for them because of the cost.
 

wagecuck3

Member
Indeed, 22 USC §2705 says that a valid US passport issued for the maximum validity period is proof of citizenship with the same "force and effect" as a certificate of citizenship. So, any federal agency that refuses to accept the passport would seem to be breaking the law.

Interestingly, you have to take the Oath of Allegiance to get a certificate of citizenship. This seems strange considering that the person applying for the certificate is already a citizen, but is apparently a statutory requirement. This might be why some people think the certificate is needed for some types of government jobs. Still, as far as I can tell, it isn't true.
 

SusieQQQ

Well-Known Member
Indeed, 22 USC §2705 says that a valid US passport issued for the maximum validity period is proof of citizenship with the same "force and effect" as a certificate of citizenship. So, any federal agency that refuses to accept the passport would seem to be breaking the law.

Interestingly, you have to take the Oath of Allegiance to get a certificate of citizenship. This seems strange considering that the person applying for the certificate is already a citizen, but is apparently a statutory requirement. This might be why some people think the certificate is needed for some types of government jobs. Still, as far as I can tell, it isn't true.

You only take the oath if you are 14 or older. My daughter didn’t have to. I agree it’s kind of odd as you are by definition already a citizen.
 

cafeconleche

Registered Users (C)
Some countries might ask for a CoC or other non-passport proof of citizenship when applying for benefits there, like for naturalisation in Germany for example (anecdotal evidence). In some countries, passports aren't sufficient, and they ask for birth certificates and/or citizenship/naturalisation certificates. Of course, this is for outside the US.

For within the country, I am not sure, but an oft-repeated line is that a CoC is just the most solid indefinitely valid proof of citizenship, while a passport must be renewed. One gap it could fill is when a passport has expired, and VALID and CURRENT proof of citizenship is required.
 
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