The everything guide to the US Passport application process

Proof of Citizenship

When applying for a US Passport you are required to have proof of your citizenship. There are two kinds of proof of citizenship Primary Forms and Secondary Forms. Primary forms are most commonly used and must be originals no photo copies will be accepted. You may use any of the following to prove your Citizenship in the US:

Acceptable Documentation for Proof of Citizenship

  • Birth Certificate- must be the original or state certified copies. Certified birth certificates have a raised, impressed, embossed, or colored seal on them.(Must be Long Form).
  • Delayed Birth Certificate- issued to those that filled more than a year after birth. This may only be used if it list the documentation to create it and is:
    • Signed by the physician or midwife
    • Shows early Public records or
    • Lists an affidavit signed by the parents
  • Abroad Certification of Birth – Issued to those that are US citizens born in another country.
  • Previous US Passport – Can NOT be altered or damaged.
  • File Search – A search done by the US Department of State for people that were issued a US Passport after 1980 and no longer have it in their possession and do NOT have their birth certificate. You must check this box on your DS-11 application and it costs $150 more that will be included in your Government fee.
  • Naturalization Certificate – Papers issued to you after becoming a US citizen.

If you do NOT have any of these Primary proofs of Citizenship you will need to look into acceptable Secondary forms of Citizenship.

Secondary Forms of Citizenship

Secondary Forms of Citizenship are used in cases where the applicant does not have a Primary Form. Keep in mind that every applicant’s situation is not the same and Passport Applications are processed on a case by case basis. Secondary Forms can NOT be submitted individually. You will have to submit them with a combination of early birth records with a birth record or letter of no record.

Early Birth Records

Early Birth records will need to show your name, date of birth and place of birth and should have been created within five years of your birth. They are not accepted alone and they can include:

  • Hospital Birth Certificate
  • Baptismal Certificate
  • Family Bible Record
  • Census Record
  • Early School Record
  • Doctor’s Record of post-natal care

Along with the early birth records you will need to submit one of the following:

  • Delayed Birth Certificate – is issued when birth is filed a year or more after birth. it should include:
    • The Documentation used to create it (like early public records)
    • Signed by the birth attendant or list the affidavit signed by the parents
  • Letter of No Record – A state issued Letter of No Record showing
    • Your name
    • Date of Birth
    • Years Birth Record was searched for and that the search concluded no birth records were found
  • DS-10 Birth  Affidavit Form – A Government Form that must be:
    • Notarized
    • Must be filled out by someone that has personal knowledge of your birth in the US like an older blood relative or attending physician.
    • Include a brief statement explaining their direct knowledge of your birth in the US.

Frequently asked questions about proof of citizenship and birth certificates

I was born abroad. How do I get a birth certificate?

If either or both of your parents is/was a U.S. citizen when you were born abroad, either or both of your parent(s) should/should have registered your birth at a U.S. embassy or consulate, and, obtain/received a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, Form FS-240. This form is good enough to be a legal proof of birth and U.S. citizenship.

What if I cannot find my birth certificate?

If you have had a previous passport, you can do a file search and the passport agency will look up your old passport for a fee of $150 and a letter requesting a file search; you can use an old, in good condition passport for proof of citizenship; you can also order a birth certificate on-line or obtain one from the county you were born in.

Where can I get a copy of my birth certificate?

An official Certificate of Birth should be on file in the locality where the event occurred. The Federal Government does not maintain files or indexes of these records. These records are filed permanently in a State’s vital statistics office or in a city, county, or other local office. To obtain a certified copy of the Birth Certificate, write or go to the vital statistics office in the State or area where you were born. For expedited services you can use Vitalchek.

Will I get my birth certificate back?

Yes, all your legal documentation will be returned to you. Sometimes it is included in the same envelope with your passport, however occasionally they will follow in a separate mailing.

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