What Your U.S. Passport Can’t Do


There may be passport limitations with an American passport that can be satisfied by a Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship

Your U.S. passport is generally sufficient proof of your U.S. citizenship for many purposes. Clearly, it is a valuable travel document and widely accepted for most identification purposes. But a Certificate of Citizenship may also be necessary if you need to demonstrate “when” you became a U.S. citizen. There are passport limitations that citizens should know about.

In fact, you may need a Certificate of Citizenship or Certificate of Naturalization when attempting to apply for certain benefits such as:

  • Social Security
  • State-issued driver’s licenses or IDs
  • Financial aid for students
  • Employment
  • Passport renewal

Keeping a certificate of your citizenship status is worthwhile because it never expires, and it is direct proof of your citizenship and how it was obtained. USCIS provides a Certificate of Naturalization to permanent residents who go through the naturalization process. But individuals who obtain citizenship through parents don’t typically get a Certificate of Citizenship. The individual must apply for it.

Citizenship Though Parents and Applying for a Certificate of Citizenship

Derived Citizenship

Typically, a permanent resident child will become a U.S. citizen automatically when a parent naturalizes. However, USCIS may not automatically issue a naturalization certificate once a child becomes a U.S. citizen.

Specifically, a child becomes a U.S. citizen if all the following criteria are true, or were true, at the same time:

  • The child is under 18 years old;
  • The child is a lawful permanent resident (green card holder);
  • At least one of the parents is a U.S. citizen by birth or naturalization;
  • The citizen parent is the biological parent of the child or has legally adopted the child (step-parent relationship is not enough for derived citizenship); and
  • The citizen parent has shared or sole legal and physical custody of the child.

However, the above requirements get slightly more complicated for adopted children and also cases where the U.S. parent is the father but not married to the mother. Speak to an immigration attorney to determine if your specific situation qualifies.

RECOMMENDED: Derivative U.S. Citizenship for Children

Acquisition of Citizenship

Likewise, children may acquire citizenship through a U.S. citizen parent when born abroad. At least one parent needs to be a U.S. citizen at the time of the child’s birth and several other conditions must be met. The parent must satisfy a minimum period of physical presence, depending on the year the child was born.

RECOMMENDED: Acquisition of Citizenship for Children Born

Passports expire or may be insufficient when the child applies for student loans or Social Security. Parents can avoid this problem by obtaining a certificate for the child. A Certificate of Citizenship does not expire and may be used multiple times throughout a lifetime.

Occasions When a U.S. Passport May Not be Sufficient

Update Citizenship Status with Social Security

Once you’re a U.S. citizen, it’s generally a good idea to update your status with the Social Security Administration (SSA). There are advantages for updating your status:

  • Citizenship status may affect employment opportunities. Some types of employment are only available to U.S. citizens. Even if you show your employer your passport, there still could be a problem. If your records are not updated, the government’s E-Verify employment system could flag you as a non-citizen.
  • Citizenship status may affect disability benefits. Some Social Security disability benefits are only available to U.S. citizens. By changing your citizenship status with the SSA, you will ensure you receive all disability, retirement, and Social Security benefits for which you qualify as a U.S. citizen.

In order to update your citizenship status with SSA, you’ll need a Certificate of Citizenship or a Certificate of Naturalization. To request the update, complete Form SS-5 and submit it in-person at your local Social Security office.

Student Federal Financial Aid

You must be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen to receive federal student aid. Federal student aid may include grants, scholarships, work-study jobs, and loans. These are significant benefits accessible through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application. The FAFSA application requires proof of your citizenship to obtain these benefits.

A photocopy of the original Certificate of Citizenship or Certificate of Naturalization may be submitted with the application. Have the original document available in your files in case your school requests to see it.

U.S. Passport Renewal

You will likely have trouble renewing a U.S. passport if your answer is “No” to any of the following questions:

  • Is your current U.S. passport in your possession?
  • Is the current passport damaged (other than normal wear and tear)?
  • Was the passport issued to you when you were age 16 or older?
  • Was it issued within the last 15 years?
  • Does your current passport include your current name or a name that you can document?

When you answer “No” to any of these questions, the application process is slightly different. You’ll need to submit additional documentation to prove your U.S. citizenship status. This is most easily satisfied with a Certificate of Citizenship or Certificate of Naturalization.

How to Apply for a Certificate of Citizenship

Passport limitations don’t have to hold you back. If you have a claim to U.S. citizenship, you may apply for a Certificate of Citizenship by using Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship. When filing Form N-600 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, submit the following items:

  • Current USCIS filing fee
  • Passport-style photos
  • Birth certificate or other evidence of birth
  • Birth certificate for U.S. citizen parent(s)
  • Evidence of parent’s U.S. citizen and when it was obtained

Depending on how the applicant obtained citizenship, the application will require additional supporting documents. For example, derived citizenship requires proof of permanent residence and physical custody with the U.S. citizen parent.

Certificates of Citizenship or Certificates of Naturalization can mitigate passport limitations. But immigration laws regarding citizenship have changed several times over the years. This affects the documentation requirements as well. CitizenPath provides affordable, step-by-step guidance through USCIS immigration applications like this one. Individuals, attorneys and non-profits use the service on desktop or mobile device to prepare immigration forms accurately, avoiding costly delays. CitizenPath allows users to try the service for free and provides a 100% money-back guarantee that USCIS will approve the application or petition. We provide support for the Application for Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-600)Citizenship Application (Form N-400), and several other immigration packages.

Source: USCIS

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