There are many ways to prove that you are a U.S. citizen. However, if you derived U.S. citizenship from parents who naturalized when you were a child, you may need to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship as proof of your nationality. You may also need this certificate if you acquired citizenship from your parents but they failed to register your birth abroad before you turned 18 years old. This article will explain how (and when) to submit Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship, to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in order to obtain evidence of U.S. nationality. To learn more about who should submit Form N-600, read How Foreign-Born Children of American Citizens Can Prove U.S. Citizenship.
Form N-600 and its instructions are available on the N-600 page of the USCIS website. Before you fill out this form, keep in mind that:
You should fill out of the form on computer if possible; otherwise write your answers using black ink. Write or type “N/A” if an item is not applicable, and write or type “None” if the answer is none. Keep all your answers inside the boxes or lines provided on the form. Avoid highlighting and crossing out answers. Don't use "white-out" (correction fluid) either; if you make too many mistakes, just start all over again with a new form.
If you are attaching separate pages because there is not enough room on the form, make sure your name and question number appear at the top of the page. Date and sign each page. If you ever got an alien registration number, put that on the top right corner of the extra page(s) too.
Warning: You only get one chance to request a certificate of citizenship. If your N-600 is denied for failure to fill out the form properly, or for failure to provide the required documents, you have a limited amount of time to ask USCIS to reconsider its decision, or to appeal if USCIS still denies you. Consult an immigration attorney immediately if you receive a denial, or if your parent tried applying for you, unsuccessfully, when you were a child.
You should always refer to the instructions that USCIS provides along with its official forms and applications. Here we will provide information about some of the trickier questions on the N-600, specifically the version dated 12/23/2016, expiring 12/31/2018. If a question is self-explanatory, it will be skipped in this discussion.
Part 1. “Information About Your Eligibility.” Check either Box 1 or 2 to indicate whether you are the biological or adopted child of a U.S. citizen. U.S. law treated adopted children differently for the purposes of U.S. citizenship depending on when they were born (or when their parents naturalized).
Box 3 provides an option for “Other.” You can check this box if you want to provide information about your grandparents to prove that you are a U.S. citizen and your parent never obtained proof of his or her own U.S. citizenship. You will need to explain this situation and may want to attach a separate statement to your application. For more information, see Can I Get U.S. Citizenship Through a Grandparent? Please note that stepchildren of U.S. citizens cannot acquire or derive U.S. citizenship on the basis of this relationship.
Part 2. “Information About You.” If you are under age 18, your U.S. citizen parent can complete this application for you and provide his or her personal information in this section. Otherwise, fill out this section with your own personal information, such as name, former names, address, marital status, and immigration history.
Question 16 asks about your immigration status and date of admission into the United States. These questions may not apply to you if you were born abroad, acquired citizenship at birth, and never visited the U.S., for example. But if you have ever traveled to the U.S. (or currently reside in the U.S.), you should provide information about your last date of admission and the documents you used to enter the country (for example, foreign passport or refugee travel document). Question 16C. asks about your current U.S. immigration status. This might seem like a strange question—you wouldn't be filing this form if you were not a U.S. citizen. If you've been U.S. citizen since birth, check the "Other" box and write U.S. citizen. If you became a U.S. citizen because one or both of your parents did, USCIS wants to know what your immigration status was before that happened. If you were a green card holder, check “A Permanent Resident” and provide specific details in Part D.
Question 18 asks whether you have ever lost or abandoned your U.S. permanent residence. You should check “no,” even if you have never been issued a green card. This question is of significance if you derived U.S. citizenship because your parent naturalized when you were a child green card holder. If you lost or abandoned your permanent residence because you lived abroad for a long period of time when your parent naturalized, you may not be eligible to file Form N-600. Contact an immigration attorney who can best advise you on how to proceed.
Questions 19 and 20 pertain to adopted children. In some instances, you may be required to be “readopted” into the United States in order to claim U.S. citizenship. If this applies to you, you will need to attach evidence related to your adoption. For further information on the laws affecting adopted children, please see Acquisition or Derivation of Citizenship for Adopted Children.
Questions 21 through 23 discuss your parents’ marital status. If your parents were not married when you were born, you may not acquire or derive U.S. citizenship from your father if he never took steps to “legitimate” you before you reached a certain age. Legitimation rules depend on the laws of your country, but usually involve such steps as as marrying your mother, paying child support, or adding his name to your birth certificate. If you were born out-of-wedlock and your father is a U.S. citizen, you will need to provide documentation to prove that he legitimated you. Question 23 asks if you were in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent. You must answer “yes” to successfully derive citizenship from your U.S. citizen parent.
Answer question 24, but complete the box only if you were born before October 10, 1952 and you are claiming that you acquired U.S. citizenship at birth through your parents. Many children born before that date were required to reside in the U.S. for at least two years between the ages of 14 and 28. You will need to list the dates you lived in the U.S. and provide proof of residence.
Part 3. “Information About Your U.S. Citizen Biological Father (or Adoptive Father).” If you are claiming that you acquired or derived U.S. citizenship from both parents (or you are a father submitting Form N-600 for your minor child), you will need to complete both parts 3 and 4. If you are claiming citizenship based solely on your U.S. citizen father, you can complete this section and skip Part 4.
Provide personal information as requested. Question 8 asks about your father’s marital history. This is relevant if your parents were not married when you were born. Your answers determine whether you will be required to provide proof that he “legitimated” you along with the application.
Part 4. “Information About Your U.S. Citizen Biological Mother (or Adopted Mother).” Just like with the previous section, complete this section if you are claiming U.S. citizenship based on both parents or just from your U.S. citizen mother (or you are a mother applying for your minor child). You can skip Part 3 if your father was not a U.S. citizen (or if you were born out of wedlock and were not legitimated).
Part 5. “Physical Presence in the United States From Birth Until Filing of Form N-600.” If you are claiming that you automatically became a U.S. citizen at birth because you acquired citizenship from a U.S. citizen parent, you will need to provide all the dates of their residence in the United States. How long your parent must have resided in the U.S. will depend on the laws in effect when you were born.
Part 6. “Information About Military Service of U.S. Citizen Parent(s).” Fill out this section if you acquired U.S. citizenship at the time of your birth and you want to use a parent’s dates of military service to fulfill the physical presence requirements (even if he or she was stationed overseas).
Part 7. “Your Signature.” Make sure to sign and date here. A parent or legal guardian may sign for a child who is under 14 years of age. Children under 14 years of age may also sign themselves. If a parent is filing the form for a child between 14 and 18, the child must sign.
Part 8. “Signature of Person Who Prepared This Form N-600 For You.” If someone else, such as an attorney, completed Form N-600 on your behalf, that person should sign and fill in the information requested.
Parts 9 and 10. DO NOT complete these sections. You will be instructed to complete Part 9 if you are required to appear for an interview, and Part 10 is for USCIS use only.
Along with your completed and signed N-600, all applicants should provide:
If you only have one U.S. citizen parent, you will need to provide additional information to prove that he or she resided or was physically present in the U.S. for the period of time required by law. This evidence can include the following documents:
If you derived citizenship from one U.S. parent, that parent must have had physical and legal custody of you on the date that you derived citizenship. Evidence can include:
If you were born out of wedlock and are basing your claim to U.S. citizenship on your U.S. citizen father’s status, you should submit proof that he legitimated you, based on the laws of your country of residence or his country of residence, such as: