When you apply for a US passport, the most important requirement is proof of your US citizenship. This could be your birth certificate or Consular Record of Birth Abroad, if you are a US citizen by birth. You could use a previous US passport to prove your citizenship. If you are a naturalized US citizen, you could submit your Naturalization Certificate or Certificate of Citizenship. But if you don’t have your birth certificate or Naturalization Certificate, and your previous passport is lost, you’re not out of luck. You have options to prove your US citizenship and get a passport. Today, we’ll review all the ways you can get proof of citizenship, including replacing your birth certificate or citizenship documents and requesting a File Search.
Passport Problem: You Lost Your Birth Certificate
Solution: Obtain a New Birth Certificate
If you were born in the United States, you can prove your US citizenship with an original copy of your birth certificate. “Original” doesn’t mean that it has to be the very first copy of your birth certificate that your mom got when you were born. Your birth certificate just needs to be an original document issued by the local government, and not a photocopy or scan. You can get a new original copy of your birth certificate for yourself or your child in several different ways. (Were you born in the US but never issued a birth certificate? Check out our article on how to get a passport without having any birth certificate.)
Order Your Birth Certificate Online
You can order an original copy of your birth certificate right now, without getting up from your desk! VitalChek.com is an authorized website that works with local governments across the country to get your your birth certificate fast. It takes no more than 10 minutes to order your birth certificate. You may need to scan and upload an identity verification document, such as your driver’s license.
Order Your Birth Certificate by Mail
Another way to get your birth certificate is to write to the Vital Statistics office in the state where you were born. You will need to include a copy of your identification (such as your driver’s license). You will also need to send a check or money order for the birth certificate fee. Include a signed letter addressed to the Vital Statistics office. Your letter should include all of the following details:
- Your full name, or the full name of your child if you are requesting your child’s birth certificate
- If ordering a birth certificate for your child, state that you are the child’s parent
- Parents’ names, including the mother’s maiden name
- Date of birth – month, day, and year
- Place of birth (city or town, county, and state; include the name of the hospital, if possible)
- Your phone number with area code
- A statement that you need a long form birth certificate to obtain a passport
Get Your Birth Certificate in Person
Do you still live in the state where you were born? You’re in luck! You can visit the Vital Statistics office in person to get an original copy of your birth certificate. You will need to bring proof of identity, and you will have to pay a fee. (Pro tip: many vital records offices offer a discount if you get two copies of your birth certificate. It’s worth it to have a spare!) Tell the clerk that you need a long form birth certificate to get a passport. Your new birth certificate copies should be printed for you on the spot.
Passport Problem: You Don’t Have Your Naturalization Certificate
Solution: Order Your Naturalization Certificate or Certificate of Citizenship
Are you a naturalized US citizen? If you’ve never been issued a US passport before, your proof of citizenship will be your Naturalization Certificate or Certificate of Citizenship. You’ll need to submit both the original document and a photocopy of it when you apply for your passport. If you don’t have your original certificate, don’t panic! You can order a new certificate using the instructions below.
Naturalization Certificates are issued to people who become US citizens by naturalization as adults. You should have received your Naturalization Certificate at your naturalization ceremony, right after you took your oath of allegiance. If your Certificate of Naturalization is lost, stolen, or damaged before you apply for your passport, you can get a new certificate by filing Form N-565 with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form is filed by mail, and there’s a fee of $555 to get your new Naturalization Certificate.
Certificate of Citizenship
You are eligible for a Certificate of Citizenship if you were born overseas but can claim US citizenship through your parents. If your parents were naturalized as US citizens before you turned 18, or if you were adopted by US citizen parents, you can get a Certificate of Citizenship. You can use your original Certificate of Citizenship as proof of citizenship to apply for a US passport.
If you’ve lost your Certificate of Citizenship, you can use the same form to get a new one that is used to replace a Naturalization Certificate. The same fee of $555 applies when you file Form N-565 to replace your Certificate of Citizenship.
If you have never been issued a Certificate of Citizenship, you would file a different form to request one. Form N-600 can be submitted by mail to the USCIS. There is a fee of $1,170 to get your first Certificate of Citizenship.
Passport Problem: You Lost Your Passport and Don’t Have Proof of Citizenship
Solution: Request a File Search
No matter whether you’re a citizen by birth or naturalization, once you have been issued a US passport, you can use that passport as your proof of citizenship. Even after it has expired or been cancelled, your passport still can prove that you are a US citizen.
But what happens if you’ve lost your passport and don’t have an original copy of any other documents that prove your US citizenship? You can request a File Search when you apply for a passport. Because you have been issued a passport before, the State Department has records of your old application and the documents you used to prove your US citizenship. When you request a File Search, they will go through their records to confirm your US citizenship in order to issue you a new passport.
Requesting a File Search is easy. When you submit your passport application, you will include a brief form requesting the File Search. You won’t need to submit any other proof of citizenship. You’ll need to include an extra $150 fee for the File Search on top of the other fees for your passport service.
The File Search should take the State Department roughly five days to complete. You can expect that your passport will take about a week longer to be issued. You will not get any copies of your old passport records. What you will get is a new passport, which will serve as your proof of US citizenship for all purposes.