A person can become an American citizen in one of two ways: by birth or by naturalization.
A person may be born a U.S. citizen by either jus soli, i.e., through place of birth, or jus sanguinis, i.e. through descent from his/her parents.
With very few exceptions, most of which have to do with children born to foreign government officials on assignment to the U.S., a person born in any of the fifty states, Guam, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands is an American Citizen at birth, under the principle of jus soli, regardless of the nationality of his/her parents.
If you have previously been issued any of the following documents, you may immediately begin your application for your first U.S. passport (and thus proof of citizenship). If you are no longer in possession of any of these documents, you must obtain a certified copy from the issuing authority.
- A U.S. Birth Certificate for certified copies please contact the state in which you were born.The National Center for Health Statistics maintains a list of States’ contact information for this purpose
- A Consular Report of Birth Abroad (FS-240) – the travel website of the State Department has information on how to obtain a duplicate of this document
- A U.S. Certificate of Citizenship – for certified copies, please contact the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
- A U.S. Naturalization Certificate – for certified copies, please contact the U.S. citizenship and Immigration Services
Once you are in possession of one of the listed documents, you are able to apply for a U.S. passport. Please see our section on passports for further instructions.
If you were born outside the United States, have not been previously documented as a U.S. citizen, and are:
- Under the age of 18:please see our instructions for Reporting a Birth Abroad
- Over the age of 18: please contact this office for further details
A child adopted by an American parent does not automatically become a U.S. citizen. For more information about the naturalization of adopted children, please see information on the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.
For further information regarding Naturalization please contact the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services www.uscis.gov.