What Is a Naturalization Certificate?

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According to Section 338 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1449), a naturalized citizen is entitled to receive a certificate of naturalization. The certificate is typically given after an oath-taking ceremony where a naturalization applicant must take the oath of allegiance (8 C.F.R. 338.1).

What Information Does a Naturalization Certificate Contain?

Naturalization certificates must contain information required by the Immigration and Nationality Act, including date of naturalization, personal information of the naturalized citizen including name, signature, place of residence, former country of nationality and other demographic information. According to that Act, the certificate must also contain an order by the Attorney General that the person be admitted as a United States citizen, an attestation from an immigration officer, and the seal of the Department of Justice.

Read More: How Do I Find My Certificate of Naturalization Number?

Becoming a Citizen

United States citizenship is acquired either through birth or through the naturalization process. A foreign born person, under certain circumstances prescribed by the law (Section 301 of the Immigration and Nationality Act; 8 U.S.C. 1401), may have been born a United States citizen. In such cases, the foreign born person typically has at least one parent who is a United States citizen, subject to further requirements by the law.

A foreign born person who is not considered a United States citizen by birth may, after meeting immigration requirements, become a United States citizen through the process of naturalization.

What is the Naturalization Process?

A Guide to Naturalization, a manual by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, gives the following definition of naturalization: "Naturalization is commonly referred to as the manner in which a person not born in the United States voluntarily becomes a U.S. citizen."

A person typically initiates the process by filling out Form N-400 and submitting it to the appropriate U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) office.

Who is Eligible to Naturalize?

In general, a person may naturalize upon being a permanent resident (also known as a green card holder) for a prescribed number of years and upon continuous residence in the United States, also for a prescribed number of years, without leaving the United States for more than six months. According to A Guide to Naturalization, in 90 percent of naturalization cases, the permanent resident status requirement is five years and the continuous residence requirement is also five years.

In addition, naturalization applicants must be of good moral character, must meet certain civic requirements, and must be "attached" to the United States Constitution. Explanation of these requirements can be found in A Guide to Naturalization.

Those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces have different naturalization requirements.

What if a Person Loses His or Her Naturalization Certificate?

A naturalization certificate may be replaced by submitting the proper form and payment to the appropriate USCIS office.