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Acquisition of U.S. Citizenship

A person can become an American citizen in one of two ways: by birth or by naturalization.

The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees citizenship at birth to almost all individuals born in the United States or in U.S. jurisdictions, according to the principle of jus soli i.e., through place of birth. Certain individuals born in the United States, such as children of foreign heads of state or children of foreign diplomats, do not obtain U.S. citizenship under jus soli.

Certain individuals born outside of the United States are born citizens because of their parents, according to the principle of jus sanguinis (which holds that the country of citizenship of a child is the same as that of his / her parents).

You may have a claim to citizenship if:

  • You were born in the United States; or

  • You were born outside the United States or one of its outlying possessions to U.S. citizen parent(s) and your U.S. citizen parent(s) meets the physical presence requirements.

Individuals who have previously been documented as U.S. citizens

If you have previously been issued any of the following documents, you may immediately begin your application for your first U.S. passport. If you are no longer in possession of any of these documents, you must obtain a certified copy from the issuing authority.

If you were born outside the United States, have not been previously documented as a U.S. citizen, and are :

Once you are in possession of one of the listed documents, you are able to apply for a U.S. passport.  Please see our Passport and Citizenship  pages regarding the additional documents you will require.  Proof of Citizenship and/or proof of identity must be provided.

NOTE: If you were born in the United States, you do not need an appointment to apply for your passport.  The Passport & Citizenship Office is open to the public for walk-in services from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings, with the exception of Irish and American holidays.

If you were born abroad and meet the requirements and have assembled all the necessary documents, you must schedule an appointment to apply. 

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