Chapter 1 - Purpose and Background

A. Purpose

All applicants who meet the eligibility requirements to derive or acquire citizenship or to become naturalized [1] United Statescitizens are eligible to receive a certificate from USCIS documenting their U.S. citizenship. [2] The burden of proof is on the applicant to establish that he or she has met all of the pertinent eligibility requirements for issuance of a certificate. 

  • The Certificate of Citizenship is an official record that the applicant has acquired citizenship at the time of birth or derived citizenship after birth. [3] 

  • The Certificate of Naturalization is the official record that the applicant is a naturalized U.S. citizen. [4] 

USCIS strictly guards the physical security of the certificates to minimize the unlawful distribution and fraudulent use of certificates.

B. Background

In general, in order to obtain either a Certificate of Citizenship or a Certificate of Naturalization from USCIS, a person must:

  • File the appropriate form and supporting evidence; 

  • Appear for an interview before an officer, if required;

  • Meet the pertinent eligibility requirements, as evidenced by USCIS approval of the form; and

  • Take the Oath of Allegiance, if required.

USCIS District Directors, Field Office Directors, and other USCIS officers acting on their behalf, have delegated authority to administer the Oath of Allegiance in USCIS administrative oath ceremonies and to issue certificates. [5] 

C. Legal Authorities


1. [^] The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) defines naturalization as the “conferring of nationality of a state upon a person after birth, by any means whatsoever.” See INA 101(a)(23). Accordingly, any person who obtains citizenship after birth, even if that citizenship is obtained by automatic operation of law, such as under INA 320, is a “naturalized” citizen under the law. For ease of reference, this volume uses the term naturalized citizen to refer to those persons who do not acquire automatically but instead file an Application for Naturalization (Form N-400) and proceed through the naturalization process in their own right.

2. [^] A person who automatically acquires citizenship may also apply for a U.S. Passport with the Department of State to serve as evidence of his or her U.S. citizenship.

3. [^] See Part H, Children of U.S. Citizens [12 USCIS-PM H].

4. [^] See the relevant Volume 12 [12 USCIS-PM] part for the specific eligibility requirements pertaining to the particular naturalization provision, to include Part D, General Naturalization Requirements [12 USCIS-PM D]; Part G, Spouses of U.S. Citizens [12 USCIS-PM G]; and Part I, Military Members and their Families [12 USCIS-PM I].

5. [^] See Part J, Oath of Allegiance, Chapter 2, The Oath of Allegiance, Section B, Authority to Administer the Oath [12 USCIS-PM J.2(B)].

INA 310(b)(4) - Naturalization authority and issuance of certificates

INA 310, 8 CFR 310 - Naturalization authority

INA 332(e), 8 CFR 332 - Issuance of certificates of citizenship and naturalization

INA 332, 8 CFR 332 - Naturalization administration, executive functions

INA 338, 8 CFR 338 - Contents and issuance of certificate of naturalization

INA 340(f), 8 CFR 340 - Cancellation of certificate after revocation of naturalization

INA 341, 8 CFR 341 - Certificates of citizenship


No appendices available at this time.

Technical Update - Moving the Adjudicator’s Field Manual Content into the USCIS Policy Manual

May 21, 2020

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is updating and incorporating relevant Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) content into the USCIS Policy Manual. As that process is ongoing, USCIS has moved any remaining AFM content to its corresponding USCIS Policy Manual Part, in PDF format, until relevant AFM content has been properly incorporated into the USCIS Policy Manual. To the extent that a provision in the USCIS Policy Manual conflicts with remaining AFM content or Policy Memoranda, the updated information in the USCIS Policy Manual prevails. To find remaining AFM content, see the crosswalk between the AFM and the Policy Manual.



Technical Update - Replacing the Term “Foreign National”

October 08, 2019

This technical update replaces all instances of the term “foreign national” with “alien” throughout the Policy Manual as used to refer to a person who meets the definition provided in INA 101(a)(3) [“any person not a citizen or national of the United States”].



POLICY ALERT - Comprehensive Citizenship and Naturalization Policy Guidance

January 07, 2013

USCIS is issuing updated and comprehensive citizenship and naturalization policy guidance in the new USCIS Policy Manual.


Current as of


Current as of