Dual Citizenship Assistance - Frequently Asked Questions
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) receives thousands of requests per year for naturalization records from researchers seeking dual citizenship with other countries. Members of the reference staff are happy to search naturalization indexes, assist in providing certified copies (red ribbon, gold seal) of naturalization records in the holdings, and answer questions relating to those documents. NARA staff cannot advise individuals on citizenship matters outside the scope of its holdings, nor can they provide interpretation of laws pertaining to dual citizenship. Any questions regarding eligibility or laws relating to dual citizenship should be directed to the appropriate consulate.
The following are some of the most frequently asked questions from dual citizenship seekers. Click on the questions below to see the answers.
First, determine where your ancestor lived after arriving in the United States and contact the NARA office that holds naturalization records of that state.
|Facility||Naturalization records maintained from Federal courts in the following states:|
|National Archives at Atlanta||Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee|
|National Archives at Boston||Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont|
|National Archives at Chicago||Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin|
|National Archives at Denver||Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah|
|National Archives at Fort Worth||Louisiana, Texas|
|National Archives at Kansas City||Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, North Dakota (pre-1925), South Dakota (pre-1929), Oklahoma, Arkansas|
|National Archives at New York City||New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico|
|National Archives at Philadelphia||Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia|
|National Archives at Riverside||Arizona, Southern California, Clark County Nevada|
|National Archives at San Francisco||Northern and Central California, Hawaii|
|National Archives at Seattle||Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington|
|National Archives in Washington, DC||District of Columbia|
|Note: Federal courts in some states continue to retain their naturalization records. Researchers should first check NARA’s holdings and then reach out directly to the courthouse if the naturalization occurred prior to October 1991. Responsibility for naturalization proceedings transferred from the Federal courts to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) at that time. NARA does not hold naturalization records from U.S. District Courts post October 1991.|
Send an email to the appropriate NARA office with as much of the following information as possible:
- Name of petitioner (including known variants)
- Date of birth
- Country of origin
- Approximate date of entry to the U.S.
- Approximate date of naturalization
- Where the individual was residing at the time of naturalization (city/county/state)
Reference staff will search the appropriate indexes and let you know what is found. If a record is located, you will be contacted for payment and shipping information. The cost for a certified copy of a naturalization record is $25.00. If no record is found, staff will provide you with steps for further research.
Naturalization certificates are not available through the National Archives within its Federal court holdings, but there are occasions where naturalization certificates appear within an Alien File (A-File). The certificate was a document issued to the immigrant at the time of their naturalization, and the U.S. District Courts did not keep a copy. Researchers may need to inquire with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Genealogy Program to obtain a copy of the naturalization certificate.
NARA can provide a certified copy (red ribbon, gold seal) of naturalization records in its holdings.
NARA does not have the authority to issue a certification of non-existence of a record and can only issue a negative search letter. Only the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can issue a certification of non-existence of a record for post-1906 records: USCIS has exclusive authority over any matters concerning citizenship records after 1906, USCIS is the legal custodian of any record of naturalization since 1906, and USCIS possesses a copy of any naturalization records since 1906. Find further information about how to request Certification of Non-existence of a Record of Naturalization from USCIS here (see “How do I get Certification of Non-existence of a Record of Naturalization?”).
NARA can issue a negative search letter, which states that a member of the reference staff searched a specific index(es) for a federal court and did not locate a record for the individual requested. Negative results for a search of National Archives holdings only indicates that a naturalization record was not found in the possession of the National Archives, not that it does not exist.
Additionally, NARA cannot issue negative search letters in cases where a denied petition was located. In these instances, NARA can provide a certified copy of the denied petition. A Certification of Non-Existence of a Record of Naturalization can be requested from USCIS.
NARA staff can only issue a certified copy of a document in its custody (see 44 USC 2116 and 44 USC 3112). Negative search letters are printed on NARA letterhead and signed by the director (or their designee) of the office issuing the letter.
NARA does not have the authority to issue an apostille. The U.S. Department of State has the authorization to issue an apostille of a copy of a document certified by NARA.
The researcher has the responsibility to contact the Department of State with a NARA certified copy to complete the process of obtaining an apostille.
The mailing address of the Authentications Office of the United States Department of State is:
Office of Authentications
U.S. Department of State
44132 Mercure CIR PO BOX 1206
Sterling, VA 20166 1206
For more information concerning apostilles: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal-considerations/judicial/authentication-of-documents/office-of-authentications.html
Form used to request an apostille: https://eforms.state.gov/Forms/ds4194.PDF
I’m not sure where my ancestor lived after they immigrated to the United States. Can NARA search all of their naturalization indexes for me?
NARA maintains separate indexes for each court; there is no centralized index to our holdings. In order to conduct a search, researchers need to inform NARA staff where a person lived (city and state) while in the United States.
Most NARA research facilities only hold the naturalization records filed in federal courts, but a few offices do hold state and county naturalization records. Submit a request to the appropriate NARA office using the information described in the answer to the question “How do I submit a request for a certified copy of my ancestor’s naturalization records?” Even if NARA does not hold the record, staff can provide a referral or information for further research.
Can NARA issue a negative search letter in cases where the naturalization was completed at a non-federal court?
NARA will not complete a search of federal court holdings or issue a negative search letter in cases where the researcher has proof that a naturalization proceeding was completed and citizenship was granted at a non-federal court (e.g., county court). NARA generally does not maintain copies of naturalization records from non-federal courts (see "My ancestor naturalized in a county court, does NARA have their record?"). In the rare case that a lower court's naturalization proceeding is in NARA's holdings, NARA staff can provide a certified copy of the record.
In cases where a portion of the naturalization process was completed at a federal court or other court where NARA holds the records (ex. knowledge of a Declaration of Intention or denied Petition for Naturalization completed in a federal court that will be utilized in the dual citizenship case), staff will complete a search and can provide a certified copy of the record.
Although there can be inaccuracies in naturalization records, the records cannot be changed or corrected by National Archives staff because they are historic documents that are maintained as they were created by the courts.
Can NARA provide me with my ancestor’s birth and/or marriage certificate from another country? How about vital records from the United States?
Normally vital records are not available through the National Archives within our Federal court holdings, but there are occasions where vital records can appear within an Alien File (A-File).
See information below about how to obtain vital records:
- US vital records: In the United States, birth, marriage, and death records are considered state or local records rather than Federal or national. Write to the State Bureau of Vital Statistics, State Archives, or the County Historical Society or Courthouse where the event occurred. The Department of Health and Human Services provides addresses for vital records on its web page at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w/index.htm.
- Foreign vital records: You’ll need to contact a government agency in the country where your ancestor was born. Some U.S. Embassy pages contain instructions for how to obtain vital records (ex. the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Italy). Every country is different. Researchers have to determine how to obtain records from the appropriate government agency.
Researchers who need certified copies of census records should submit their request via the NATF Form 82 or Order Online system. The cost for a certified copy of a census record is $35.00.
Staff at all field locations will certify the 1940 Census for persons visiting the research room in person during regular business hours.
The National Archives at St. Louis maintains Selective Service Records for WWII through Vietnam era for men born April 28, 1877 to March 28, 1957. Researchers who need certified copies of Selective Service Records should submit their request to firstname.lastname@example.org using NA Form 13172. Researchers should note “Dual Citizenship” in the Request Purpose field on their form. Note: There is an additional fee for certification.
NARA staff are limited to explaining the contents of the records in its holdings and other research-related topics. Staff may not advise individuals on citizenship matters or provide interpretation of laws pertaining to dual citizenship.