The Importance of Obtaining Certificates of Citizenship
Nobody enjoys filing paperwork or paying filing fees, and for families that have completed an international adoption, they often think they have had more than enough of both. Fortunately, most international adoptions now result in a certificate of citizenship (COC) being issued without any additional process or fees. That has not always been the case, and still is not always so, especially in cases where the child was issued an IR-4/HR-4 visa. In these situations, the child does not automatically become a U.S. citizen, and the placement requires finalization here in the United States.
Obtaining a COC for any child adopted internationally is an important way to definitively establish and demonstrate citizenship. When the cost of COCs was significantly increasing In 2016, NCFA hosted a webinar led by McLane Layton and Christine Poarch. NCFA also made available a printable factsheet addressing FAQs about certificates of citizenship. These resources continue to be helpful to better understand this issue.
Adoptive families may ask, “Why would I pay for this if I already have proof of citizenship with a U.S. passport or state issued birth certificate?” Although there may be other ways and options to prove citizenship, the Certificate of Citizenship remains the most permanent and definitive way of doing so. Unlike passports, the certificate of citizenship never expires. State issued birth certificates are not always accepted as proof of citizenship, with issues raised if the name has changed or if the birth certificate lists a foreign place of birth.
Adoption professionals who have worked in this field for a number of years strongly advise a family to obtain a COC on behalf of their internationally adopted child. Sue Hollar, the Executive Director & CEO of The Barker Adoption Foundation, is a strong advocate of agencies working to ensure families have obtained COCs. She says, “Adoption agencies and adoptive families have an ethical and moral responsibility to these kids. At Barker, we hold a financial deposit from families and return it upon receiving a copy of the COC… No kid/adult should suffer the consequences of not having the documentation.”
NCFA strongly encourages adoption agencies to obtain copies of the certificate of citizenship as part of their post-adoption reporting. This practice will ensure that families are obtaining their COCs within a reasonable timeframe upon returning, instead of many years later when it may be more difficult for the adoptive family to locate required documentation.
The application for a COC is called the N-600 and can be accessed through USCIS’s website here.