A tale of two government documents

Spoiler alert: I’ve got a new job. Woo hoo! I start on Monday.

When I got my citizenship, they took away my high security Permanent Resident Card (“green card”) and gave me this fancy paper “Certificate of Naturalization”. At the ceremony, they told us that we should apply for passports immediately because the “Certificate of Naturalization” isn’t good for travel, but you had to send in the “Certificate of Naturalization” with the passport application as proof of citizenship and identity. Well, I had to travel to Ottawa for a kayak race the very next day, and so I kept it. And it worked for a couple of trips to Canada. I was expecting to get a new job any day now, so I kept the document so I’d have proof of citizenship when the time came.

Well, it wasn’t “any day now”, but I eventually got a job, and I had to fill out the I-9, which is your proof of eligibility for employment in the US. And that’s when I discovered that the list of documents that you’re allowed to use for proof of citizenship and/or identity doesn’t include the “Certificate of Naturalization”. I even downloaded the M-274, which is the guide for employers for filling out the I-9, hoping to find they just omitted it for brevity on the I-9 itself. No dice. And searching the Citizenship and Immigration Services web site shows that in 2007 they purposely disqualified this document because it wasn’t secure enough. For some strange reason, older citizenship documents, that unlike mine don’t even include photos and look like they were banged out on a crappy typewriter, are still valid. The document also said that you can use your Social Security card as proof of eligibility, but mine dates back from when I was here on a TN-1 temporary non-resident visa, and so it’s stamped on the front “Not Valid For Work Without INS Authorization”, so I figured it was not valid, and so I thought I was screwed.

After worrying about it all night, I had a meeting with the HR person at the company that placed me, and she basically said that the Social Security card would be valid, because the condition on it was no longer in force. So we filled out the I-9 and she thinks everything will be fine. But just in case, I sent off my passport application the very same day so I’ll have that if any questions are raised.

But here’s the thing that I think is really stupid: the Certificate of Naturalization isn’t a valid document for proving your citizenship to work even in conjunction with other documents, but it is valid for proving your citizenship and identity to get a passport, and a passport is a valid document for proving your citizenship and identity to work. Hopefully the reason is that the passport people do some sort of verification or validation that the people who process I-9s do not or cannot. Otherwise it’s just stupid. Coupled with the fact that a fairly fancy document like the Certificate of Naturalization has been disqualified because it’s not secure enough, while primitive documents like the Social Security card and older citizenship cards are still accepted, smacks of “Security Theatre”.

4 Replies to “A tale of two government documents”

  1. To get my passport, all I had to do was request, by mail, a copy of my birth certificate from the state where I was born. There do seem to be a few holes in the Homeland Security system.

  2. Well, in my country you have to have an identity card or passport since 1950. An identity states your adress, while your passport contains visa stamps from foreign countries (and no adress). You have to _have_ it, no need to carry it with you, police can detain you until proof of identity is achieved or ask you to fetch it in the presence of a police man. So I dont leave the house without it.
    The funny thing is, in the country immediately south to my country there is no requirement to _have_ an identity card or a passport.
    Police is even allowed to make an estimate (!) how far you when over the speed limit without (!) using technical equipment. Probably ripping of millions of people driving to/from their holiday over the years. You have to pay cash immediately or you car gets seized.

  3. A while back they “upgraded” my state’s drivers licenses to be fully Big Brother^W^W RealID compliant. To get the new license at renewal time, I needed to present positive ID, and the old drivers license was not sufficient since it was the old kind. A birth certificate was good, but I didn’t have an original, so I got one from the town where I was born. In order to get the birth certificate, I needed to present my existing drivers license and nothing else.

    I think the point is to frustrate the terrorists with red tape until they give up and get real jobs, or something.

  4. Real terrorists have time to queue and deal with red-tape; the rest of us have paying jobs to do and this is a lot of hassle.
    [I sent off my Certificate of Naturalization the day I got it, and paid for expedited delivery of my passport, it was back inside of two weeks]

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