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that placed me, and she basically said that the Social Security card would be valid, because the condition on it was no longer in force.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”.