Ask the Consul

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August 13, 2010


Good afternoon, I have a 20 year old cousin who lives in Aguascalientes. She was born in Long Beach, California but has lived in Mexico since being 1 year old, and has never gone back. She now desires to travel to the U.S. but does not have a passport or an official government I.D. She went to you in December for a passport and was told she had everything in order except she needed a newer birth certificate. She was given a website to purchase one from, but it asked for an I.D. and a notarized letter. How can she get that if she has never lived in the U.S. and doesn't have a government issued I.D. or passport to prove her identity? All she has to prove her identity is a birth certificate from birth, no photo I.D. from the United States. As she is an American she doesn't have a Mexican I.D. either.


You raise an insightful and complex question- how can an American who has lived the majority of their life in Mexico demonstrate that they truly are an American citizen? We recommend that American citizens living abroad apply for a passport at the earliest possible opportunity, even if the citizen is a child with no current travel plans. With the launch of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, entry into the United States at all border crossings including crossing by car requires a passport for everyone. Because many Americans residing in Mexico relied exclusively on their U.S. birth certificate to travel, the Consulate has experienced a rise in passport applications.  It can be challenging to present appropriate photo identification with their valid U.S. birth certificate for someone who has spent their life in Mexico.  To help these applicants, we offer suggestions regarding documents that could support their passport application. 


It is correct that your cousin’s passport application required an official long form birth certificate. We cannot accept an abstract birth certificate, also known as a “short form” and we cannot accept mutilated copies.  Birth certificates in the U.S. are kept with the civil registry of each state and the regulations for obtaining a birth certificate vary according to state.  Your cousin should consult with the civil registry for her state of birth regarding how to obtain a birth certificate.   In order to request a birth certificate from the State of California, a good starting point is this link:


If a notarized document is needed in order to apply for a birth certificate or for any other reason, the Consulate can also assist in providing notarial services. For first time applicants, the Consulate also requires secondary proof of birth in the U.S., which can take the form of crib cards, hospital discharge orders, hospital certificate, or immunization records.


Examples of acceptable photo identification are: driver’s license, U.S. military ID card, Mexican electoral card (IFE), Mexican school certificates with a photo issued by SEP, Mexican passport, University identification cards, and Mexican professional credentials. Many Americans that are resident in Mexico have Mexican electoral cards that they bring to their passport interview. 


It’s important to remember that the consular officer interviewing a passport applicant always gives an applicant ninety days to bring in any requested document.  We understand that it can be challenging to obtain U.S. documents from Mexico and encourage applicants to email ( us if they have any questions regarding their case.  We are here to serve Americans and strive to assist Americans in any way we can.