Redesigned Naturalization Certificates in Effect

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced in late October 2010 that it has started using a redesigned naturalization certificate. This is part of ongoing efforts to enhance document security. Thus, the new version of the certificate of naturalization (Form N-550) contains a number of significant security-related enhancements. This was reported to readers of the MurthyBlog on October 28, 2010 in New Naturalization Certificates to be More Secure.

Improvements Save Time and Increase Security

One of the more obvious changes to the certificate of naturalization is the use of embedded, digitized photos. The prior system involved hard-copy photos, submitted by applicants. These were literally affixed to the certificate with adhesive by the USCIS. The signature of the USCIS Director is also embedded in the new certificate. These changes not only enhance security, but also save a significant amount of effort on the part of USCIS employees who previously had to attach photos and hand-stamp signatures onto the certificates. Other security enhancements include color-shifting ink as part of the certificate background design. The certificates are also printed using a new process that is more tamper resistant.

Transition from October to December 2010

The automated production, involving digitized photos and signatures has been initiated in Atlanta, Denver, and Baltimore. This is slated to expand to USCIS offices throughout the United States by the end of 2010.

Individuals who have already received naturalization certificates do not need to obtain new certificates. The older certificates remain valid.

This transition is not expected to change the processing of naturalization applications. It is still necessary to provide hardcopy photographs. Digital photographs and a digital signature, however, will be collected from current applicants by the Application Support Centers (ACSs). The hardcopy photos will be used as a backup in case there is a problem with the digital photograph. This is intended to avoid delays during the transition period.


Changes in the naturalization certificate appear to be a positive step, in terms of security as well as time savings. In a recent American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) meeting of the Washington DC Chapter, attended by many attorneys from the Murthy Law Firm, the Director of the Baltimore, Maryland field office expressed support for the changes, particularly the time-savings benefit of the digitization.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.