Undocumented alien needs documents!
September 9, 2009 2:48 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to get a replacement U.S. naturalization certificate fast, as in same-day pickup, provided the person can get to a large USCIS office?

My mother--who has been a naturalized citizen since she was 4--has applied for a passport to go on a cruise this weekend. The passport office has yet to reply, and still has her birth certificate (filed as part of her adoption, isn't available except by mail through the state, and doesn't prove citizenship) and naturalization certificate somewhere in the bowels of the New Jersey office. She has nothing else proving citizenship except the highly unofficial copies she made of both documents before sending them off over 6 weeks ago. Since the cruise is "closed loop," she can use her driver license and naturalization certificate to re-enter the country, but that's somewhat hard to do since her certificate is several hundred miles northeast of her.

She lives near the big USCIS office in Dallas. Would it be possible for her to take two pictures and go down there tomorrow or Friday to get a new one on the spot, provided she has other identification (a driver license and so forth)? She says she did this 30 years ago when she needed one prior to going to work for a local police department, but I can find no information on if this is true now.
posted by fireoyster to Law & Government (9 answers total)
Call the national customer service number at 800-375-5283.

Based on my experience with getting replacement documents from USCIS, I'd say she is out of luck. Just getting an appointment with them takes weeks, and waiting on a document to arrive can take months. Have someone FedEx her naturalization certificate right away.
posted by halogen at 3:19 PM on September 9, 2009

Tragically, the people who have her certificate (US Passport Office in New Jersey) have shown no real inclination to return it to her, or send out a passport. We called yesterday and complained, at which point they changed it to "expedited service" (which shouldn't have been needed since she applied well in advance of travel, but whatever), but still no passport or documents...
posted by fireoyster at 3:34 PM on September 9, 2009

Call your Congresscritter's office. They have staff people whose job it is to handle stuff like this, though she still may not get the documents in time for the cruise.
posted by rtha at 3:58 PM on September 9, 2009

It probably doesn't need to be mentioned, but whatever bureaucratic machination she went through 30 years ago isn't relevant today. Processes and requirements are always changing.
posted by dfriedman at 4:13 PM on September 9, 2009

Ping the Dallas office's web page and see if she can get an infopass appt before she goes. I think she's out of luck, though.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:50 PM on September 9, 2009

Seconding rtha's suggestion to call your Congressperson - they make things happen.
posted by honeybee413 at 5:57 PM on September 9, 2009

It looks like INFOPASS appointments are available Friday, so if we haven't heard back from the passport office by Thursday afternoon, we'll go that route. Replacement naturalization certificates are $380(!!!), which just floors me. In addition, I plan on having her call her Congressman's office tomorrow. I'm glad long distance is free on cell phones.

Thanks for the advice everyone. This is damned annoying.
posted by fireoyster at 7:05 PM on September 9, 2009

Call your Congresscritter's office. They have staff people whose job it is to handle stuff like this, though she still may not get the documents in time for the cruise.

If taking this route, it seems like the idea that the USCIS has, for all intensive purposes, lost track of her original documents and is unresponsive might be a good talking point here.
posted by crapmatic at 7:17 PM on September 9, 2009

Well, I panicked too soon, it seems. As of a few minutes ago, the US Department of State's passport status page updated to say that her passport has been issued and is being sent via overnight service to her house. The given tracking number shows the package has been given to FedEx and is on one of their planes, bound for her house by 10:30 in the morning.

Apologies for freaking out, but I'd really have hated for them to have flushed $1100 (cost of the cruise) plus $145 (cost of an expedited passport) down the drain over the lack of a single piece of paper or fancy-colored booklet. She definitely would have been on the phone with her Congress rep in the morning had the status change not happened.
posted by fireoyster at 8:22 PM on September 9, 2009

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