I'm a natural-born US citizen. I got a passport back in March 2000 for a trip to Germany. Of course, that was more than 10 years ago, so the passport is expired, and being more than 15 years ago (15 years and 4 months now), is not eligible to be renewed. I need to apply for a passport as a first-time applicant.

The trouble is that I'm leaving for a cruise that will be making stops in Canada in 7 1/2 weeks (September 5th, to be exact). This WOULD be enough time to get a new passport, but the birth certificate I got from my parents doesn't have a official seal on it, and from what I've read about the rules on birth certificates, the certificate I have will likely not be accepted by the office when I attempt to get a new passport. It came from a US Navy base hospital, and the entire thing is a photocopy except for a signature from the someone who's rank appears to be "PN1", whatever that means. Nowhere on it are any embossed/raised seals.

According to the California Department of Public Health website, it will take about four weeks to receive a certified birth certificate, which wouldn't give me enough time to use it to get my passport.

From what I've read, I could use that birth certificate and my USA driver's license to get into Canada, but that getting back into the USA absolutely requires a passport.

What options do I have? Am I screwed?

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    travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/canada.html "For entry into the United States via land and sea borders, U.S. citizens must present either a U.S. passport, passport card, NEXUS card, Enhanced Drivers License, or other Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)-compliant document. The only exception to this requirement is for U.S. citizens under the age of 16 (or under 19, if traveling with a school, religious, or other youth group) who need only present a birth certificate, Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or naturalization certificate." Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 9:48
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    So there are other options, but the birth certificate isn't one of them. Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 9:49
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    @Blackbird57 Oregon does not issue enhanced driver's licenses.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 16:12
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    @Sohcahtoa82: A US citizen, who can satisfactorily prove his US citizenship (e.g. with birth certificate and photo ID, or expired US passport, etc), cannot ultimately be denied entry to the United States under any circumstances. So "getting back into the USA" does not "absolutely require" any particular thing.
    – user102008
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 21:36
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    You do get a free 30 minute lecture from CBP about the importance of having the proper documentation on you, though. Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 22:04

1 Answer 1


If the cruise is a closed-loop cruise (i.e., it departs and returns to the same port in the US), then you don't necessarily need a passport:

U.S. Citizens on closed-loop cruises will be able to enter or depart the country on the cruise with proof of citizenship, such as an original or copy of his or her birth certificate (issued by the Vital Records Department in the state where he or she was born) and, if 16 or older, a government issued photo ID. ... The United States does not require you to have a passport. (A Consular report of Birth Abroad issued by the Department of State or a Certificate of Naturalization is also acceptable.)

HOWEVER, it is possible that one or more of the Caribbean Islands on your itinerary, does require you to have a passport to enter their country. In that case, it is very possible that the cruise line will require you to have a passport to board, even if it is not a U.S. requirement.

Note also that Canada will accept a birth certificate as proof of citizenship for entry:

If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you must carry proof of citizenship such as a passport, birth certificate, a certificate of citizenship or naturalization, a U.S. Permanent Resident Card, or a Certificate of Indian Status along with photo identification. If you are a U.S. permanent resident, ensure you carry proof of your status such as a U.S. Permanent Resident Card.

I would check all of this with the cruise line ahead of time to confirm that you'll be OK to board the boat without a passport. I'm sure that this situation is not infrequent among cruise passengers.

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