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Samantha Putterman
By Samantha Putterman December 21, 2023

No, migrants aren’t being given US passports when they enter the country

If Your Time is short

  • To get a U.S. passport, people born in other countries must first become naturalized citizens. That process typically takes years.

  • The standard U.S. passport is blue. A maroon passport featured in a photo is likely from another country.

In the United States, people can obtain a U.S. passport if they were born here or after going through the legal immigration process to become a U.S. citizen. 

On X, formerly Twitter, some users gave the impression that migrants who entered the country illegally and were just released from immigration processing centers s immediately got U.S. passports and skipped the bureaucratic steps and long wait for citizenship,

A person shared a photo she took from her airplane seat and claimed she was sitting next to a migrant who had just come from a processing center. The back of a maroon passport is in the person’s lap.

"My husband and I have been married for over a year and a half and he STILL doesn't have his green card, yet many migrants have government issued passports making them citizens?!? Absolutely insane," said one person who reshared the photo.

We can’t verify the identity or immigration status of the person with the passport. But experts said people born in other countries must first become naturalized U.S. citizens to qualify for U.S. passports, which typically takes years. Also, the standard U.S. passport is blue, and the maroon passport featured in the photo is likely from its poessessor’s home country. 

A State Department spokesperson told PolitiFact that U.S. passports are travel documents that can be issued only to U.S. citizens or U.S. nationals. A foreign national is not eligible to receive a U.S. passport without proof of U.S. citizenship or nationality.

Stephen Yale-Loehr, a Cornell University immigration law professor, said the X claim is wrong.

"All non-U.S. citizens must go through the normal immigration process. They may be issued documents allowing them to travel from the border to somewhere else in the U.S., but such documents are just travel documents," Yale-Loehr said. 

Before people can become a U.S. citizen and obtain a passport, Yale-Loehr said, they first must get a green card, which requires having a family or employer sponsor. Then, they must wait several years to go through naturalization, which requires taking and passing civics and English language tests. 

The vast majority of immigrants must first be legal permanent residents for five years before they qualify to apply for U.S. citizenship (the waiting period is three years when married to a U.S. citizen), said Michelle Mittelstadt, communications director for the Migration Policy Institute, a progressive think tank. 

Our ruling

An X post claimed that newly arrived migrants who got here illegally are getting U.S. passports after leaving immigration processing centers.

This is wrong. To get a U.S. passport, people born in other countries must first become naturalized citizens, which typically takes years.

We rate this post False. 

Our Sources

X post, Dec. 19, 2023

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 10 Steps to Naturalization, Accessed Dec. 19, 2023 

U.S. Embassy, TYPES OF U.S. PASSPORTS, Accessed Dec. 19, 2023

Email interview, Department of Homeland Security media office, Dec. 19, 2023

Email interview, Michelle Mittelstadt, communications directors at the Migration Policy Institute, Dec. 19, 2023

Email interview, Stephen Yale-Loehr, professor of immigration law practice at Cornell Law School, Dec. 19, 2023

Email interview, U.S. State Department media office, Dec. 21, 2023

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No, migrants aren’t being given US passports when they enter the country

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