“You gotta spend money to make money!”

– America

Don’t worry, I did manage to get my passport renewed in time to start my first job after almost 3 years of unemployment. All for the low cost of just $208.32 (on top of the extra $60 for expedited processing, there was an additional $18.32 for 1-2 day shipping)!

But it’s weird, right? I-9 verification requires workers to provide documentation proving their identity and authorization to work in the US – so of course, I had no reason to think my State ID and Certificate of Citizenship weren’t enough. But for some reason, one’s Certificate of Citizenship is apparently not acceptable documentation for proving one is a certified citizen of the US!

Excuse me, what?! It actually was acceptable documentation until 1997, but the restriction wasn’t actually enforced until 2007. I’ve tried to look up reasons why this happened in the first place and see if anyone else found it to be as bullshit as I did, but no one seems to be saying anything about it! In fact, Wikipedia and this I-9 Compliance FAQ from Stanford still list it as an acceptable document!

Maybe I’m missing something here, but based on the official government link above, the only document a naturalized US citizen is able to provide for full I-9 verification is an unexpired US Passport, which costs quite a bit of money, if you noticed. I was fortunate enough that $208.32 wasn’t a debilitating cost to me and that my employer was willing to put off my start date long enough to give me time to receive my renewed passport, but I can’t help but think of all the people who have been in a similar position without having those advantages.

For most of my life, I kinda took it for granted that I was, for all intents and purposes, an American. I wasn’t born here, but I moved when I was an infant and have had a wholly American life otherwise – at worst, I always knew I could never run for President, but it’s not like I’ve ever had any interest in doing so anyway. This really was the first time in my life that I felt it necessary to prove I was an American. And it didn’t feel great.

– James