U.S. naturalization certificate gets high-tech redesign

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced Monday the launch of a redesigned certificate of naturalization aimed at reducing fraud.

The certificate will be given to new citizens in the Southern California district that includes San Luis Obispo County. The agency estimated that it would issue more than 600,000 of the new certificates in the next year. Locally, the district includes the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. The agency naturalized more than 65,000 people in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

The certificates given to new U.S. citizens will now feature embedded photographs and signatures and a color-shifting ink pattern on the background. Officials said the new features will make the documents more difficult to forge.

“We are confident that the new enhancements will prevent fraud and will enhance the security of the process,” spokeswoman Mariana Gitomer said.

Although most of the nation began issuing the redesigned documents Monday, the Los Angeles district will wait to launch them in November. A group of 9,900 newly naturalized citizens will receive the old version at a ceremony in Los Angeles today. Gitomer said the district wanted to ensure that there would be no technical issues with the new documents before issuing them to such a large group.

Previously issued naturalization certificates will remain valid.

The agency also plans to fully automate the process of producing the certificates by the end of 2010, beginning with the Atlanta, Denver and Baltimore offices.

The changes in the certificate of naturalization follow the launch of a redesigned permanent resident card — commonly known as the green card — in May. The new card includes radio frequency identification capability, to allow border officers to read the cards from a distance.