To apply for U.S. citizenship, you will need to complete and file Form N-400, Application for naturalization. Below is an overview of the naturalization process, in 10 simple steps.
Step 1: Are you already a U.S. citizen?
Sounds like a funny question, but before you start the long and complicated process of naturalization, you should check to see if you’re already a citizen. If you were born in the U.S. or have a parent who was a U.S. citizen at the time of your birth, then you may qualify for citizenship at birth or “derived” citizenship through your parents.
If you were born in the United States…
The U.S. has birthright citizenship, meaning no matter your parents’ citizenship or nationality, if you were born on U.S. soil then you are a citizen. If you were born in the U.S. or certain territories or outlying possessions then you may qualify for citizenship through birth. This includes the territories of Puerto Rico, the Marianas (Guam and Northern Mariana Islands), and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
If you were born to U.S. citizen parent(s)…
If you were born abroad (outside the United States) to U.S. citizen parent(s), then you may qualify for citizenship at birth. If your parents applied for a “Consular Report of Birth Abroad” before you turned 18 years old, then this is significant proof of your citizenship. Similariy, a Certificate of Citizenship, a U.S. passport, and a Certification of Report of Birth can also serve as proof of your citizenship. If you received none of these documents before your 18th birthday, then you will likely have to apply for citizenship through parents.
Step 2: Are you eligible to apply for citizenship through naturalization?
There are eight basic requirements to apply for naturalization. While most applicants must meet these requirements, there are some exceptions. For example, if you are married to a U.S. citizen or if you served in the military. For a complete list of naturalization requirements, see the USCIS naturalization eligibility worksheet.
- Be 18 or older at the time of filing
- Be a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.*
- Have lived within the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence, for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing the application. Students may apply for naturalization either where they go to school or where their family lives (if they are still financially dependent on their parents).**
- Have continuous residence in the United States as a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application.*
- Be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application.*
- Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization up to the time of naturalization.*
- Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).***
- Be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during all relevant periods under the law.
*This requirement may differ if you served in the U.S. military or are married to a U.S. citizen.
**This requirement may differ if you currently serving in the U.S. military or working for the U.S. government abroad.
***There are exceptions to the English requirement. You do not need to meet this requirement if: you are age 50 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident in the United States for 20 years; or you are age 55 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident in the United States for 15 years. You will, however be required to take the civics test, but in your native language.
Step 3: Prepare your citizenship application
Preparing your citizenship application is one of the more complicated aspects of applying for U.S. citizenship. To apply, you must file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This is the longest and one of the most expensive USCIS applications. The application (including instructions) is 38 pages long and the filing fee is $725 (including biometrics). On the application you will need to answer questions regarding your:
- Eligibility for citizenship
- Current and past residences
- Family history
- Work history
- Biographic information
- Employment history
- Education history
- Time spent outside of the U.S. during your permanent residency
- Marital history
- Moral character
You will also need to submit supporting documentation with your application. This includes passport-style photographs and copies of important government documents, such as a marriage certificate. Which documents to include vary depending on your situation.
If you are unsure about how to answer questions or which supporting documents to include, it’s a good idea to seek help. USCitizenship.info’s software simplifies the application process and walks you through it step-by-step. Complicated questions are rewritten in simple language and you are provided with tips and tools so you can know better exactly how to answer each question. Start your application!
Step 4: Send your citizenship application to the USCIS
Once your application is complete, including supporting documents, you will need to send it to the USCIS. Where you send your application depends on where you live. Check the USCIS website for the most up to date information.
After the USCIS receives your application, they will send you a receipt notice by mail. This notice will include a receipt number. Once you have that number, you can check the status of your application by using the USCIS website or by calling the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283. You can also check how long it will take for the USCIS to send you a decision on your application (processing time).
Step 5: Biometrics Appointment
Most citizenship applicants are required to go to a biometrics appointment. If you are required to have your biometrics taken, the USCIS will send you a biometrics appointment notice with the time, date and location. At the appointment, your fingerprints and signature will be taken for a background check.
Step 6: The Citizenship Interview
All applicants must attend a citizenship interview. This is an in-person interview where you will be asked questions regarding your application and eligibility, take an English test, and take a civics test. You will need to pass the interview and tests in order to receive citizenship.
Step 7: Receive a decision on your citizenship interview
Finally, the USCIS will make a decision on your case. You will receive the decision by mail. There are three possible decisions:
- Approved/ Granted: Congratulations! Your application was approved and you are eligible for naturalization.
- Continued: The USCIS has not yet made a decision on your case either because they need additional evidence/documentation, you failed to provide the correct documentation, or you failed either the English or civics tests.
- Denied: The USCIS will deny your citizenship application if you are not eligible for naturalization.
Step 8: Receive a notice to attend a Citizenship Ceremony
If your citizenship application was approved, then you will be scheduled to take the Oath of Allegiance. In some cases, you may be able to participate in a naturalization ceremony on the same day as your interview. If that’s not available, then you will be scheduled to attend a ceremony and receive a notice with the date, time and location.
Step 9: Take the Oath of Allegiance and become a U.S. citizen
Once you take the Oath of Allegiance you are officially a U.S. citizen! At the citizenship ceremony you will take the oath, turn in your permanent resident green card and receive a Certificate of Naturalization.
Step 10: Understand the rights and responsibilities of citizenship
As a citizen, it’s important to know both your rights and your responsibilities. Here’s a list of five of the most valuable benefits of citizenship.