Citizenship How to Apply for Citizenship by Naturalization

  1. Once you have determined that you are eligible to become a U.S. citizen, you are ready to move forward with the Application for Naturalization, Form N-400. The processing time taken by each U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) field office can vary and may take several months. These following are the general steps you can expect to take during the naturalization process.

    Prepare Form N-400, Application for Naturalization

    The current Form N-400 is available on the USCIS website. Be honest and completely truthful as failing to do so can result in the denial of your application. A denial can result from failing to tell the truth regarding issues that aren't directly determinative of your application for naturalization.

    Submit Form N-400, Application for Naturalization

    Make a copy of all the documents you have that you will be submitting to USCIS. In addition to the completed form, also include the following:
    • Two passport style photographs taken within the past 30 days;
    • The current filing fee (as of February 2014, $595 for the application and, if under age 75, $85 for the biometrics services) but do not send cash;
    • A copy of your Permanent Resident Card (Form-I-551);
    • Any other documents that may be required as a result of your answers in the application.

    Attend the Biometrics and Fingerprinting Appointment

    An appointment for fingerprinting and biometrics must be completed at the location that is specified in the letter you will receive from USCIS. Biometrics is the process of being able to identify people based upon their biological traits. At the appointment, you will be fingerprinted and have your picture taken. Drug testing is not part of the biometrics appointment, but it is possible that it could come up during the USCIS medical exam. Other tests, such as DNA testing, may be required when you have no birth certificate or a compelling need to confirm your identity. You are required to bring at least one method of photo identification issued from an official source to the biometrics appointment, e.g. a government issued driver's license or passport from your country of origin.

    Attend the Naturalization Interview and Test

    A USCIS officer will ask you questions about your application form and your background. You may need to bring additional documentation and discuss related issues. This could include any criminal history, your residence, your willingness to take the oath of allegiance to the United States, and the nature of your relationship with your spouse, if applicable.

    Unless granted a special waiver, you will be required to take and pass four tests. Three tests will determine whether you possess a basic ability to speak, read and write the English language. The fourth test consists of U.S. civics, which determines your understanding of U.S. history, the government and legal system and the rights and duties of citizenship. You must pass all four tests in order to become a U.S. citizen. In the event that you fail any of the tests at the interview, you will be given another opportunity between 60 and 90 days to pass the part(s) that you failed. It is highly suggested to use the USCIS English and civics test study guides.

    Receive the Decision on the Application for Naturalization

    You can expect to hear a final decision from USCIS on your application for naturalization within 120 days from the date of the interview. At the end of the interview, the officer must provide you with notice of the outcome, which may be to:
    • Approve the application

      The swearing in ceremony can take place shortly thereafter. Many applicants will receive a decision by mail.
    • Continue the application

      You are placed in a “hold” status for further review or resolution. You may have failed a test during the interview (which may require a retest within 60-90 days) or follow up is necessary, such as the need to provide additional documentation to the USCIS. The letter you receive should include all the information you need to complete the process.
    • Deny the application

      A letter of denial will include the reasons for being denied citizenship as well as information about the process of an appeal, should you wish to pursue.

    Attend the Naturalization Ceremony and Oath of Allegiance

    sample certificate of naturalization for citizenship.jpg
    After you’re approved by USCIS for citizenship, you’ll be schedule to take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony. This will complete the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. You might be able to take the oath on the same day as your interview. If this is unavailable, you will be mailed a notice with the time, date and location of the ceremony on a Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony.

    If you have one, you should be sure to bring your Permanent Resident Card, which you will be required to surrender when you check in. After taking the Oath of Allegiance, you will receive a Certificate of Naturalization (Form N-550) from USCIS. Make sure to review the certificate for any errors before leaving the ceremony. It is highly recommended that you apply for a U.S. passport through the U.S. Department of State shortly after you take the Oath of Allegiance. It make take some time before you receive your U.S. passport, so make sure to schedule travel appropriately.
    Immigration Law:
    Naturalization, Citizenship

    Michael M. Wechsler

    Michael M. Wechsler
    Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of TheLaw.com, A. Research Scholar at Columbia Business School and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at Zedge.net and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.

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