Naturalization Explained In 10 Easy Steps
Different Paths to U.S. Citizenship
U.S. citizenship can be obtained in one of four ways:
- Birth in the United States or one of its territories
- Birth to U.S. citizen parents (called “acquisition” of citizenship)
- Naturalization (obtaining citizenship after an application and exam)
- Naturalization of one’s parents (called “derivation” of citizenship).
Benefits of U.S. Citizenship:
- U.S. citizenship gives a person a right to vote in U.S. state and federal elections
- Petition for family members to immigrate to the U.S.
- Can live abroad without losing the right to return
What is Naturalization?
Unless you qualify automatically for U.S. Citizenship by birth or through parents, you will need to apply to become a U.S. citizen, through a process known as naturalization
However, you need to have a green card (lawful permanent residence) for a number of years and meet other eligibility requirements.
We will Try to Breakdown the Process Into 10 Easy Steps:
Determine if You are Already a U.S. Citizen:
- Generally, people are born U.S. citizens if they are born in the United States or if they are born abroad to U.S. citizens
- You may also derive U.S. citizenship as a minor following the naturalization of one or both parents
There could one of these scenarios:
Were you born in the United States or a territory of the United States?
If yes, you may already be a U.S. citizen.
Is at least one of your parents a U.S. citizen?
- If yes, refer to Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship or Form N-600K, Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate for more information
- If you have a U.S. citizen parent who is a U.S. citizen by either birth or naturalization you may already be a citizen or may be able to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship based on their citizenship
If you are not a U.S. citizen by birth or did not acquire or derive U.S. citizenship from your parent(s) automatically after birth, go to STEP 2
Determine Your Eligibility to Become a U.S. Citizen
you may qualify for naturalization if you are at least 18 years old and have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years (or 3 years if you are married to a U.S. citizen) and meet all other eligibility requirements
Checklist for STEP 2
- Read Form N-400, Instructions for Application for Naturalization, available at uscis.gov/ n-400 to learn more about naturalization and eligibility requirements
- Visit the Citizenship Resource Center at uscis.gov/citizenship for information on the naturalization test and available study materials
- If you meet all requirements to become a U.S. citizen, complete Form N-400 to apply for naturalization
- Visit gov/n-400 for more information and instructions
Checklist for STEP 3
- Complete and sign your Form N-400
- Get 2 passport-style photos taken if you reside outside the United States
- Collect the necessary documents to demonstrate your eligibility for naturalization
- Review your Form N-400 and supporting documents
NOTE: USCIS may ask for additional information if your application is incomplete. This will delay the processing of your application
Submit Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
- Submit your application, documents, and fees to USCIS. If you reside outside the United States, submit passport-style photographs with your application.
- Once you submit Form N-400 and get a receipt notice, you can check current processing times and the status of your application by visiting gov.
Checklist for STEP 4
- Form N-400 and biometric services fees, if applicable
- Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions, if applicable
- If you are seeking an exception to the English and/or civics requirement for naturalization because of a physical or developmental disability or a mental impairment, submit Form N-648 with your package
- Any additional evidence demonstrating your eligibility for naturalization. Submit 2 passport-style photographs if you reside outside the United States
- Keep a copy of your completed Form N-400 and any supporting evidence for your records
- You will be required to answer questions about your Form N-400 at your naturalization interview
- Attend the biometrics appointment, if applicable
- USCIS requires applicants to be fingerprinted and photographed for the purpose of conducting Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) criminal background checks
- All applicants must have background checks completed before USCIS will schedule an interview
Checklist for STEP 5
- Receive an appointment notice that will include your biometrics appointment date, time, and location.
- Arrive at the designated location at the scheduled time
- Have your biometrics taken
- At a later date, you will receive an appointment notice for your naturalization interview.
Complete the interview.
- Once all the preliminary processes on your case are complete, USCIS will schedule an interview with you to complete the naturalization process
- You must report to the USCIS office at the date and time on your appointment notice
- Do not forget to bring the appointment notice with you
- It is very important not to miss your interview
- If you have to miss your interview, you should write to the office where your interview is to be conducted as soon as possible and ask to have your interview rescheduled
- Rescheduling an interview may add several months to the naturalization process, so make all attempts to attend your original interview date
What About an Address Change?
- You must notify USCIS if you change your address after filing your Form N-400 within 10 days of your relocation by filing Form AR-11, Change of Address, with USCIS
- For information on filing a change of address, go to the USCIS website at uscis.gov/ address change
- You must notify USCIS EVERY TIME you change your address.
What Can You Expect in the Interview?
- At the interview, you will meet with a USCIS officer and answer questions about your Form N-400
- If you are requesting a medical exception to the English and civics testing requirements, submit Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions, if you did not submit it at the time you filed your Form N-400.
- You will take the English and civics tests, unless exempt. Refer to Form N-400, Instructions for Application for Naturalization, for more information on exemptions
- Visit uscis.gov/citizenship for test preparation study materials.
- USCIS will provide you with a notice of interview results following your interview
- In some cases, the USCIS officer will not be able to make a decision on your Form N-400 the day of your naturalization interview
- In those cases, the USCIS officer will continue your case
- This may include a request for you to provide additional evidence or require a second interview
Receive a decision from USCIS on your Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
You will be issued a written notice of decision You will either Granted or Denied
- Granted—USCIS may approve your Form N-400 if the evidence on record establishes your eligibility for naturalization.
- Denied—USCIS will deny your Form N-400 if the evidence on record establishes you are not eligible for naturalization.
- Receive a notice to take the Oath of Allegiance
- You may be able to participate in the oath ceremony on the same day as your interview
- If a same day oath ceremony is unavailable, USCIS will mail you a notification with the date, time, and location of your scheduled oath ceremony
- If you cannot attend the oath ceremony on the day USCIS scheduled you, return the USCIS notice Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony, to your local USCIS office
- Include a letter explaining why you cannot attend the oath ceremony
- Ask USCIS to reschedule you
Take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States
- You are not a U.S. citizen until you take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony. The oath is administered by USCIS at an administrative ceremony or by a judge in a judicial ceremony. A court has exclusive authority to conduct the ceremonies in certain USCIS districts.
- You receive your Certificate of Naturalization after taking the Oath of Allegiance
Checklist For STEP 9
- Complete the questionnaire Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony
- Report for your oath ceremony
- Check-in with USCIS.
- A USCIS officer will review your responses to Form N-445
- Turn in your Permanent Resident Card
- Take the Oath of Allegiance to become a U.S. citizen
- Receive your Certificate of Naturalization and review it before leaving the ceremony site
- Notify USCIS of any corrections to your certificate at that time
- Citizenship is the common thread that connects all Americans
- Below is a list of some of the most important rights and responsibilities that all citizens—both Americans by birth and by choice— should exercise, honor, and respect
- While some of these responsibilities are legally required of every citizen, all are important to ensure the continued vitality of our country and democracy
- Freedom to express yourself.
- Freedom to worship as you wish.
- Right to a prompt, fair trial by jury
- Right to vote in elections for public officials
- Right to apply for federal employment requiring U.S. citizenship
- Right to run for elected office
- Freedom to pursue “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
- Support and defend the U.S. Constitution
- Stay informed of the issues affecting your community
- Participate in the democratic process
- Respect and obey federal, state, and local laws
- Respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others
- Participate in your local community
- Pay income and other taxes honestly, and on time, to federal, state, and local authorities
- Serve on a jury when called upon
- Defend the country if the need should arise
What Happens if my Application is “Continued?”
The most common reasons for continuation are:
- You have failed English and/or civics test
- USCIS will schedule you to come back for another interview within 60-90 days of your first interview
- USCIS will only retest you on the part (English or civics) that you failed
- USCIS will deny your Form N-400 if you fail the test(s) a second time
- The USCIS officer determines you need to provide additional documents/evidence
- USCIS may ask you to submit additional documents by giving you Form N-14, Request for Additional Information, Documents or Forms
- You will need to provide the additional documentation requested to continue the naturalization process
- You fail to provide USCIS the correct documents.
What If My Application Is Denied?
- You will receive a notice from USCIS explaining the reason for your Form N-400 denial
- If you believe that USCIS incorrectly denied your Form N-400, you may request a hearing to appeal this decision
Steps to Follow After Denial:
- The denial notice you receive will have instructions on how to appeal the USCIS decision by filing Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings
- Visit uscis.gov/n-336 for more information
- You MUST file Form N-336 with the appropriate fee within 30 days of the Form N-400 decision date
- If a request for hearing is not filed within the time allowed, the denial decision is final
Please Note: each case is different; it is important to analyze your situation carefully and discuss the available options with a reliable and experienced immigration lawyer. Schedule a consultation, today. You can also fill out this contact form and schedule your consultation with one of our attorneys, or Schedule a Consultation at 469-994-9407