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Want to file your citizenship application with USCIS?

This article discusses USCIS Form N-400 from eligibility, fees, steps, and processing time, the citizenship interview, oath ceremony, and obtaining a citizenship certificate.

U.S. Citizenship Application – Form N-400

Officially known as an Application for Naturalization, Form N-400 has 18 parts.

Its purpose is to collect basic biographical information to determine whether you meet all eligibility requirements to become a naturalized citizen.

U.S. Citizenship Application Checklist

USCIS requires you to submit the following documents with Form N-400:

  • Photographs (if you live outside the U.S.);
  • Photocopy of Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551) (green card);
  • Photocopy of your Current Legal Marital Status Document (if applicable);
  • Documents for Military Personnel or Spouses of Military Personnel (if applicable):
    • Form N-426 (Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service);
    • Evidence of Military Service (DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty); or
    • Military Personnel Spouses have other requirements (see www.uscis.gov/military);

SelfLawyer recommends that you make a copy of Form N-400 after you complete it and carefully review your answers before your USCIS citizenship interview.

Your interview will be based on the answers given on Form N-400 and information in any document provided.

Inconsistent answers will raise questions with your USCIS interview officer, and may result in your application’s delay or denial.

U.S. Citizenship Application Eligibility

If you meet all naturalization requirements, you can complete and submit an N-400 naturalization application.

Regardless of the category on which your N-400 application is based, every applicant must:

  • Have good moral character;
  • Know basic English and civics; and
  • Express an attachment to the U.S. Constitution (take an oath of allegiance).

Over 90% of persons applying for naturalization fall into one of the following categories: 

Permanent Resident (Green Card Holder)

As a lawful permanent resident, you may apply for naturalization if:

  • You are at least 18 years old;
  • You have maintained lawful permanent resident (green card) status for at least five years;
  • You have no special circumstances that would deny your application;
  • You have not traveled outside the U.S. for trips of six months or longer in the past five years;
  • You have maintained a physical presence in the U.S. for at least 30 months in the past five years; and
  • You have maintained a residence in the State or USCIS district for at least three months before your application.

Married to U.S. Citizen

If you are married to a U.S. citizen, you may apply for naturalization if:

  • You are at least 18 years old;
  • You are married to and living with the same U.S. citizen for at least three years;
  • Your spouse has been a U.S. citizen for at least three years;
  • You have maintained lawful permanent resident (green card) status for at least three years;
  • You have no special circumstances that would deny your application;
  • You have not traveled outside the United States for trips of six months or longer in the past three years;
  • You have maintained a physical presence in the U.S. for at least 18 months in the past three years; and
  • You have maintained a residence in the State or USCIS district for at least three months before submitting your application.

Military Service – More Than One Year

If you are in the U.S. military, you may apply for naturalization if:

  • You are at least 18 years old;
  • You are in the U.S. Armed Forces and served for at least one year (or will file your application within six months of an honorable discharge); and
  • You will be a permanent resident at the time of your interview.

Military Service – Less Than One Year or More Than Six Months From Discharge

If you were in the U.S. military, you may apply for naturalization if:

  • You are at least 18 years old;
  • You were in the U.S. Armed Forces for less than one year or were discharged more than six months ago;
  • You have maintained lawful permanent resident (green card) status for at least five years;
  • You have not traveled outside the United States for trips of six months or longer in the past five years (military travel is not counted);
  • You have not traveled outside the United States for trips of six months or longer in the past five years (military travel is not counted); and
  • You have maintained a residence in the State or USCIS district for at least three months before your application.

U.S. Citizenship Application Fees

As of April 2020, your N-400 cost will equal $725.00:

  • Application fee: $640.00
  • Biometric fee: $85.00

These fees are non-refundable regardless of whether USCIS grants or denies your application.

If you are 75 years of age or older or serving in the military, you are exempt from biometric fees.

Request for Waiver of Fees

If your family’s total income is equal to or below 150% of the U.S. Poverty Guideline levels, you may be eligible to have all your N-400 and associated biometric fees waived or reduced.

To request a waiver, file Form I-912 (Request for Waiver of Fees) and all supporting documentation.

To request a reduction in fees, file Form I-942 (Request for Reduced Fees) and all supporting documentation.

U.S. Citizenship Application Processing Time

Generally, it will take anywhere from 8 to 14 months for USCIS to process your application and give you either a “grant,” “continued,” or “deny” answer.

Form N-400 Processing Time

Application center Processing time
Agana GU 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Albany NY 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Albuquerque NM 5 Months to 5.5 Months
Anchorage AK 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Atlanta GA 4.5 Months to 27 Months
Baltimore MD 7 Months to 23.5 Months
Boise ID 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Boston MA 5.5 Months to 13 Months
Brooklyn NY 9.5 Months to 17.5 Months
Buffalo NY 4.5 Months to 8.5 Months
Charleston SC 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Charlotte Amalie VI 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Charlotte NC 5 Months to 15 Months
Chicago IL 5.5 Months to 15 Months
Christiansted VI 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Cincinnati OH 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Cleveland OH 4 Months to 6.5 Months
Columbus OH 5 Months to 8 Months
Dallas TX 10.5 Months to 39.5 Months
Denver CO 6 Months to 12.5 Months
Des Moines IA 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Detroit MI 6 Months to 11 Months
El Paso TX 5 Months to 7.5 Months
Fort Myers FL 5.5 Months to 8.5 Months
Fort Smith AR 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Fresno CA 5 Months to 7.5 Months
Greer SC 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Harlingen TX 4.5 Months to 6.5 Months
Hartford CT 8.5 Months to 21.5 Months
Helena MT 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Hialeah FL 3.5 Months to 8 Months
Honolulu HI 6 Months to 12.5 Months
Houston TX 13.5 Months to 45 Months
Imperial CA 7.5 Months to 9.5 Months
Indianapolis IN 7 Months to 13.5 Months
Jacksonville FL 5.5 Months to 11 Months
Kansas City MO 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Kendall FL 4.5 Months to 10 Months
Las Vegas NV 10.5 Months to 19.5 Months
Lawrence MA 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Long Island NY 7 Months to 18.5 Months
Los Angeles CA 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Los Angeles County CA 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Louisville KY 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Manchester NH 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Memphis TN 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Miami FL 7.5 Months to 26.5 Months
Milwaukee WI 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Minneapolis-St. Paul MN 8.5 Months to 16 Months
Montgomery AL 5.5 Months to 16 Months
Mount Laurel NJ 7.5 Months to 14 Months
Nashville TN 9 Months to 15 Months
Newark NJ 10 Months to 18 Months
New Orleans LA 8 Months to 21 Months
New York City NY 12.5 Months to 28 Months
Norfolk VA 7.5 Months to 11 Months
Oakland Park FL 4 Months to 16.5 Months
Oklahoma City OK 6 Months to 9.5 Months
Omaha NE 5 Months to 12.5 Months
Orlando FL 7.5 Months to 13 Months
Philadelphia PA 8 Months to 14.5 Months
Phoenix AZ 6.5 Months to 12 Months
Pittsburgh PA 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Portland ME 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Portland OR 7 Months to 12 Months
Providence RI 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Queens NY 10 Months to 15.5 Months
Raleigh NC 4 Months to 7.5 Months
Reno NV 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Sacramento CA 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Saint Albans VT 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Saint Louis MO 5.5 Months to 8.5 Months
Salt Lake City UT 7 Months to 16.5 Months
San Antonio TX 6 Months to 9.5 Months
San Bernardino CA 7.5 Months to 17 Months
San Diego CA 7.5 Months to 17 Months
San Fernando Valley CA 7.5 Months to 17 Months
San Francisco CA 7.5 Months to 17 Months
San Jose CA 7.5 Months to 17 Months
San Juan PR 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Santa Ana CA 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Seattle WA 11 Months to 19 Months
Spokane WA 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Tampa FL 5 Months to 11 Months
Tucson AZ 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Washington DC 9 Months to 21 Months
West Palm Beach FL 7 Months to 11.5 Months
Wichita KS 7.5 Months to 17 Months
Yakima WA 7.5 Months to 17 Months

After filing your application, you can always check the statute of your case online through the USCIS website: https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/landing.do

An approximate timeline of the N-400 processing steps occur in the following order:

  • USCIS will notify you of the receipt of your N-400 application (about two to three weeks after filing);
  • You will receive a notice that USCIS has scheduled you a biometrics appointment (about three to five weeks after filing);
  • Your biometrics appointment (about five to eight weeks after filing);
  • Receive notice of scheduled USCIS interview (about four to eight months after filing);
  • Your USCIS naturalization interview (about six to ten months after filing);
  • Receive N-400 Results through Form I-652 (Naturalization Interview Results) (on the date of your interview or within a few weeks);
  • If your application was approved, you will receive a notice of your Oath Ceremony (about one to four weeks after the interview).

Some of the reasons your application might be delayed are:

  • Failure to complete N-400 properly;
  • Failure to completely answer every question;
  • Failure to sign your N-400 application;
  • Failure to comply with requests for documentation or other information from USCIS;
  • Failing to appear or rescheduling your biometric appointment; and/or
  • Failing to appear or rescheduling of your USCIS interview.

U.S. Citizenship Application – Step-By-Step Guide

The steps required to complete your Form N-400 application are:

Step #1: Complete Your N-400 Form

Completing your application is the first step in the naturalization process.

It is important that you complete your application correctly, provide the information required on your application, and provide USCIS with all supporting documentation.

SelfLawyer can help with your N-400 application process.

Let a SelfLawyer lawyer review all your USCIS documents to guarantee proper filing (immigration attorney review is included).

Step # 2: Attend Your Biometrics Appointment

During your biometrics appointment, you will be required to sign an oath reaffirming that:

  • You provided or authorized all information in the application;
  • You reviewed and understood all the information contained in, and submitted with your application; and 
  • All of this information is correct.

Then a USCIS officer will take your photograph and fingerprints.

You will be asked a series of questions that you must answer truthfully.

This information will be sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) so a background check may be performed. 

You will not be scheduled for a USCIS interview until the FBI completes its background investigation.

Things you need to bring to your biometrics appointment include:

  • USCIS Form I-797C (Notice of Appointment),
  • Permanent resident card (green card), and
  • A second form of identification (state driver’s license, passport, or some other form of a state-issued ID).

Step # 3: Supply USCIS with Requested Documentation

Sometimes, the USCIS will notify you that other documents need to be provided or a second biometrics appointment is required.

It could be caused by several factors, including:

  • Your failure to supply the necessary documentation with your original N-400 application, 
  • Your fingerprints taken during your original biometric appointment were faulty, or
  • Your FBI background check raised a question.

Most of the time, these requests for more information are nothing to be concerned about.

The sooner you supply this requested documentation, the sooner the USCIS can complete the processing of your application.

Step # 4: Attend Your USCIS Citizenship Interview

After you have provided USCIS with all documentation, and after the FBI has completed its background check, you will be required to attend your citizenship interview.

Be sure to attend your interview on the scheduled date.

Failure to attend, or the rescheduling of your interview, will cause a delay in the processing of your application.

More about the USCIS citizenship interview is found in this article below.

Step # 5: Receive a Final Decision on Your Citizenship Application

The USCIS will give you one of three decisions regarding your N-400 application:

  • Granted – USCIS has officially approved your application;
  • Continued – If your application is continued, it simply means that your application is placed on hold, and will take more time because:
    • You did not pass at least part of your citizenship exam and you will be scheduled a second interview appointment to retake this exam (failing a second time will deny your application); or
    • You failed to provide proper documentation thus, USCIS will send you Form N-14 (Request for Evidence) which lists the necessary information to provide within 30 days; or
  • Denied – USCIS found that the evidence in the record establishes that you do not qualify for naturalization. You will receive a letter explaining why this decision was made (if you feel this decision is in error, you have a right to appeal).

Step # 6: Take the Oath of Allegiance and Receive Your Certificate of Naturalization

You are not a U.S. citizen until you take the Oath of Allegiance.

Whether this Oath is taken the day of your interview or at some point later, you will also receive a Certificate of Naturalization.

More on the Oath of Allegiance and Certificate of Naturalization is found in this article below. 

U.S. Citizenship Interview 

Your USCIS citizenship interview will be scheduled at a USCIS office near where you live.

It’s important that you show up to your interview on the scheduled date and at least 30 minutes early (you will have to be processed into the USCIS office).

Rescheduling your interview date or simply failing to appear will add months to processing your application.

You should bring the following documents to your USCIS interview:

  • Your Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551) (green card);
  • State-issued Identification;
  • Passport and Travel Document;
  • Evidence of Your Current Legal Marital Status;
  • Evidence of the Termination of Your Spouse(s) Prior Marriage(s) (if applicable);
  • Name Changes(s) (if applicable);
  • Depending on your circumstances, you may be required to submit documents on:
    • Spouse’s U.S. Citizenship Status;
    • Spouse’s Employment outside the United States;
    • Any Dependent Children and Support Thereof;
    • Tax Returns and Overdue Taxes;
    • Any Trips You’ve Taken Outside the U.S.;
    • Selective Service Registration; and/or
    • Information about Arrests and/or Convictions.

Citizenship Interview

When you receive Form N-797C (Notice of Action) of your interview date and time, USCIS will also give you a list of documents you will be required to bring to your interview. 

It’s important to bring the requested documents, failure to do so will cause the rescheduling of your interview, and add months to the approval of your application.

Prior to your interview, carefully review the answers you gave on your N-400 application, any documentation you provided, and any additional documentation USCIS asked you to bring.

Most questions asked by your USCIS interviewing officer will come directly from these documents.

During your interview, the USCIS officer will check your identification and place you under oath before asking you about:

  • Your background;
  • Evidence you presented supporting your case;
  • Where you live and for how long;
  • Your character;
  • Your attachment to the U.S. Constitution; and
  • Your willingness to take an oath of allegiance.

Part of your English test is your ability to understand the USCIS officer in English and reply in English.

If you don’t understand something, it’s okay to ask questions, but be sure to give your answers in as clear English as possible.

U.S. Citizenship Exam

One of the requirements for naturalization is to take the naturalization test to demonstrate that you are able to read, write, and speak basic English and that you have a basic knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics).

Your citizenship exam will be given on the same day as your interview.

In the civics part of the test, you will be asked up to ten questions, you must answer six questions correctly.

You may be exempt from the English language test if:

  • At the time of filing your Form N-400, you are 50 years of age and have lived in the U.S. as a permanent resident for periods totaling at least 20 years;
  • At the time of filing your Form N-400, you are 55 years of age or older and have lived in the U.S. as a permanent resident for periods totaling at least 15 years; or
  • At the time of filing your Form N-400, you are 65 years of age or older and have lived in the U.S. as a permanent resident for periods totaling at least 20 years.

Even if you are excused from taking the English part of the test, you will still have to take the civics test, though you may do so in the language of your choice.

You may be exempt from both the English and civics test if you have a physical disability or mental impairment that has lasted, or is expected to last, 12 months or more. 

USCIS has various study guides and other materials available to help you with your citizenship test.

These materials include the 100 civics (history and government) questions and answers; reading and writing vocabulary list; Civics Flash Cards; and the study booklet: Learn About the United States: Quick Civics Lessons.

You can get this USCIS study material for free at https://www.uscis.gov/citizenship/learners/study-test/study-materials-civics-test

Also, in many U.S. cities, there are both private organizations and governmental agencies (local schools, state universities, and other non-governmental organizations) that will help you prepare for your citizenship test through on-site and Internet classes, study material, and even individualized tutoring.

U.S. Citizenship Oath Ceremony

You cannot become a U.S. citizen without taking the Oath.

The Oath of Allegiance to the United States is a requirement that every applicant must take.

No preparation for the Oath Ceremony is necessary.

A copy of the Oath will be provided to you upon arrival.

When taking the Oath, USCIS forbids the wearing of jeans, shorts, and flip-flops at the Ceremony.

You will be required to bring the following documents to your Ceremony:

  • Your Permanent Resident Card (green card) (Form I-551);
  • Your USCIS Notice of Appointment (Form N-445);
  • A second form of a government-issued photo ID;
  • USCIS-issued travel documents (inapplicable); and
  • Other documents requested by USCIS.

When you check-in, you will be provided:

  • A welcome packet;
  • An American flag;
  • A Citizen’s Almanac; and
  • A pocket-sized pamphlet of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution.

By taking the Oath, you are promising to fulfill the following duties:

  • Support and defend the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the United States against its enemies;
  • Give up allegiance to any other nation or sovereign, and renounce any hereditary or noble titles; and
  • Provide military or civilian service when called upon by the government.

U.S. Citizenship/Naturalization Certificate

Once you’ve taken the Oath of Allegiance, you’ll receive your Certificate of Naturalization.

Immediately, check your Certificate for errors.

If you notice any, bring it to a USCIS officer’s attention before leaving the Oath Ceremony.

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