Naturalization Process: What to Expect from Start to Finish
Naturalization is the process through which someone is granted U.S. citizenship after they satisfy certain requirements.
In this guide, I will discuss the naturalization process from start to finish. If you have any questions, feel free to email me directly at Michael@AshooriLaw.com. I’m a U.S. immigration lawyer and I would be happy to answer your questions.
1. File Form N-400
2. Biometrics Appointment
3. Naturalization Interview
4. Oath of Allegiance
1. File Form N-400 (Application for Naturalization)
The first step in the naturalization process is to file the Form N-400 with USCIS. The N-400 is also known as the Application for Naturalization. This is the form used to apply for naturalization.
The N-400 can be filed online or you can print out a physically copy of the form and mail it to USCIS.
Before you file you N-400, you should make sure that you satisfy all of the naturalization requirements:
- Must be at least 18 years old
- Must be a U.S. lawful permanent resident
- Must have continuously resided in the United States as a permanent resident for the last 5 years (or 3 years in certain cases where you are married to a U.S. citizen)
- Must have resided in the same state for at least 3 months
- Must have been physically present in the U.S. as a permanent resident for at least half of the time over the last 5-year period (or 3-year period in certain cases where you are married to a U.S. citizen)
- Must demonstrate that you have been a person of good moral character over the last 5-year period (or 3-year period in certain cases where you are married to a U.S. citizen)
- Must demonstrate that you have an understanding of the English language
- Must take an exam to demonstrate that you have a basic knowledge of the form of government in the U.S. as well as U.S. history.
- Must take an oath that you will support and defend the U.S. constitution
Documentation to Provide with N-400
Assuming you satisfy the naturalization requirements, another important task is to make sure that you include the correct documents along with your naturalization application.
Each case is different and the correct documents to include with your application will depend on your particular situation. If you need any help determining which documents to include with your application, feel free to email me directly at Michael@AshooriLaw.com.
With that said, here are some of the documents that you may need to include with your application:
- 2 passport photos
- Copy of your green card
- Copy of your marriage certificate or divorce decree (if applicable)
Another very important aspect of the N-400 is the filing fee. It is very important to make sure that you submit the correct filing fee with your application, otherwise USCIS will likely reject your application.
At the time that this guide is being published, the naturalization filing fee is $640. Applicants under the age of 75 are also required to pay a biometric services fee of $75. So, the total naturalization fee is $75.
Naturalization Processing Time
The processing time for the Form N-400 is typically between 8-14 months. The average processing time for a naturalization application depends on your city and state of residence (where your naturalization application is filed).
- Under the “Form” section, enter “N-400.”
- Under the “Field Office or Service Center” section, enter the correct city and state.
2. Biometrics Appointment
After you file the Form N-400, the next step is to attend a mandatory biometrics appointment. If you are under the age of 75, you will be required to attend a biometrics appointment. At the biometrics appointment, your fingerprints will be taken digitally. Even if you’ve recently had your biometrics taken by USCIS, you are still required to attend the biometrics appointment.
Biometrics Appointment Notice
About 4-6 weeks after you file the Form N-400, you will receive a biometrics appointment notice in the mail. The biometrics appointment notice will specify the date, time, and location of your biometrics appointment. If you need to reschedule the appointment for any reason, there are also instructions on the notice for how to reschedule the appointment.
The biometrics appointment is usually scheduled to take place about 7 to 14 days from the day you receive the appointment notice in the mail.
Important Points About the Biometrics Appointment
- Make sure to arrive on time to your appointment
- Bring the original biometrics appointment with you to your biometrics appointment
- Bring a valid state/government issued photo ID will you to the biometrics appointment
- This appointment should be quick and easy
3. Naturalization Interview
One of the most important parts of the naturalization process is the naturalization interview. Failure to appear at this interview may result in a denial of your application or an administrative closure of your application.
Appointment Notice for Naturalization Interview
About 4 to 8 months after filing your N-400 application for naturalization, you will receive a notice in the mail of your upcoming naturalization interview. The appointment notice will specify the date, time, and place of the interview.
What Happens at the Naturalization Interview?
Once you arrive at the interview, the USCIS officer who will be interviewing you will introduce themselves and explain the purpose of the interview. The officer will then place you under oath.
Questioning Regarding Eligibility
Once you are under oath, the substantive part of the interview will begin. The officer will review your Form N-400 and ask you questions about your background, immigration history, travel in and out of the U.S., character, and various other questions. These questions are designed to make sure that you are satisfy all of the naturalization requirements.
Following the officer’s questioning regarding your naturalization application, the officer will then administer an English test.
The English test is designed to determine your ability to speak, read, and write regular English. Your ability to speak is typically determined based on your ability to respond and answer the USCIS officer’s questions during the interview. To determine your ability to read, the USCIS officer will ask you to read one of three sentences out loud. Similarly, to determine your ability to write, the USCIS officer will require you to write one of three sentences.
Certain individuals may be exempt from the English test.
Following the English test is the civics test. The civics test is designed to test your knowledge of U.S. government and U.S. history. There are 100 potential questions that the officer may ask you. The officer will ask 10 questions from the list. You must answer at least six of the questions correctly to pass the civics test.
What Happens if You Fail the English or Civics Test?
If you fail either the English or the civics test, you will be rescheduled to come back for another interview where you will be tested again. If you fail for a second time, your application is denied.
Documents to Take with you to the Naturalization Interview
Here is a general list of some of the documents you may be required to take to the naturalization interview:
- Permanent resident card
- State-Issued I.D. card or driver’s license
- Marriage certificate (if applicable)
- Evidence of name change (if applicable)
- Tax returns for the past 5 years (or 3 years in certain cases)
- Evidence that you maintained continuous residence in the U.S.
4. Oath of Allegiance
Within a few weeks after your naturalization interview, you should receive a notice to attend your Oath of Allegiance ceremony.
The Oath of Allegiance is a very important step in the naturalization process. At this ceremony you will take an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution as well as the laws of the United States, among other things.
Certain individuals may be exempt from the oath ceremony or may qualify to undertake a modified oath.
Following successful completion of the oath ceremony, the naturalization process is complete.
Naturalization is the process through which someone is granted U.S. citizenship based on satisfying certain requirements. The naturalization process has 4 main steps that are very important to the overall success of your application.
Here are the 4 main steps in the naturalization process:
- The first step is to file the Form N-400 with USCIS;
- After the N-400 is filed, you will attend a biometrics appointment to have your fingerprints taken;
- After the biometrics appointment, you will attend a naturalization interview, where a USCIS officer will review your application, ask you various questions, and administer an English and civics test;
- Following the naturalization interview, you will take an Oath of Allegiance.
If you have any questions regarding the naturalization process, please feel free to email me directly at Michael@AshooriLaw.com.
- AILA’s Guide to U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Law
- Gatekeeping the American Dream: The Importance of the Naturalization Interview to Achieving Citizenship and Full Integration into American Life by Dree K. Collopy
- The Oath of Allegiance by Gary Endelman and Cyrus D. Mehta
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Michael Ashoori, Esq.
U.S. Immigration Lawyer
I’m a U.S. immigration lawyer and I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States.
Since starting my law firm, I’ve helped hundreds of people from all over the world with their immigration needs. I’m very passionate, hard-working, and committed to my clients.
Got a question? Send me an email.