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Immigration Lawyer Chicago/ Investigations/ What is Naturalization? How to Apply for US Citizenship and Naturalization/ Form N-400, Application for Naturalization: U.S. Citizenship Application, Instructions, and Checklist
There is a difference between U.S. citizens and green card holders. Green card holders who are legally present in the U.S. must wait either three or five years before applying for citizenship, depending on their circumstances. The process by which a lawful permanent resident becomes a U.S. citizen after meeting the required criteria is called “naturalization.” To begin the naturalization process, you must complete an N-400 citizenship application.
Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, is a form green card holders use to apply for U.S. citizenship. They must meet specific requirements before filing, but a successful application will adjust their status from green card holder to lawful citizenship. If you are a green card holder looking to become a U.S. citizen, the N-400 naturalization application is a necessary step.
There are two ways to file an N-400 application: online or by mail. If you are filing from abroad or applying for a fee reduction, you must file by mail using the paper form. To apply online, you will need to create a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) account and you will sign your application electronically.
After you gather all the necessary documents for the N-400 Form, you must submit your citizenship application to the correct USCIS office. If you’re filing by mail, your materials will be sent to a USCIS location depending on the state you are in and the delivery company you mail through.
If your application is based on military service, you will likely have to send your N-400 documents to a special address. You can find more information on where to file on the USCIS N-400 page.
Below are some tips to help you file your N-400.
What To Do:
What Not To Do
In the first section, you’ll indicate the basis for your eligibility for naturalization, such as being a permanent resident for at least five years, being married to a U.S. citizen, or serving in the U.S. military. You’ll provide information about your continuous residence in the U.S., demonstrating that you meet the required period of residency and physical presence in the country.
In this section, you’ll provide basic information like your name, address, Social Security Number, USCIS online account number, birth date and country, gender, marital status, and race or ethnicity. Finally, you’ll indicate if you meet any qualifications for exemption from the English language test.
If you have a disability or impairment that requires special accommodations during the naturalization process, specify the type of accommodation needed (e.g., sign language interpreter, additional time for testing).
You’ll provide daytime, evening, work, and mobile phone numbers and your email address.
In this section, you must provide details about all the places you have lived in the last five years, including any residences in other countries. Begin with your current address and work your way back, listing the dates in a month, day, and year format (mm/dd/yyyy).
If your mailing address differs from your current residence, include it as well. It’s crucial to provide a complete and valid mailing address, as USCIS may be unable to contact you or return your Form N-400 fee if your address is incomplete or invalid.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, you do not need to disclose any confidential address. Instead, provide the city and state, and USCIS may ask for further information during the interview.
You’ll answer whether or not your parents were married before your 18th birthday. Then, you’ll give information about your parents, including their names, country of birth, birth dates, and the date they became U.S. citizens. You’ll skip this section if neither of your parents is a U.S. citizen.
In this section, you’ll provide information about your ethnicity, race, height, weight, eye color, and hair color. This information could reduce the time you spend at your USCIS biometrics appointment.
List your work, school (full-time or part-time), and any periods without a job over the past 5 years. Be sure to cover the whole 5-year period and include any time spent in the military, police, or intelligence services.
If it applies, start with your current or most recent job, study, or unemployment situation. Share the places and dates where you worked, ran your own business, didn’t have a job, or studied during the last 5 years. If you worked for yourself, just write “self-employed.” If you don’t have a job, write “unemployed.”
Indicate any time you left the country for more than one day within the last year. You will calculate the total number of days and the number of trips. You will also list all of the destinations.
In this part, you’ll provide information about all your marriages or domestic partnerships within the last five years. You will also include any previous marriages or domestic partnerships that ended during that time. Be sure to include the date and place of the marriage(s), date of separation, and date of death if applicable.
This section requires you to provide information about your children regardless of age, marital status, location, or whether they were adopted or born outside of the United States. You must provide details such as the child’s legal name, date of birth, country of birth, relationship to you, and current address.
This section contains 50 “Yes or No questions that you must answer. If any part of a question applies to you, answer “Yes.”
If you answer “Yes” to any of the questions in Item Numbers 1-44, you must provide a separate typed or printed explanation. You must also explain if you answer “No” to any question in item numbers 45-50.
Answering “Yes” or “No” will not automatically result in the denial of their application.
Hiring an immigration attorney familiar with the process can ensure your application is complete and accurate. Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C., can help you navigate naturalization. We understand the importance of submitting a complete application — one mistake can delay or even deny your case.
Contact us today for more information on N-400 filing and other citizenship concerns.
In Part 13, you’ll provide your signature. If you used an interpreter or preparer to help you with Form N-400, they will sign in their designated part of the application.
This part should only be completed if instructed by a USCIS officer during the interview. It pertains to individuals who answered “Yes” to Part 12, Items A and B in Item Number 4, indicating that they have a foreign hereditary title or order of nobility. The law requires you to renounce these titles during the oath ceremony to become a U.S. citizen
The Oath of Allegiance is a sworn statement required by the USCIS as part of the naturalization process.
The applicant must take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States during the naturalization ceremony. By taking the oath, the applicant swears to renounce any allegiance or loyalty to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty and pledges to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
The Oath of Allegiance is a solemn declaration that signifies the applicant’s commitment to the principles and values of the United States and the responsibilities that come with being a citizen. It is a vital part of the naturalization process and is taken very seriously by the USCIS.
A variety of supporting documents must be submitted along with your N-400 application. These can be mailed to a field office or, in the case of filing online, scanned into digital copies and uploaded to your USCIS account.
Some of the documents required as evidence with a Form N-400 include the following:
Some applicants must submit additional documents and their naturalization application, depending on the circumstances. Some of these documents might include the following:
Once you submit your N-400 Form, USCIS will review your application to ensure it is complete and you meet the eligibility requirements for naturalization. They may request additional information or documentation if needed.
After reviewing your application, USCIS will schedule an appointment to take your fingerprints. These fingerprints are used to conduct background checks to verify your identity and check for any criminal history.
If your background checks are cleared, USCIS will schedule a naturalization interview. To prepare for the interview, review the information on your N-400 Form, study for the English language and civics tests, and gather any additional documents requested by USCIS.
After the interview and tests, USCIS will decide on your application. You will receive a written notice of the decision. If your application is approved, you will be scheduled to take the Oath of Allegiance and become a U.S. citizen. If your application is denied, the notice will explain the reasons and inform you of your right to appeal the decision.
To qualify for an N-400 citizenship application, you must be 18 or older and already have a valid green card for five years. However, if you are married to a U.S. citizen, you only have to wait three years. These requirements do not apply if you are applying based on qualifying military service.
On top of the wait period requirement, you are also required to meet the following criteria:
For a more detailed list of eligibility requirements and criteria exemptions, check out the USCIS page on naturalization eligibility.
You cannot file an N-400 form if you lack any of the eligibility requirements. You are also restricted from filing an N-400 if you got your citizenship through a parent who is a U.S. citizen or if you are the child of a U.S. citizen who lives abroad.
Determining your N-400 eligibility can be a complicated process without any guidance. Hiring an immigration lawyer to walk you through the application process can reduce stress and increase the odds of a favorable outcome. Legal assistance can also help to speed up the process.
As of June 2023, the average processing time for an N-400 Form is just over 11 months. This process can take more or less time, depending on which USCIS field office receives the application. There are nearly 90 locations that process Form N-400 in the U.S. Some locations can take as little as seven months, and others as long as 22 months.
Applicants can also reduce the processing time by filing early. You can find the estimated wait time for your location using the USCIS Processing Times calculator.
Form N-400 has an early-filing rule allowing applicants to file the naturalization application up to 90 days before their three- or five-year wait period expires if they meet all the other eligibility requirements.
You can find your early filing date by checking the date on your green card, adding the applicable three or five years, then subtracting 90 days. While filing early gives you a head start on the process, you cannot become a full U.S. citizen until you complete the three- or five-year wait period.
Similar to other government forms, there is a filing fee for Form N-400. The government fee for filing one of these forms is $725. You’ll pay $640 for processing and $85 for additional biometrics services.
A biometrics appointment is where you will be fingerprinted and entered into the citizen database. Whether the application is approved or denied by USCIS, these fees are non-refundable.
If you cannot afford the filing fees, you can apply for a fee reduction based on special circumstances. If you qualify for a fee reduction, you will only have to pay $405; if you are eligible for a full fee waiver, you will not have to pay anything. Those in the military or are veterans also do not pay anything. Individuals 75 or older pay $640 instead of $725. They would only have to pay $320 in total with a fee reduction.
Our experienced immigration attorneys have years of experience working with individuals applying for naturalization. When you partner with Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C., our knowledge becomes your knowledge. We will guide you through the process and support you in getting your application approved.
If you or someone you know is trying to adjust from a green card holder to a U.S. citizen, contact our law firm by filling out our online form or calling us at (312) 444-1940 today.