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Form N-400, Application for Naturalization

Form N-400, Application for 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. The process by which a U.S. citizen becomes a lawful permanent resident upon meeting the required criteria is called “naturalization.” To begin the process of naturalization, the individual is required to fill out an N-400 citizenship application.

Form N-400, Application for Naturalization

Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, is a form green card holders use to apply for U.S. citizenship. They must meet certain requirements before filing, but a successful application will adjust their status 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.

Form N-400 Instructions

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. You will need to create a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) account to file online and sign your application electronically.

After all the necessary documents have been gathered and put into the N-400, you will need to 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.

THINGS TO DO:

  • Only use black ink to fill out your application if using the paper form. USCIS is particular about the color of ink.
  • Provide translations if any of your documents are not in English, this will help USCIS by removing an extra step for them.
  • Make copies of your N-400 and review them before filing. Not only is it important to make sure you have the correct information, you should also know your answers for the citizenship interview; many of the questions will be based on your application.

THINGS NOT TO DO:

  • Don’t submit extra information that isn’t necessary to the application. The instructions tell you what you need to include as a photocopy or an original. If you submit the wrong variation, it may cause a problem for USCIS or you may lose your document.
  • Don’t make too many edits or additional marks on your application. If you need to change or repair something, it’s best to use a completely new form. USCIS typically scans answers, and additional marks, fluid, or tape can ultimately lead to processing delays.
  • DO NOT FORGET TO SIGN. A missing detail can lead to a complete denial of your application. If USCIS receives your application with no signature on it, they will reject it and you will have to reapply with another filing fee.

Hiring an immigration attorney who is familiar with the process can ensure that you do the right things and don’t do the wrong things.

Form N-400 Required Documents

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 From N-400 include the following:

  • A copy of both sides of your I-551, Permanent Resident Card (typically called a “green card”)
  • An application fee payment; this can be done via check, money order, or credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions)

Depending on the circumstances, some applicants will also be required to submit additional documents along with their naturalization application. Some of these documents might include the following:

  • If you live abroad and are applying from out of the country, you’ll need two 2×2 in. passport-style photos.
  • If you’re currently married or were previously married, you’ll need proof of that marriage in the form of a marriage certificate, annulment certificate, spousal death certificate, or divorce papers.
  • If you’re applying based on military service, you’ll need to submit Form N-426, Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service.
  • If you’re applying for a U.S. citizenship test exemption due to a qualifying medical condition, you’ll need to submit Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions.

Who Is Eligible to File a Form N-400?

To qualify for an N-400 citizenship application you must be 18 years of age or older and have already had a valid green card for five years; you only have to wait three years if you are married to a U.S. citizen. These requirements do not apply if you are applying on the basis of qualifying military service.

On top of the wait period requirement, you are also required to meet the following criteria:

  • You must be 18 years or older.
  • You must have been a resident for at least three months in the state in which you plan to apply for citizenship.
  • You must serve in the U.S. military or perform necessary services if called to do so.
  • You cannot have taken trips longer than six months outside of the U.S. during your green card waiting period.
  • You must measure up to the standards of average citizens in your community. In other words, you must have “good moral character,” which means you did not have certain types of crimes on your file before filing. You must also tell the truth during your naturalization interview. This requirement is decided by USCIS on a case-by-case basis.
  • You must pass a two-part naturalization test: a civics test about U.S. history/government and an English language test covering writing, speaking, and reading skills.
  • You must be ready and willing to defend the U.S. Constitution.
  • If you are a male between the ages of 18 and 25 who lived in the U.S., you are required to register with the Selective Service System, which functions as a draft in the case of an emergency.

For a more detailed list of eligibility requirements and criteria exemptions, check out the USCIS page on naturalization eligibility. 

Who Is Not Eligible to File a Form N-400?

You are not able to file an N-400 form if you are lacking any of these 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 difficult process without any guidance. Hiring an immigration lawyer to walk you through the application process can reduce the stress and increase the odds of a favorable outcome. Legal assistance can also help to speed up the process.

Form N-400 Timeline: How Long to Process an N-400 Form?

As of June 2021, the average processing time for an N-400 Form is just over 12 months. This process can take more or less time depending on which USCIS field office receives the application. Applicants are also able to reduce the processing time by filing early.

Filing Early for an N-400

Form N-400 has an early-filing rule which allows applicants to file the naturalization application up to 90 days before the end of their green card holder’s wait periods. As long as you meet all the other eligibility requirements, this allows you to apply before your three- or five-year wait period expires.

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 are not able to become a full U.S. citizen until your three- or five-year wait period has ended.

N-400 Cost: How Much Is it to File an N-400 Form?

Similar to other government forms, there is a filing fee for Form N-400 as well. As of right now, the government fee to file one of these forms is $725 in total. That’s $640 for processing and $85 for additional biometrics services. A biometrics appointment is where you will be fingerprinted and entered into the citizen database. Regardless of whether the application is approved or denied by USCIS, these fees are both nonrefundable.

If you are unable to 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, and if you qualify for a full fee waiver, you will not have to pay anything. Those who are in the military or are a veteran also do not have to pay anything. Individuals age 75 or older pay $640 in total instead of $725. With a fee reduction, they would only have to pay $320 in total.

How Scott D. Pollock & Associates P.C. Will Help With Your N-400

Our experienced immigration attorneys have years of experience working with individuals applying for naturalization. When you partner with us, our knowledge becomes your knowledge. We will guide you through the process and support you in an effort to get 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.

We're looking forward to hearing from you!