Immigration Lawyer Chicago/ Investigations/ What is Naturalization? How to Apply for US Citizenship and Naturalization/ Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
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, 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.
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:
THINGS NOT TO DO:
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.
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:
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:
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:
For a more detailed list of eligibility requirements and criteria exemptions, check out the USCIS page on naturalization eligibility.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.