10 Steps to Naturalization

Updated on January 4, 2024

At a Glance

  • Check eligibility.
  • Complete Form N-400.
  • Obtain two recent photographs.
  • Make photocopies of required documents.

Getting naturalized and becoming a U.S. citizen is a dream for many people. Rightly so, because a U.S. citizenship grants new rights and benefits to those lucky enough to obtain it.

In this article, we’ll explain how to get naturalized in 10 steps. If you follow these steps, then U.S. citizenship might not be that far off in the distance.

10 Steps to Naturalization

Step 1: Check Eligibility for U.S. Citizenship

Before you consider getting naturalized, you need to check whether or not you are eligible for the process. The USCIS has set criteria for determining your citizenship eligibility.

If you were born in the U.S. or born abroad to U.S. citizens, then you’re automatically granted U.S. citizenship. If anyone of your parents are U.S. citizens or are naturalized, then you’re required to fill out Form N-600 or Form N-600K, which is the Application for Certificate of Citizenship and the Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate, respectively.

However, if you do not satisfy any of the above conditions and are applying for U.S. citizenship, you need to meet the following requirements:

  • You must have a valid green card to prove that you are a lawful permanent resident.
  • You’re a spouse of a U.S. citizen for at least three years.
  • You have served in the U.S. military.

Click here for a full list of conditions and additional details regarding U.S. citizenship eligibility.

Step 2: Complete Form N-400

After you’ve gone through the eligibility check, go ahead and file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, provided by the USCIS.

This form will ask you to provide your personal details, past details (both personal and residential), parents, employment (both past and present), education, time spent outside the U.S. while on a green card, marital history, and information about your spouse and children (if any).

Remember to download the most recent and updated copy of Form N-400 from the USCIS website and fill out each and every question that applies to you. Incomplete forms often face delays and rejection.

Follow this link for the form.

Step 3: Obtain Two Photographs

Along with Form N-400, you also need to submit two photographs of yourself. They must be recent (ideally taken within a week’s time frame and no later than 30 days) and should match your current facial characteristics like a haircut, beard, mustache, etc. Your face must be clearly shown in the photo from your chin to the top-of-the-head with no covering on your head (except for religious reasons).

Additionally, these photographs should be passport-sized with the U.S. standard dimension of 2 X 2 inches or 5 X 5 cm. The color scheme can be full color or black and white with a light or white background accompanying the photo.

Step 4: Photocopy Documents

You need to submit multiple documents along with Form N-400. All of them should be photocopies and not originals. Don’t use your original documents since you’ll be sending them via mail because there is a chance they can get lost or destroyed in the process.

You will, however, be asked to bring in your originals with you for verification purposes. The primary documents required are photocopies of your green card (both front and back), passport, visa, birth certificate, etc. If you have documents in any language other than English, you should get them translated first and submit a photocopy.

Step 5: Send Your Application Package

After you’ve filled out Form N-400 and gathered all the documents, it’s time to send them to the USCIS office. When sending, make sure to enter the correct address. Also, you need to send an application fee of around $725, which includes the biometric verification fee. You can create a money order or write a check for this purpose.

Step 6: Get Fingerprinted

USCIS officials will go over your application, submitted documents, and the check you wrote. After everything is in place, and your application has been accepted, you’ll be called in for a biometric verification at a designated USCIS office.

You’ll be asked to provide your fingerprints. These will be used by various U.S. law enforcement agencies to run a criminal background check on you. If they find a major crime, your application will be rejected instantly. If they find a minor crime, your application might get delayed, but chances are you will pass.

You will be asked to bring your original documents along with you to your fingerprinting appointment.

Step 7: Attend Naturalization Interview

After the fingerprint session, an interview will be scheduled with the USCIS, where you will be asked a series of questions. You’ll be notified of the date, place, and time once it’s scheduled. When attending the interview, it is advised to arrive at the designated office 30 minutes in advance.

A part of the interview will feel like the continuation of the fingerprinting session. Interviewers will, for the last time, go over your N-400 form and confirm the answers with you verbally. They will also gauge your character, morals, stance towards U.S. rules and policies, and willingness to take the oath. Answer all questions in a straightforward manner, factually, and in line with the answers you gave in the form.

Step 8: Take English and Civics Test

USCIS officials will check your ability to understand, read, write, and speak English. This doesn’t directly influence the application process but is still crucial for officials. The civics test is more important. You will be asked about U.S. laws and regulations, ranging from paying taxes to driving laws.

Therefore, before attending the interview, it’s important to study by reading a few books on this topic and building your knowledge base of U.S. laws. And that will be the end of the application process.

Step 9: Wait for a Decision

After the interview, the USCIS will make a decision on whether or not to grant citizenship to you based on the information you’ve provided and the questions you’ve answered during the interview. There can be three possibilities.

First, you may get accepted and become a U.S. citizen. Second, your application may get rejected, and you’ll be asked to leave the country after your visa expires. Third, the case may continue, and they’ll ask you for further information or schedule a few more appointments.

Step 10: Take the Oath

If your application is accepted, you’ll be asked to attend an oath ceremony and take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. After this, you’ll be provided with your Certificate of Naturalization, meaning you’re officially a U.S. citizen.

What Happens Next?

After you’ve been naturalized, it’s important to spend some time understanding U.S. citizenship and the responsibilities that come with it. You should exercise, honor, and respect the U.S. constitution and obey all the laws of the country. You’ll also be awarded the same rights as all U.S. citizens, such as the freedom of speech and the freedom to follow your religion. Please follow this link for more information on U.S. citizenship sessions.

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Conclusion

These are the steps you need to take to get naturalized and enjoy all the rights and freedoms of a U.S. citizen. Got any queries? Let us know in the comments below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. What Is Naturalization?

Naturalization is the process by which a foreign national becomes a citizen of the United States. It grants individuals all the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship, including the ability to vote and obtain a U.S. passport.

2. Who Is Eligible for Naturalization?

To be eligible for naturalization, you must meet certain criteria, including:

  • Being a lawful permanent resident (green card holder).
  • Having resided continuously in the U.S. for a specific period (usually 5 years, but less if married to a U.S. citizen).
  • Demonstrating good moral character.
  • Passing a U.S. government and history test.
  • Meeting English language proficiency requirements.

3. How Long Does the Naturalization Process Take?

The naturalization process timeline can vary, but it typically takes around 8 to 14 months from the time you submit your application to becoming a U.S. citizen. Delays may occur due to individual circumstances or processing times.

4. What Documents Are Required for Naturalization?

Common documents required for naturalization include:

  • Green card (permanent resident card).
  • Passport-sized photos.
  • Marriage certificate (if applicable).
  • Tax returns and financial records.
  • Proof of English language proficiency and U.S. history knowledge.
  • Proof of residence and employment history.

5. How Much Does Naturalization Cost?

As of my knowledge cutoff date in January 2022, the application fee for naturalization was $725, including a $640 application fee and an $85 biometric services fee. Fee waivers may be available for certain eligible applicants.

6. Can I Lose My Green Card if I Apply for Naturalization?

Applying for naturalization does not automatically result in the loss of your green card. However, if your naturalization application is approved, you will become a U.S. citizen and no longer hold permanent resident status.

7. Can I Travel While My Naturalization Application Is Pending?

Yes, you can generally travel while your naturalization application is pending. However, it’s important to ensure that you meet all travel requirements and maintain your continuous residence in the U.S. during the application process.

8. What Happens During the Naturalization Interview?

During the naturalization interview, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer will ask you questions about your application, background, and U.S. history and government knowledge. You may also be required to take an English language proficiency test.

9. What Is the Oath of Allegiance?

The Oath of Allegiance is a solemn declaration made by naturalization candidates during a citizenship ceremony. It signifies their commitment to uphold the principles and laws of the United States and pledge loyalty to the country.

10. How Do I Apply for Naturalization?

To apply for naturalization, you must complete and submit Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, to USCIS. You can find detailed instructions and information on the USCIS website or seek assistance from an immigration attorney.