N-400 Timeline Guide

Posted by in Immigrants | Updated on August 24, 2022

This article was reviewed by Rohit Mittal – co-founder of Stilt, Inc, financial expert, and immigrant. To learn more about Rohit’s credentials, visit his LinkedIn, Substack, and Twitter.

Form N-400 is also known as the Application for Naturalization. It is filed by people who wish to apply to become naturalized U.S. citizens. It is a well-known fact that the processing time for form N-400 is long, mainly due to the volume of applications received by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It is essential to file your form early and allow enough time for it to be processed in case you are on a specific timeline.

What Happens After Filing Form N-400?

After filing form N-400, all applicants must pay the application fee of $725. This includes non-refundable charges, including $640 for processing and $85 for a biometrics screening. Certain applicants can request and receive a fee waiver.

Once the USCIS successfully accepts the application, the applicant enters a long process of submitting biometric details and interviews before getting a final confirmation on their citizenship.

Form N-400 Timeline

Knowing the approximate timeline of events in the naturalization process can help you prepare better and increase your chances of a successful application. Here is the timeline for the N-400 application:

Receipt of Application (2–3 Weeks)

Once you’ve successfully filed form N-400, the USCIS will send an acknowledgment receipt that confirms the successful submission of your application. The receipt notice, previously known as form I-797C, Notice of Action, typically arrives 2–3 weeks after submitting the form. If the form is not filed properly, the USCIS sends a notice of action, informing the applicant of the rejection of the application. They may also send a request for evidence if they require additional proof. Either of the two will delay the process significantly. Therefore, you must prepare your application to the best of your abilities and submit all the required documents.

Also, be sure to save the receipt number. It can be useful for later stages in the application process.

Biometrics Appointment Notice (3–5 Weeks)

Once your application is accepted, the next step is to get your biometrics done. The USCIS will send you a biometrics appointment notice with information on your appointment’s date, location, and time. The location assigned is generally the closest to your current address. The USCIS mandates all applicants to submit biometric information to conduct security and background checks.

The biometric services fee is waived for all applicants ages 75 years and older. However, all applicants are required to take the biometrics screening. If you haven’t received your biometrics appointment, you can send a case inquiry.

Biometrics Appointment (5–8 Weeks)

The biometrics appointment, or biometrics screening, is a brief appointment with USCIS officials where they collect biometric data like fingerprints, photographs, and signatures. Details of your appointment will be on the appointment notice. Remember to carry a government-issued ID to enter the office. The USCIS accepts the following identification documents:

  • Driver’s license
  • Military photo identification
  • State issued photo identification
  • Passport or a national photo identification issued by your country

The biometrics appointment is not the final interview. It is merely an appointment meant for collecting the applicant’s biometric information. It is best not to miss this appointment as rescheduling can be a hassle and take months.

If you have an existing criminal record, it is best to get an immigration lawyer to help you with the entire process. Certain felonies can bar you from getting immigration benefits. An immigration lawyer can help you mitigate potential obstacles in your naturalization application.

Naturalization Interview Appointment Notice (5–9 Months)

Once the biometrics are complete, the USCIS will make another appointment for a naturalization interview. You must attend this interview at the time it is scheduled because rescheduling is difficult and can add several months to the naturalization process. At this point, you should be preparing for the citizenship interview and test.

The interview notice generally arrives by mail and is another form I-797 notice of action. The USCIS schedules interviews as close as possible to an applicant’s home address.

A typical interview lasts 30 minutes. In case of an address change after filing form N-400, applicants must inform the USCIS of their relocation within 10 days of moving by filing form AR-11, Alien’s Change of Address. Applicants should also call the USCIS at 1-800-375-5283 to inform the office of the address change.

Naturalization Interview (7–11 Months)

The naturalization interview or the citizenship test is when the USCIS official goes through the applicant’s N-400. If the applicant gives convincing answers regarding their personal information, the official goes ahead with the civics and American history test. Applicants also give an English comprehension test, which includes writing, reading, and speaking in English. Any unaddressed issues relating to past offenses are discussed and examined at this stage.

If the applicant receives a preliminary confirmation for naturalization, the next step is to wait for the notice that gives the time and place of the oath ceremony. The applicant becomes an official U.S. citizen only after taking the oath of allegiance.

There can also be cases where the USCIS official decides to delay the decision on the application. In this case, the official generally schedules a second interview for further clarifications.

After the interview, the USCIS gives applicants form N-652, Naturalization Interview Results. This gives applicants all information regarding their interview:

  • Granted: The USCIS approves the applicant’s N-400 and gives evidence on record of their citizenship.
  • Continued: The USCIS decides to pursue the application, even if the applicant has failed the citizenship test or given incorrect documents.
  • Denied: The USCIS denies the application if the evidence on record is false or ineligible for naturalization.  

Notice of Oath Ceremony (1–4 Weeks After Interview)

If the interview is successful, the applicant will receive an invitation for the Oath of Allegiance via form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony. This contains additional questions that applicants need to submit at the time of the ceremony.

Oath of Allegiance Ceremony (8–12 Months After Filing)

An applicant becomes a U.S. citizen only after taking the Oath of Allegiance during the naturalization ceremony. The oath can be given by the USCIS in an administrative ceremony or by a judge in a judicial ceremony. In certain U.S. districts, courts hold the exclusive right to hold the allegiance ceremonies. After the oath-taking ceremony, the applicant must submit their green card in exchange for their Certificate of Naturalization.

With this, the individual becomes a fully recognized and legal citizen of the United States of America. The Certificate of Naturalization is the primary document that proves your citizenship in America. You can use this document to help update your citizenship status across all other essential documents.

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Overall, the processing time for form N-400, Application for Naturalization, is about 8 to 12 months. However, this is a theoretical timeline, and it does not account for individual circumstances and cases. The application process can be shorter for some and longer for others. It is best to keep track of your naturalization application on the USCIS website and stay in touch with your immigration lawyer for any advice.

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