Guide to Certificates of Naturalization

Updated on April 10, 2024

The Certificate of Naturalization is given to lawful permanent residents of the U.S. who have lived and worked in the country for a certain number of years. The certificate is issued by the USCIS and serves as proof that you’re officially a citizen of the United States.

You’ll automatically receive the certificate after becoming a U.S. citizen either by statute or application process. Furthermore, the Certificate of Naturalization is different from the Certificate of U.S. Citizenship. The former verifies that you’ve been granted American citizenship through the process of naturalization, while the latter is given to children of naturalized parents. So in a way, immigrants cannot earn a Certificate of U.S. Citizenship.

Do You Need to Separately Apply for the Certificate of Naturalization?

Once you become naturalized, you’re not required to apply separately and will receive your certificate at the time of swearing-in. However, green card holders applying to become U.S. citizens need to submit Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, to the USCIS.

What Information Is on a Certificate of Naturalization?

Most of the details present on a Certificate of Naturalization are regarding your identification. Besides confirming that you’re a U.S. citizen, the certificate also proves that it belongs to you. Here are the details present on the certificate:

  • 6- to 8-digit alphanumeric Unique Certificate Number
  • Date of issuance
  • Full name (as provided by you)
  • USCIS Registration Number
  • Marital status
  • Address
  • Former nationality
  • Photograph
  • Signature
  • Sex, date of birth, height, etc.
  • Department of Homeland Security seal

How to Get a Certificate of Naturalization

For obtaining a Certification of Naturalization, you need to first meet the eligibility criteria set forth by the USCIS:

  • You have legally lived in the U.S. for at least half of the time required for permanent residence, which is five years. So two and a half years is a minimum.
  • You’re continually living in the U.S. with the exception of vacation or work-related travel. Long stretches of time, like six months or more, are considered “Not present within the U.S.” People found to have abandoned their U.S. home will have their green card revoked.
  • You have lived in the USCIS district or U.S. state for at least three months.
  • You are at least 18 years of age at the time of applying.
  • You possess good moral character (as demonstrated during interviews).
  • You pass a criminal background check and have no cases pending against you.
  • You pass an oral test regarding U.S. laws, history, and government.
  • You are proficient in written and spoken English.
  • You affirm to serve in the military whenever necessary.

In certain cases, applicants who fall under the below category may get their certificates earlier:

  • Spouses of U.S. citizens who’ve been married together for at least three years.
  • Battered spouses, either divorced or widowed.
  • Refugees and political asylees.
  • U.S. military members and their spouses/widows.
  • Spouses of U.S. citizens who work in certain eligible jobs overseas.

After you’ve cross-checked your eligibility, you need to file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. Make sure you’re using the most updated form and download it only from the USCIS website.

The form has 18 parts comprised of more than 50 questions. While a step-by-step guide is out of the scope of this article, we advise reading everything clearly before answering any questions. If you’re not sure about your capability to understand and answer the questions, then seek help from a legal advisor.

Remember to submit all the required documents required by the form. Below is a checklist of items:

  • Signed Form N-400
  • Color photograph
  • Permanent Resident Card (photocopy)
  • IRS tax return (if applicable)
  • Marriage certificate (if any)

Along with the application, you need to pay a filing fee of $595 and a biometric fee of $85, so a total of $680.

After filing, the application will go through a review process. Based on the outcome, you’ll be asked to visit the designated office and provide biometric verification. Finally, you’ll surrender your Permanent Resident Card and take the Oath of Allegiance, after which you’ll be handed over your Certificate of Naturalization.

How to Replace a Certificate of Naturalization

To replace your issued Certificate of Naturalization, you need to file Form N-565, Application for Replacement Naturalization Document. Some of the valid reasons for which you can request a replacement are:

  • The certificate was lost or stolen, and the retrieval attempt was a failure.
  • Typographical error present in the certificate.
  • The name has changed legally.
  • Gender has changed legally.

You might be required to visit a USCIS office for further verification.

How to Use Your Certificate of Naturalization to Get a U.S. Passport

After you’ve received your Certificate of Naturalization, you can use it to apply for a U.S. Passport. The certificate will serve as proof of citizenship. Since you’re applying for the first time, you need to visit the required office and fill out Form DS-11.

Along with the form, submit a photocopy of your Certificate of Naturalization, passport-size photographs, and a one-time passport fee of $110 and an execution fee of $25. After the verification has been processed, you’ll take another oath stating that all of the information is true and correct to your knowledge. You should then receive your passport within a couple of months.

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Your life will probably not be the same if you’re officially an American citizen. Being a U.S. citizen can open up options and opportunities. And your Certification of Naturalization should be treated with the utmost care, just like your other personal and sensitive documents.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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