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Everything You Should Know about Form N-400

Updated on April 10, 2024

Most immigrants want to get US citizenship someday. And this is, indeed, a possibility, after holding a green card for a certain amount of time. Only in the past three years, no less than 2.2 million immigrants have been permanently naturalized as US citizens. Nonetheless, although many people have delivered successful applications, others had their applications denied. This is why today we will talk about form N-400, addressing the most commonly asked questions.

What Is Form N-400?

Form N-400, officially known as the Application for Naturalization, represents a government form designated for green card holders. If, as a green card holder you want to apply for US citizenship, you might file this form. Nonetheless, there are specific criteria you have to address and we’ll focus on them in the forthcoming paragraphs.

Who Is Eligible for an N-400?

Your eligibility to apply for naturalization is based on several aspects. For one thing, the amount of time you’ve had a green card, the amount of time you’ve lived in the US, and whether you’ve served in the US military are considered.

Therefore, if you are a green card holder and you’ve been living in the US for 2.5 years, then after five years, you can apply for naturalization. Meanwhile, if you’re a green card holder married to a US citizen and you’ve been living in the US for 1.5 years, after three years’ time, you may apply for citizenship.

If you are a green card holder and you have less than one year of peacetime military service and you’ve been living in the US for 2.5 years, you can apply for naturalization after 5 years. However, if you have at least 1 year of peacetime military service, you can apply for naturalization while in active duty or within six months after leaving the military.

Who Cannot File Form N-400?

You cannot file form N-400 in case you don’t meet the basic eligibility criteria. If your citizenship is acquired or derived through a US citizen and you live abroad, then you might not be able to file form N-400.

What Documents Must I Submit With Form N-400?

Here is a list of the documents you need for submitting form N-400:A copy of your green card

  • Application fee payment

Depending on your circumstances, you might also need to offer additional documents, such as:

  • Proof demonstrating your marital status – if you’re married or you have been married.
  • 2 passport-style photographs if you apply from abroad
  • Form N-426 if you apply on the grounds of your military service
  • Form N-648 if you want to get an exemption based on a medical condition

Where to File Form N-400?

Typically, form N-400 is filed online. The one exception to this is if you’re applying on the grounds of your military service. Concurrently, if you’re applying from abroad, then you cannot file the form online, and the same applies if you wish to get a fee reduction or waiver. In these scenarios, you are required to use the paper form N-400. Note that USCIS facilitates a list of addresses where applicants have to send their forms.

As for the online application process, it is easy and to the point. What you have to do is create an online account with USCIS. It’s also important to sign the application electronically.

When Can I File Form N-400?

You may file Form N-400 up to 90 days before you meet the eligibility requirements, which are:

  • Being at least 18 years old
  • Having a green card for at least 5 years (or 3 years if married to a U.S. citizen)

Check if you qualify for naturalization before filing. The current processing time is about 7-11 months.

How Much Does Form N-400 Cost?

In order to file form N-400, you have to pay a $725 fee, entailing $640 for processing. Concurrently, $85 is designated for the biometrics services. Note that no matter if your application is approved or denied, these fees are non-refundable.

There are some exceptions though. If certain applicants fulfill some conditions, they might be eligible to get a reduction or waiver of these fees.

How Long Does N-400 Processing Take?

The processing time for the form N-400 is usually around 10 months (7-11 months). Nonetheless, this period might be surpassed in some cases – so, don’t worry if it takes a bit longer until you get a response. At the same time, the processing time will vary depending on the USCIS field office that deals with your application.

N-400 Filing Tips

In order to maximize your chances of having your application approved, then we would like to offer you some handy tips. Hopefully, these will simplify the entire process.

N-400 Do’s

  • Use black ink exclusively – note that all applications with the USCIS should be filled out with black ink sinc USCIS is specific regarding such details.
  • Before filing the form, make sure you review all the information you included there. It’s essential to double-check all the information included in the form per se, as well as the supporting documents you might be required to provide. Note that if there’s any information missing, this will only postpone the process. Also, in the case of errors, this could complicate the application, or even prevent you from getting approved.
  • If the supporting documents you have to offer aren’t in English, you should provide certified translations for them.

N-400 Don’ts

  • By all means, you should avoid highlighting, crossing, or writing all over the place, thus sending out a cluttered form that is indecipherable. If you want to provide a correction, as opposed to crossing out an answer, you should simply write a new form altogether.
  • You shouldn’t include unnecessary paperwork unless it is mandatory for your given circumstances. In addition to that, don’t submit original documents that aren’t mandatory, as you might not get them back.
  • And lastly, don’t forget to sign the form. Applications that don’t include the applicant’s signature will most likely be rejected.

5 Reasons Your N-400 Was Denied

The truth is that there are many reasons why your application might be denied. It’s best to get acquainted with these scenarios beforehand so that you know how to prevent them from happening to you as well. With that in mind, here are the top five most common reasons why this form could be denied. If you think that one of the following cases might apply to you, perhaps it would be best to discuss your case with a proficient attorney.

Failed English and/or Civics Tests

This is the first reason why your application for naturalization could be rejected. If this happens, though, USCIS will appoint a new date for the interview. Usually, this new date will be scheduled within 60 to 90 days after your first interview. Note that in the case in which you fail the test for the second time, then USCIS will deny your application.

It’s perfectly normal to be nervous about the test. But if you prepare for it in advance, then you can make the experience less stressful. Not to mention that you’ll also improve your chances of passing it. At the same time, it’s reassuring to know that most people pass the exam.

There is also the possibility of requesting an exemption on the ground of disability. In this scenario, you must file form N-648 together with your form N-400. Notwithstanding, a certified medical professional must sign the certification in order to be taken into account.

Criminal History

When you apply for naturalization, you should know that the USCIS will deliver a thorough background check. If you have a criminal record in a different country than the US, the odds are that USCIS will find that out. An essential requirement for having your application approved is demonstrating good moral character.

There are certain crimes that will ultimately prevent certain applicants from entering the US. This applies in the case of murder or aggravated felonies. Aside from this, in immigration law, felonies might be interpreted differently than they would be in state courts. As an example, an act of crime such as a burglary, act of violence or theft that led to one-year prison time will be regarded as an aggravated felony.

If you have a criminal history, it’s best to address your case to a professional immigration attorney prior to filing out form N-400.

Failure to Meet Continuous Residence and Physical Presence Requirements

When you are a permanent resident, you have the right to travel outside the US to your home country. Now, in case you want to become a US citizen, then you should get acquainted with the continuous residence and physical presence requirements.

In this respect, continuous residence means that you – as an applicant – should have maintained your residence in the US for a given timeframe. Also, whenever you travel outside the US, this will interfere with your continuous residence. As a rule of thumb, you should avoid traveling abroad for six months or longer, to avoid such complications. Typically, prior to applying for naturalized citizenship, you should have at least 30 months of physical presence in the US.

There are still some exceptions that apply in unique cases – for applicants married to US citizens or for applicants working for the US government.

Failure to Meet Financial Obligations

Since many Americans cope with financial difficulties, there are certain financial obligations you must meet in order to have your form N-400 application approved. The good thing is that having debt isn’t an impediment when it comes to naturalization. Still, serious financial trouble will be taken into account and might interfere with your application.

For instance, if you fail to pay taxes, then your application might be denied. You might want to discuss your problem with a tax adviser so that you can come up with a customized plan. This way, you can demonstrate to the USCIS that you’re working towards solving this problem. By showing that you intend to solve the problem, you behave responsibly, which is a plus.

Another issue is connected with the inability to support dependents. Applicants who don’t manage to make timely child support payments might have their applications rejected.

Fraud and Lying to USCIS

If you included deceptive, untruthful answers in your application, then most likely USCIS will find that out. If that’s the case, your application might either be considerably postponed or denied altogether. Note that the USCIS doesn’t care if the mistakes weren’t made on purpose. The bottom line is that everything in the form should be correct.

This is why you should double-check everything you include in your application. Always be honest with your answers. And if you suspect that an answer in your application might be an impediment, then you should most likely discuss with an attorney prior to filing form N-400.

N-400 Frequently Asked Questions

Although there are many questions you might have on the topic, we would like to address some of the most common ones. Hopefully, this will clarify things a bit for you.

What Should I Do If I’ve Moved since Filing My Application?

In this scenario, it’s mandatory to inform USCIS of the change of address, within 10 days after moving. In this way, you can be 100 percent sure that you won’t miss any information or mail the USCIS might send to you.

What Should I Put Down on My Application as My Physical and Mailing Addresses while in College?

The physical address you include in the application depends on where you want to take the citizenship interview and exam. Usually, the location of the appointment is assessed depending on the ZIP code. Moving on to the mailing address, you should include the address where the USCIS will send all written correspondence. Since this correspondence entails sensitive, private information, you might want to include your home address as opposed to a temporary school address.

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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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