Q: What are the requirements for naturalization?
A:In general, applicants must satisfy the following requirements:
Lawful admission to the U.S. as a permanent resident;
Attainment of the age of 18;
Continuous presence in the U.S. for a specified period depending on the type of applicant;
Physical presence in the U.S. for a specified period depending on the type of applicant;
Knowledge of U.S. history and government;
Proficiency in English;
Good moral character.
Please click here for complete details regarding naturalization requirements.
Q: How old does a person have to be to file for naturalization for him or herself?
A: He/she must be 18 years old at the time of filing for naturalization. This applies when the alien is filing alone. Certain exceptions allow a minor alien to be naturalized due to the minor alien's parents’ status prior to his or her 18th birthday.
Q: Does a person have to be a permanent resident to qualify for naturalization?
A: Yes. In most cases, permanent resident status is a prerequisite for naturalization.
Q: How long must I reside in the U.S. to become a citizen through the naturalization process?
A: If you are married to a U.S. citizen, you must physically reside in the U.S. at least eighteen accumulative months prior to applying for naturalization. If you are not married to a U.S. citizen, then you must physically reside in the U.S. at least thirty accumulative months prior to applying for naturalization.
Q: Do I have to meet the residency requirements of naturalization by the time I file the application for naturalization?
A: No. You can file the naturalization application within three months prior to the time you will meet the residency requirements.
Q: If I travel abroad frequently and have been away from the U.S. on a regular basis, assuming I am otherwise qualified, will I be able to obtain citizenship through naturalization?
A: It depends on the length of your absences. Absences of six months or more generally break the continuity of residence required for naturalization. You may rebut the presumption that a break of the continuity of residence has occurred if the absence was more than 6 months but less than one year. For information about what evidence should be shown for this rebuttal, please consult our Requirements article. In other words, if you leave the U.S. for more than six months, you are not considered to be residing in the U.S. on a continuous basis for the amount of time after six months you spend abroad. Steps can be taken to avoid breaking continuity in some circumstances in which a person spends more than six months abroad. Also keep in mind that there is a physical presence requirement of eighteen or thirty months, depending on if you are married to a U.S. citizen, and if your time spent in the U.S. cumulatively in the last five years does not add up to the time required, then in most cases, you will not qualify for naturalization.
I am not married to a U.S. citizen, and at one point in the past five years, I had been abroad for eight months. What are the consequences for naturalization?
A: Due to the fact that you left the U.S. for more than six months, you failed to meet the continuous residence requirement. However, as your absence was less than a year, you may be able to overcome the presumption of the discontinuity of residency if you have a reasonable explanation for your extended absence. For more information, see Requirements.
Q:Are the requirements for naturalization relaxed in any way if I have been married to a U.S citizen?
A: Yes. If you are married to a U.S. citizen, then your residency requirements are relaxed. Instead of having to reside in the U.S. continuously for five years and physically for thirty months, you only have to reside in the U.S. continuously for three years and physically for eighteen months.
Q: How long do I have to be a permanent resident before obtaining citizenship through naturalization if I am married to a U.S. citizen?
A: You have to be a permanent resident for three years prior to obtaining citizenship through naturalization if you are married to a U.S. citizen.
Q:If my spouse was not a citizen on our wedding day and subsequently became a citizen, can I now benefit from the relaxed residency requirements?
A: No. In order to benefit from the relaxed residency requirements granted to an alien married to a U.S. citizen, your spouse has to be a citizen when you initially married.
Q:If my spouse became a citizen a month before we were married, can I benefit from the relaxed residency requirements?
A: No. In order to benefit from the relaxed residency requirements for naturalization due to marriage, you must be married to your spouse citizen for at least three years before your exam date.
If I have been outside the United States for an extended period of time, can I still satisfy the residency requirements for naturalization?
A: It depends on how long you were gone. In most instances, an absence of over six months puts an alien in the category of a non-resident for the purposes of naturalization. In some circumstances, an alien can preserve continuity even though the alien will be absent for more than six months. For more details, please click here to Requirements.
Q: Must I be physically present in the U.S. for the entire period I am required to reside in the U.S. for the purposes of naturalization?
A: No. You are required to be physically present in the U.S for at least one half of the time you are required to have residence. For those married to U.S. citizens, you must be physically present for eighteen months. For those not married to U.S. citizens, this requirement is thirty months.
Q: Are my absences from the U.S. counted for the purpose of the residency requirement from the day I received my permanent residence up to the day I file my naturalization application?
A:It depends. If you are married to a U.S. citizen, absences are counted from three years minus two months before the date you filed your naturalization petition. If you are not married to a U.S. citizen, the time is five years minus two months. Therefore, if you did not file your naturalization application at the first opportunity, you could after receiving your green card. Then all absences before the above mentioned time frames are not counted for purposes of the residency requirement for naturalization.
Q: Does the physical presence requirement for naturalization have to be continuous?
A: No. The physical presence requirement is cumulative not continuous.
Q: Is there a residency requirement in the particular jurisdiction where I am filing my naturalization petition?
A: Residence is required for three months immediately preceding the filing of the naturalization application in the state in which the petition is filed. This requirement is met simultaneously with the continuous residency requirement. Continuous residence in the U.S. is also required from the date of filing until actual admission to citizenship.
Q: Am I required to be proficient in English to become a citizen by naturalization?
A: The prospective citizen must have the ability to read, write, and speak ordinary English. This is determined by a test administered by an immigration examiner.
Q: If I have a disability, am I exempt from any language requirements for naturalization?
A: If you are disabled in a way that curtails your ability to satisfy the English proficiency requirement, then you might be exempted from the requirement.
Q: Are there any other exemptions for the English language requirement besides disability exemptions?
A: Yes. The following two groups of people may be exempt:
those who are at least fifty years old at the time of filing and lived in the U.S. as a permanent resident for at least 20 years, and
those who are at least fifty-five years old and lived in the U.S. as a permanent resident for at least 15 years.
Q: Did I need to file anything to benefit from the age exemption to the English literacy requirement?
A: No. You simply fill out the N-400 like any other applicant.
Q: How am I tested on my knowledge of the fundamentals of U.S. government and history?
A: The applicant is given a multiple-choice test that examines the applicant's knowledge of the fundamentals of U.S. government and history. The test questions are picked randomly from 100 questions. Please click here for the Test Questions & Answers.
Q: Are there any exemptions to the knowledge of the fundamentals of U.S. government and history requirement?
A: Yes. Those who have a disability impairing their ability to satisfy this requirement are exempt. Those who are exempt for the English proficiency requirement can be given an exam in modified form and in the language of their choice.
Q: Is past imprisonment a bar to attaining citizenship?
A: It depends on the circumstances of the crime and the length of imprisonment. The prospective citizen must demonstrate good moral character and an attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution. An alien can fail to meet this requirement in the following circumstances:
Involvement in prostitution, alien smuggling, and most criminal activities, particularly those that involve imprisonment for six months or more;
Aliens who have committed adultery in a notorious and open manner as in a case where the adultery has led to the destruction of the marriage;
Failure to properly comply with tax laws;
Failure to register with the Selective Service when the alien is required to do so;
Aliens who have committed and have been convicted of one or more crimes involving moral turpitude;
Aliens who have committed and have been convicted of 2 or more offenses for which the total sentence imposed was 5 years or more;
Aliens who have committed and have been convicted of any crime under controlled substance laws, except for a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana;
Aliens who have been confined to a penal institution during the statutory period, as a result of a conviction, for an aggregate period of 180 days or more
Aliens who have committed and have been convicted of two or more gambling offenses;
Aliens who have earned their principal income from illegal gambling;
Aliens who have been habitual drunkards;
Aliens who have practiced polygamy;
Aliens who have willfully failed or refused to support dependents;
Aliens who have given false testimony, under oath, in order to receive a benefit under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Q: If I have been convicted of a crime but my record has been expunged, do I need to indicate that on my application for naturalization or tell an examining officer?
A: Yes. You should always be honest regarding all arrests, convictions (even if they have been expunged), and crimes you have committed for which you were not arrested or convicted. Even if you have committed a minor crime, USCIS may deny your application if you do not tell the immigration officer about the incident.
Q: Can my failure to register with the Selective Service be a bar to attaining citizenship?
A: Yes. That is why it is important that every applicant for citizenship be registered for the draft if the applicant is required by U.S. law to do so. The general rule is that a permanent resident male must register for the draft if he became a permanent resident between his eighteenth and twenty-sixth birthday.
Q: If I am an alien who has a U.S. citizen spouse assigned abroad by his/her U.S. employer, do I have to meet the regular residency requirements for naturalization?
A: Not necessarily. Alien spouses of citizens who are assigned abroad by their U.S. employer can be exempt from the continuous residence and physical presence requirements. Instead, the alien must only be a permanent resident, physically present in the U.S. at the time of naturalization, affirm his/her intention to reside in the U.S. upon completion of the citizen spouse's overseas assignment, and in most cases, affirm his/her intention to reside with the citizen spouse abroad upon completion of the naturalization process. If these conditions are met, the alien can apply for citizenship right after he/she obtains his/her green card and does not have to wait the regular waiting time of three or five years after the issuance of permanent resident status.
Q: If I have a U.S. citizen parent, do I have relaxed naturalization requirements?
A: If certain conditions are met, someone who is born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent is a citizen by birth and does not have to undergo naturalization. Please click here for Citizenship by Birth to see if you fall within this category. If you do not meet the criteria but are under eighteen and meet other qualifications, then your citizen parent can apply for your naturalization through a process called expedited naturalization. It is expedited because there are no residency requirements. Please click on Special Classes to see if you can qualify for expedited naturalization. If you cannot qualify, then you must apply for naturalization as any alien with non-citizen parents would.
Q: If my spouse and I are aliens applying for naturalization with my minor children, do we need a separate naturalization application for my minor children?
A: No. Minor children who are permanent residents can be naturalized derivatively with their parents and do not need to file a separate application. For details, please click here for Special Classes .
Q: If I am an alien and I am applying for naturalization without my spouse, do I need a separate naturalization application for my minor children?
A: It depends. If an alien child was born outside the U.S., and is the child of one citizen and one alien parent, the alien child can be included in the naturalization petition of his alien parent as long as the child is unmarried and under eighteen. He must also be a permanent resident and reside in the U.S. before his eighteenth birthday. The usual residence requirements do not apply in this situation. If the alien child's parents are aliens and one parent died or there has been a legal separation, citizenship is automatically conferred upon the alien child with the naturalization of the surviving parent or parent with legal custody of the alien child. The alien child must be a lawful permanent resident who began residing in the U.S. when the alien child is under eighteen years of age and is unmarried. The usual residence requirements do not apply in this situation either.
Q: If I am an alien who served in the U.S. military, am I given special consideration in the naturalization process?
A: Yes. If an alien served in the U.S. military for at least three years and is a lawful permanent resident, then he is excused from the regular residence requirements so long as an application for naturalization is filed while the applicant is still serving or within six months of an honorable discharge.
Q: If I had not been present in the U.S. for one continuous year, can I still fulfill the residency requirements for naturalization?
A: If a permanent resident is absent from the U.S. for more than six months, there is a break in continuity of residence in the U.S. If an alien plans to be absent from the U.S. for more than one year, steps can be taken to preserve continuity of residence if the alien qualifies. Please click here for Special Classes to see if you qualify and what steps need to be taken to benefit from this rule.
Q: What form do I file to apply for naturalization?
A: In most cases, you would need to file Form N-400. Click here to download Form N-400, and click here to download the instructions to the form.
Q: Where do I file my naturalization application?
A: You should send your completed "Application for Naturalization" (Form N-400) to the appropriate USCIS Service Center. For information about the Service Center that serves your area, please click here. Remember to make a copy of your application.
Q: Will special accommodations be provided for me if I am disabled?
A: Some people with disabilities need special considerations during the naturalization process. USCIS) will make every effort to make reasonable accommodations in these cases. For example, if you use a wheelchair, USCIS will make sure your fingerprint location is wheelchair accessible. If you are hearing impaired and wish to bring a sign language interpreter to your interview, you may do so.
Q: What form do I need to file if I am seeking a disability waiver of the English proficiency requirement?
A: You would need to fill out an N-648 in addition to the N-400.
Q: What kind of form do I need to file if I am seeking a disability waiver of the knowledge of U.S. government/history requirement?
A: You would need to fill out an N-648 in addition to the N-400.
Q: How am I tested on my English proficiency and knowledge of U.S. government/history?
A: English proficiency is tested by an immigration examiner. Knowledge of U.S. government/history is tested by a written test at the interview. For the Test Questions & Answers, please click here.
Q: What if I cannot make it to my scheduled interview?
A:It is very important not to miss your interview. If you have to miss your interview, you should notify the office where your interview is scheduled by mail as soon as possible. In your letter, you should ask to have your interview rescheduled. Rescheduling an interview may add several months to the naturalization process, so try not to change your original interview date. If you miss your scheduled interview without giving notification, USCIS () will "administratively close" your case. Unless you contact USCIS to schedule a new interview within 1 year after USCIS closes your case, USCIS will deny your application. USCIS will not notify you if it closes your case because you missed your interview.
Q: If I am a legal permanent resident and have a green card, do I have to, at some point, become a citizen?
A: No. A permanent resident is not required to become a citizen and may reside in the United States indefinitely as a permanent resident. Although a permanent resident is permitted to reside in the U.S. without ever becoming a citizen, a permanent resident may want to obtain citizenship in order to secure benefits it entails. A citizen can vote in national and local elections, but a permanent resident cannot vote in U.S. elections. As a U.S. citizen, one can exit and enter the U.S. without any regard to time spent outside of the U.S. permanent residents must be careful not to abandon theirstatus by leaving the U.S. for an extended period of time, on the other hand. Finally, a U.S. citizen can petition for the admission of alien relatives to the U.S. that cannot be petitioned by a permanent resident.
Q: As a permanent resident, can I vote in U.S. elections?
A: No. You must be a U.S. citizen to vote in U.S. elections.
Q: What is the filing fee for a naturalization application?
A: The filing fee for an N-400 is $680 when you include the biometrics fee.
Q: How can I pay for my application fee?
A: You must pay your application fee with a check, money order or credit card drawn from a U.S. bank in U.S. dollars payable to the "U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service," or “U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security.”
Q: What is the next step in the naturalization process after I file my application?
A:After filing the application, the applicant will be notified of an appointment for fingerprinting.
Q: Where can I be fingerprinted?
A: You will be notified of the location where you should get fingerprinted when you receive the notification for your appointment.
Q: What happens after I am fingerprinted?
A: After fingerprinting is conducted, the fingerprint card will be submitted to the FBI for a background check. If the alien's background is cleared, then the alien applicant will receive a letter scheduling an interview with an immigration officer.
Q: What happens at the interview?
A: At this interview, the naturalization exams for English proficiency and knowledge of U.S. history are administered. An examining officer determines whether the applicant satisfies all naturalization requirements and usually makes a decision on the interview date. If the decision is favorable, then the alien is scheduled for a swearing in date.
Q: What happens on the swearing in date?
A: The naturalization applicant professes his or her allegiance to the U.S. and the Constitution, and after the alien is sworn in, he obtains a Certificate of Naturalization.
Q: How do I determine the status of my naturalization application?
A: You may call the Service Center where you sent your application.
Q: What do I do if my address has changed?
A: If your address changes, you should inform USCIS and fill out the AR-11 form through USCIS’s online address change system (http://www.uscis.gov/AR-11). It is important to make sure USCIS has your latest address. If USCIS does not have a current address for you, you may not receive important letters sent from USCIS. For example, USCIS may not be able to notify you of your interview date and time. It also may not be able to tell you if you need to send additional documents or bring additional documents to your interview. However, if you have an attorney to represent you in your naturalization, the USCIS will send all correspondences to your attorney. This insures that you will never miss a correspondence from the USCIS.
Q: If my naturalization is granted, when will I become a citizen?
A: You become a citizen as soon as you take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. This usually takes place at a U.S. federal district court. It sometimes occurs at the USCIS (formerly INS) local office. In some states, you can choose to take the Oath the same day as your interview. If that option is not available or if you prefer a ceremony at a later date, USCIS will notify you of the ceremony date with a "Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony" (Form N-445).
Q: What should I do if I cannot go to my oath ceremony?
A: If you cannot go to the oath ceremony, you should return the "Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony" (Form N-445) that was sent to you. You should send the N-445 back to your local officeincluding a letter explaining why you cannot go to the ceremony. Make a copy of the notice and your letter before you send them back. Your local office will reschedule your oath ceremony and send you a new "Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony" (Form N-445) to tell you when your ceremony will be.
Q: How long will it take to become naturalized?
A: The time it takes to be naturalized varies from one local office to another. Recently, in many places, it took over 2 years to process an application. USCIS is currently modernizing and improving the naturalization process. Within the next 2 years, USCIS would like to decrease the time it takes to become naturalized to 6 months. Please click here for Process Time.
Q: What can I do if my application is denied?
A: There is an administrative review process for those who are denied naturalization. If you feel that you have been wrongly denied naturalization, you may request a hearing with an immigration officer. Your denial letter will explain how to request a hearing and will include the form you need to file. The form for filing an appeal is the "Request for Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings under Section 336 of the Act" (Form N-336).
Q: Can I reapply for if USCIS denies my application?
A: In many cases, you may reapply. If you reapply, you will need to complete and resubmit a new N-400 and pay the fee again. You will also need to have your fingerprints and photographs taken again. If your application is denied, the denial letter should indicate the date you may reapply for citizenship. If you are denied because you failed the English or civics test, you may reapply for naturalization as soon as you want. You should reapply whenever you believe you have learned enough English or civics to pass the relevant test.
Q: What do I do if I have lost my Certificate of Naturalization? What do I use as proof of citizenship if I do not have my certificate?
A: You may get a new Certificate of Naturalization by submitting an "Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document" (Form N-565) to the USCIS. Submit this form with the fee to your local USCIS office. It may take up to 1 year for you to receive a new certificate. You may use your passport as evidence of citizenship while you wait for a replacement certificate.
Q: How do I prepare for the Naturalization Interview Exam?
A: Naturalization applicants usually must answer questions from the 100 standard questions to test applicants for naturalization. Please click here for details.
Q: What is the attorney fee for preparation of the naturalization application?
A: Our attorney fee is $800 for preparation of the N-400. Please click here for our attorney's fee.
(Updated 10/08/12 by NT)
For other information about Naturalization, please click the following links: