U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Process
Applying to become a naturalized citizen of the United States can be an anxious time. Much like many of the applications you have already filed with the United States and Immigration Services (USCIS), your naturalization application will go through certain steps.
The time frame for the entire process may vary but the steps are usually the same. We have listed the basic steps for you below along with their estimated time frames.
Step One: You File Your Naturalization Application
The process begins when you file Form N-400 Application for Naturalization. Form N-400 is similar to other forms you may have seen before because it asks you a lot of information about yourself. Make sure that you take the time to completely and accurately fill out the application because USCIS will not process your application if is not complete.
Properly filing your application is also very important. This includes paying the filing fee and sending everything to the correct USCIS location (which depends on where you live). Since USCIS receives so many of these applications each year, it would be easy for your application to fall in the cracks and be delayed if you don’t properly file.
Step Two: USCIS Receives Your Naturalization Application
Once USCIS receives your application, it will send you a receipt in the mail within about 3 weeks. The receipt is called Form I-797C Notice of Action and it contains the important information you need to check the status of your application. Be sure to keep this form in a safe place because it would be hard to track where your application is without it.
If you do not receive a receipt in the mail within 30 days after filing, you should complete a case inquiry on the USCIS website to make sure that USCIS actually received your application.
Step Three: You Attend a Biometrics Appointment
About 5 weeks after filing your application, you will receive a notice listing the date, location, and time of your biometrics appointment. During your biometrics appointment, your fingerprints will be taken so that USCIS can check your background. This does not mean that USICS thinks you are a criminal–USCIS actually does this with all applicants.
Surprisingly, the actual biometrics appointment is not that long. It usually takes the USCIS officer just a few minutes to take your fingerprints and photograph. To make sure that your appointment goes smoothly, be sure to bring the required documents listed on the appointment notice.
One of the things you will be required to bring is photo identification.
Step Four: You Attend a Naturalization Interview
USCIS will send you a second appointment notice after you have completed your biometrics appointment. This notice is for your naturalization interview and should come about 5 months after your initial filing. Your interview is one of the last steps before you become a naturalized citizen and since USCIS is scheduling many of these interviews, you should not to miss your scheduled interview.
At the naturalization interview, a USCIS officer will walk through your naturalization application to make sure that everything is correct and review the results of your background check. While going through your application materials, the USCIS officer is going to be paying attention to your ability to understand English as part of your English comprehension test. The officer will also ask you to write and read a sentence in English. This English test is one of two tests you will need to pass in order to become a U.S. citizen. The second test is a U.S. civics/history test which you will also complete at your interview.
At the end of your interview, one of three things may happen: the USCIS officer will approve your application, deny your application, or tell you that they need more information before making a decision. Your next steps depend on the results:
- Approved: If USCIS approves your application, your next step is to wait for your official approval in the mail along with a notice for the time and place of your oath ceremony.
- Denied: If USCIS denies your application, you may file an appeal within 30 days by filing Form N-336 Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings.
- Continued: If USCIS continues your application, it means that either USCIS needs more information or you failed one of your tests. The USCIS officer will either request the additional information from you or schedule you for a second interview to retake your test.
Step Five: You Take the Oath of Allegiance
Within a month after your interview, you will receive Form N-445 Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony. This notice will give you the location, date, and time of your Naturalization Oath Ceremony and ask you some questions (that you turn in at the ceremony).
The actual Naturalization Oath Ceremony will take place approximately 8 months after you file your naturalization application. You are not considered a U.S. citizen until you take the Oath of Allegiance at the ceremony which is usually administered by a judge. After you take your oath, USICS will collect your green card and give you your Certificate of Naturalization. Be sure to keep your certificate in a safe place because it is your proof that you are now a United States citizen.