Applying For Naturalization
Applicants applying for naturalization based on five years as a lawful permanent resident or based on three years as a lawful permanent resident married to a U.S. citizen may file the naturalization application up to 90 days before they meet the ”continuous residence” requirement.
The following are the steps involved when applying for naturalization.
STEP 1: Complete The Application For Naturalization (N-400)
The very first step when filing applying for naturalization is completing the application- the N-400. Applicants must be sure to fill out the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization completely and accurately. USCIS may ask for additional information if the application is incomplete or if inaccuracies are apparent. This will delay the processing of the naturalization application.
NOTE: The Naturalization Application allows applicants to change their name legally upon approval of the application.
NOTE: Applicants should keep a copy of their completed application for their records.
STEP 2: Obtain 2 Passport-sized Photographs
Applicants must include two standard, passport-style, color photographs with their application. They should make sure there is enough white space in the margin of the photographs so that there will be room to sign their full name if their application is approved.
The photographs must meet the following specifications:
- Unmounted and printed on thin paper, on a white background with a full frontal view of the face;
- Taken within 30 days of the date they are sent to USCIS;
- Head should be bare (unless the applicant is required by their religious beliefs to wear a head-covering).
NOTE: Applicants should print their name and “A-number” lightly in pencil on the back of each photograph.
STEP 3: Gather The Supporting Documents
The naturalization application must include the following documents in addition to the N-400:
1. A photocopy of the Permanent Resident Card (back and front) or other proof or evidence of permanent resident status.
2. If your current legal name is different from the name on your green card, then submit photocopies of the documents documenting the legal name change (i.e., Marriage Certificate, Divorce Decree or legal name change documents).
3. If applying for naturalization based on marriage to a U.S. citizen and 3 years continuous presence, submit the following documents:
a. Evidence that you are still being married to the U.S. citizen spouse for the last three years
b. Evidence that spouse has been a U.S. citizen for the last three years
c. Birth certificate of the U.S. Citizen spouse
d. Proof of U.S. Citizenship of the U.S. citizen spouse if he or she was not born in the U.S.
e. Copy of your Marriage Certificate
f. Proof of termination of all your prior marriages
g. IRS-certified copies of the income tax Forms for the past three years, or IRS tax return transcript for the last three years
NOTE: Failure to send the necessary supporting documents with the application may delay the processing of the application. Applicants should submit photocopies (not originals) of the documents and be prepared to bring the originals to the interview. Also make sure to send an English translation with any document that is not already in English.
STEP 4: Mail The Application, Supporting Documents And Application Fee To The USCIS
Applicants must mail the N-400, Supporting Documents and correct filing fee directly to the USCIS Lockbox that serves their area. The USCIS filing fee must include the filing fee for the N-400 and the Biometrics fee.
NOTE: If an applicant mails his or her application to a local USCIS office, it will be returned to them. Applicants residing overseas and filing Form N-400 should send their application to the USCIS Lockbox Facility that serves the USCIS office where they want to be interviewed.
STEP 5: Get Fingerprints Taken
Once the applicant files his or her application, USCIS will send the applicant Notice instructing him or her regarding Biometrics, specifically when and where to have their fingerprints taken. In most cases, the letter will tell the applicant to go to an Application Support Center. The USCIS requires green card and naturalization applicants to be fingerprinted for the purpose of conducting FBI criminal background checks.
A. Submit Biometrics Fee
Applicants must submit the biometric fee so that USCIS can take their fingerprints.
B. Receive An Appointment Letter From USCIS
After USCIS receives the application, they will send an appointment letter with the location of the nearest USCIS authorized fingerprint site.
Applicants must make sure to read the instructions in the appointment letter, and take it to the USCIS authorized fingerprint site when they go for their fingerprint appointment, on the date and time specified in the appointment letter.
C. Go To The Fingerprinting Location
Applicants must take their notice letter from USCIS, their Permanent Resident Card, and another form of identification (driver’s license, passport, or State identification card) with them. The second form of identification should have applicant’s photograph on it.
D. Get The Fingerprints Taken
At the time of fingerprinting, applicants will given a form to fill out and they will have to indicate the application for which the fingerprinting is being done.
USCIS will send applicant’s fingerprints to the FBI for criminal background check. FBI, in some cases, may reject your fingerprints because of the quality of the fingerprints. In case the fingerprints are rejected by the FBI, USCIS will notify them and schedule another appointment. Applicants do not have to pay the fee again.
If the FBI rejects applicant’s fingerprints twice, they may be asked to provide police clearances for each place they have lived in the past 5 years. They will need to contact the appropriate police department in the place they have lived to get these clearances.
STEP 6: Mail Additional Documents If USCIS Requests Them
USCIS may need additional documents from the applicant before they can schedule the interview. USCIS will notify the applicant through a “Request for Evidence” detailing the additional documents or information that is required.
STEP 7: Attend Interview
Once the FBI background check is cleared, USCIS will schedule an interview at the designated local Field Office. USCIS will send the applicant an interview notice in the mail that will specify the date, time and place of the interview.
A. Receive An Appointment For Interview
USCIS will send a notice informing when and where the applicant must appear for the interview. USCIS will not send a second notice.
NOTE: If the applicant cannot attend the interview, he or she must reschedule the interview by sending a request in writing to the office where the interview was scheduled. It is advisable to follow any additional instructions found on the Appointment Notice regarding rescheduling. Applicant should explain their situation and ask to have their interview rescheduled. When a new date has been set, USCIS will send a new interview notice. To make sure applicants receive their interview notice, they must notify USCIS every time they change their address by filing an AR-11 and calling USCIS Customer Service.
B. Go To Specified Local USCIS Office At The Appointed Time
Applicants should go to the office where they are to be interviewed at least 15-30 minutes before the time of their interview. Because of heightened security concerns, it may take 10-20 minutes to pass through security. Many USCIS offices are crowded, so unless the applicants need to, they should refrain from brining additional people with them to the interview.
USCIS will “administratively close” the application of any person who does appear for the interview without notifying USCIS ahead of time. Applicants must contact USCIS within one year in order to have the case re-opened or the application will be denied.
C. Bring Identification And Provide Additional Documents
Applicants must bring the following documents to the interview:
i. Permanent Resident Card (formerly known as the Alien Registration Card) or other proof of legal permanent residence
ii. Passport (even if it has expired)
iii. State Identification Card
iv. Re-entry Permits (if any)
v. Originals of any photocopies filed with the application or in response to a Request for Evidence
In some cases, USCIS may ask the applicant to bring additional documents to the interview. These documents will be listed on the applicant’s appointment letter or in a separate letter sent to the applicant. If the applicant does not bring the necessary documents, the case may be delayed or denied. USCIS strongly recommends applicants to bring two additional passport-style photographs with them to the interview.
D. Answer Questions About Application And Background
At the interview, a USCIS officer require the applicant to swear to tell the truth, will explain the purpose of the interview, and ask to see applicant’s identification. The USCIS officer may ask the applicants about:
i. The details found on the application
ii. Their background
iii. Evidence supporting their case
iv. Their place and length of residence
v. Their character
vi. Their attachment to the Constitution and
vii. Willingness to take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States
E. Take The English And Civics Test
During the interview, a USCIS officer will also test applicant’s ability to read, write, and speak English (unless they are exempt from the English requirements). Applicant will also be given a civics test in English (to test knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government) unless the applicant is exempt. Even if exempt from the English test, applicants need to take the civics test in the language of choice or qualify for a waiver.
Applicant’s English skills will be tested in the following ways:
1. Reading: To test applicant’s ability to write in English, applicant must read one sentence chosen by the officer in a manner suggesting to the USCIS officer that you understand the meaning of the sentence.
2. Writing: To test applicant’s ability to write in English, applicant must write one simple sentence in a manner that would be understandable as written to the USCIS officer.
3. Speaking: Applicant’s ability to speak English is determined by his or her answers to questions normally asked by USCIS officers during the naturalization eligibility interview on Form N-400.
4. Civics: During the interview, the USCIS officer will ask the applicant to orally answer a set of 10 civics questions chosen from a list of 100 predetermined questions. Applicant must answer 6 out of 10 civics questions correctly to achieve a passing score.
NOTE: The list of 100 civics questions is available on the USCIS website and on CD-ROM. A CD and booklet containing the questions will be given to the applicant when they appear for Biometrics.
F. Receive A Decision
After the interview, USCIS will issue the applicant a Form N-652 that explains the results of the interview. USCIS will grant, continue, or deny the naturalization application.
Granted: USCIS can recommend the application for approval. Some USCIS Field Offices conduct the oath ceremony the same day as the interview. Most applicants, however, will receive a notice telling them when and where his or her oath ceremony will be.
NOTE: The same-day oath ceremony is not available at every Field Office. Furthemore, it is not available to applicants who requested a name change as these applicants must have the Oath of Allegiance administered by a judge as it involves a legal name change.
Continued: The USCIS officer may also “continue” a case. This means that case is put on hold. If an applicant’s case is continued, it will add time to his or her naturalization process. The most common reasons for continuation are (a) failing the English and civics tests, or (b) failing to give USCIS the complete documents.
When the case is continued, applicant will be asked to do one of two things:
1. Come back for a second interview: If the applicant fails either one or both of the English and Civics test, USCIS will reschedule him or her to come back for another interview, usually within 60-90 days of the first interview. At that time, he or she will be tested again. If he or she fails the test(s) a second time, USCIS will deny the application.
2. Provide additional documents: If USCIS needs more information from the applicant, they will provide a Form N-14. This form explains what information or documents must be provided, and tells the applicant when and how to return the information. If you do not follow the instructions, USCIS may deny your application.
3. Denied: USCIS may also deny the application for naturalization. If USCIS denies the application for naturalization, the applicant will receive a written notice explaining the reasons for denial.
STEP 8: Take The Oath
If USCIS approves the application for naturalization, it will notify the applicant after the interview or by mail regarding the date and time of the Oath ceremony.
A. Ceremony Date
If USCIS approves the application for naturalization, applicant must attend the Oath ceremony and take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. A person is not granted citizenship, thus the application is not completed, until the Oath is administered.
The notice USCIS issues the applicant is called the “Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony” (Form N-445). In some cases, USCIS may give the applicant an option to take the Oath on the same day as the interview.
When the applicant arrives at the ceremony, he or she will be asked to check-in with USCIS. The applicant should arrive at least 30 minutes before the scheduled ceremony.
The naturalization ceremony is a solemn and meaningful event. USCIS advises applicants to dress in proper attire to respect the dignity of this event (no jeans, shorts, or flip flops). Applicants are also allowed to bring family members and/or friends to witness the event.
C. Return Of The Permanent Resident Card
Applicants must return their Permanent Resident Card to USCIS when they check in for the oath ceremony. Applicants will no longer need their Permanent Resident Card because they will get their Certificate of Naturalization at the ceremony.
D. Answer Questions About What Have The Applicant Done Since His or Her Interview
If more than a day has passed between the interview and the ceremony, USCIS will ask the applicant several questions. These questions will be on the back of the notice (Form N-445) USCIS sends the applicant.
Some of the questions on the back of the N-445 include: “Have you traveled outside the United States?” and “Have you claimed exemption from military service?” Applicants should read the questions carefully and mark their answers before they arrive at the ceremony.
E. Take The Oath
Every naturalization candidate is required to recite the “Oath of Allegiance” to become a U.S. Citizen. The Oath of Allegiance must be recited at a formal naturalization ceremony in front of a judge or USCIS official. Once recited, USCIS will issue the Certificate of Naturalization.
F. Request A Modified Oath (If Required)
If the applicant is unwilling to take the Oath of Allegiance in its entirety, he or she must provide a written notice either at the time of filing or at the scheduled interview explaining the circumstances for the request to take a modified Oath of Allegiance. The written notice must identify the words in the Oath of Allegiance that he or she wishes to be exempted from reciting and provide an explanation as to why the words are against his or her religious training and/or personal beliefs. USCIS may request that applicant provide additional evidence to validate the request for a modified Oath of Allegiance. USCIS will grant modifications to the Oath of Allegiance on a case-by-case basis.
G. Receive Certificate Of Naturalization
Once the applicant has taken the Oath, he or she will receive the Certificate of Naturalization. Applicants may use this document as proof that they are a U.S. Citizen.
Dependents And Derivative US Citizenship
Those under 18 cannot file the N-400. Children (both natural and adopted) of those applying for naturalization, however, can “derive” citizenship through the naturalizing parent. According to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (which went into effect on February 27, 2001), to become a citizen, a child must:
- Have at least one parent that has naturalized
- Be under 18 years of age
- Live in the legal and physical custody of the US Citizen parent AND
- Be a Lawful Permanent Resident of the U.S.
It is important to keep in mind that the requirements do not have to be met in any particular order. What matters is that once all the requirements are met, the child is automatically a U.S. Citizen. It is recommended that once the requirements are met, an N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship should be filed to obtain proof of U.S. citizenship.
NOTE: If the child was 18 before February 27, 2001, all the requirements are the same except that both parents must have naturalized before the child turned 18.
USA Naturalization Possible Problems
A. Applicant Neither Attended The Interview Nor Informed The USCIS
If the applicant is not in a position to attend his or her USA naturalization interview, it is imperative that he or she contact USCIS to reschedule the interview by making a request in writing to the office where the interview is scheduled. Explain the situation and ask to have the interview rescheduled. If applicants neither go for their interview nor inform the USCIS beforehand, USCIS will “administratively close” the case. If the applicant does not request to reopen the case within one year, the application will be denied.
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