Form N-400 is used to apply for U.S. citizenship through the naturalization process.
Lawful permanent residents (green card holders) of the United States who meet the eligibility requirements can file form N-400 to request citizenship. If you need to apply for citizenship, get started here.
A green card allows you to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States, and with one you can live and work here indefinitely, as long as you renew it when necessary. However, possessing a permanent resident green card is not quite citizenship. In fact, many opportunities and benefits are available to U.S. citizens that aren’t available to lawful permanent residents. Among these are:
- Access to U.S. passport
- Right to vote in all public elections, hold government jobs (excluding the office of President of the United States), and serve on juries
- Access to many federal and state government grants and scholarships
- Ability to leave and reenter the United States at any time without being subject to grounds of inadmissibility or requiring a reentry permit
- No restriction on the number of days spent outside of the United States
- U.S. citizens cannot be deported from the country except in cases of green card or citizenship fraud
If you plan on living in the United States for a long period of time and you desire to gain all of the rights of a native U.S. citizen, filing for naturalization is the path to follow.
But what happens after you submit your N-400?
The steps following submission of your N-400 can be broken up into three main parts:
- Naturalization Interview
- Oath of Allegiance Ceremony
Although proceedings usually follow these steps, the time it takes for your N-400 to be processed can vary widely depending on the USCIS office where you filed, their caseload, as well as if you properly and accurately prepared the form. The entire process from the time of submission to receiving your Certificate of Naturalization usually takes about five to eight months, however, individual cases may vary. Below is a basic guide to walk you through each step of the process, as well as general time estimations.
1. Receipt of Application
(Approximately 2-3 weeks after filing)
If your form N-400 has been filed correctly, USCIS will respond by mailing you a notice that confirms receipt of your application. The receipt notice is formally known as Form I-797C, Notice of Action. To avoid further delays, it is important that you file your N-400 correctly the first time. If the form is not filed correctly, USCIS may send a Notice of Action to reject the petition or send a Request for Evidence seeking additional items.
- Make sure to save this notice. It contains your 10-digit receipt number, which you can use to check your case status.
- If at any point you do not receive one or more of the notices listed here, you can make a case inquiry.
2. Appointment Notice for Biometrics
(Approximately 3-5 weeks after filing)
Next, you will receive an appointment notice for biometrics (fingerprints, photograph, and digital signature) that will designate a date, time, and location for your appointment. The USCIS requires some applicants to be fingerprinted in order to confirm identity and perform background and security checks.
3. Biometrics Appointment
(Approximately 5-8 weeks after filing)
The biometrics appointment, also known as a biometrics screening, is generally a short and easy appointment (15-30 minutes). Here, USCIS will collect your fingerprints, photograph, and digital signature to confirm your identity and perform background and security checks. The appointment notice you received prior to your appointment will tell you what you are required to bring. You will need some form of photo identification to enter the building. A green card will fulfill requirements, but USCIS also accepts identification documents such as:
- Passport or national photo identification issued by your country
- Driver’s license
- Military photo identification
- State-issued photo identification card
USCIS offers more information on preparing for your biometrics appointment here.
4. Appointment Notice for Naturalization Interview
(3-5 months after filing)
Once done with the biometrics appointment, you will receive another appointment notice from USCIS for your naturalization interview. Do everything possible to attend the interview time that is scheduled for you, as rescheduling the interview may add several months to the naturalization process. By now you should be studying for the English and Civics exam portions of the interview (see study materials in the following section).
- If your address has changed since you filed Form N-400, you must notify USCIS within 10 days of moving by filing Form AR-11, Alien’s Change of Address. You must also call USCIS at 1-800-375-5283 to change the address listed on your Form N-400.
5. Naturalization Interview
(4-6 months after filing)
A one-on-one interview with a USCIS officer. The interview consists of:
- A short English comprehension test (reading and writing a sentence in English). Study materials for this portion can be found on the USCIS website.
- A U.S. history/civics exam. Study materials for this portion can also be found on the USCIS website.
- A review of the results of your background check.
- A USCIS officer will usually review your entire N-400 application with you to ensure that all information is correct. As this review can constitute part of the English comprehension test, be ready to respond to questions about the answers you provided in the form, and always answer truthfully. Simple Citizen offers tips to help you pass your interview.
If you are informed at your interview that you’ve been preliminarily approved for naturalization, you’re almost there! The next step is to wait for the notice you will receive in the mail with the place and time of the oath ceremony.
In some cases, the USCIS officer will not be able to make a decision regarding your application on the day of your interview. If this is the case, you may be required to provide additional evidence or attend a second interview. Read about the most commons reasons N-400 applications are denied.
After your interview, USCIS will give you Form N-652, Naturalization Interview Results. This form contains your interview results and tells you if your naturalization application has been granted, continued, or denied.
- Granted – USCIS may approve your Form N-400 if the evidence on record establishes your eligibility for naturalization.
- Continued – USCIS may continue your Form N-400 if you failed a test or did not give USCIS the correct documents. This will add time to your case as you correct the problem.
- Denied – USCIS will deny your Form N-400 if the evidence on record establishes you are not eligible for naturalization.
6. Notice of Oath Ceremony
(1-4 weeks after interview)
If you pass your interview, you will receive a notice to take the Oath of Allegiance (N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony). A request will be included in the notice to answer a few additional questions that will be submitted at the oath ceremony.
7. Oath of Allegiance Ceremony
(Approximately 5-8 months after filing)
You are not a U.S. citizen until you take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony, for which USCIS will notify you by mail of your ceremony date and time. Before a judge, you will pledge to:
- Support and defend the U.S. Constitution
- Respect and obey all laws
- Pay taxes honestly and punctually
- Serve on a jury upon request
- Defend the country if needed
After taking the Oath of Allegiance, you will turn in your green card and receive your Certificate of Naturalization. You are now a full citizen of the United States of America, with all of the rights, privileges, and opportunities it grants, such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, the rights to vote and receive a fair trial, as well as the ability to apply for federal employment. Congratulations!
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