The 9 Steps of the Citizenship Application Process

How do I become a United States Citizen?

Thinking about applying for U.S. Citizenship but are unsure of what you should do? Here are some steps to follow to help you get started toward that path to Citizenship:

Step 1 - Determine whether you are eligible to apply for Citizenship.

In general, if you are 18, have lived in the United States as a permanent resident (green card holder) for 5 years, are able to speak, read and write basic English, can pass the civics test and are a person of good moral character who will support the Constitution and take an oath of allegiance to the United States, you are eligible to apply.

There are other specific exceptions; to review the government’s eligibility  requirements click here

Step 2 - Fill out the N-400 form (application for Citizenship).

Completing this 10 page form accurately is very important.  The USCIS officer during the interview will ask the questions on that application to determine among other things your eligibility for Citizenship and your ability to understand and speak Basic English.  Because an incomplete or inaccurately completed N-400 can delay the Citizenship process, follow the instructions carefully.

Many Adult Literacy programs that offer Citizenship help can also assist you in filling out the form, as can Immigration attorneys.  Along with the completed application, a copy of the front and back of your permanent resident card (green card), and two identical color passport size photographs, with your name and resident alien number written in pencil on the back of each photo, must be submitted. Other documents may be required to be submitted depending on the conditions for your eligibility. Go through the government’s check list to be sure you have reviewed all the requirements prior to submitting the form. Do not sign the oath at the end of the application, as you will do that at the time of the USCIS interview and remember to keep a copy of your application as those are the questions that will be asked by the USCIS officer.

Step 3 - Send in the completed N-400 Form

Send in the completed N-400 and required documents along with the applicable fees to the correct address.  The current fees, as of January 2011, are $680.00 ($595.00-application fee + 85.00-biometric fee). The fees can change; prior to submitting the application, check the USCIS website for the current amount.  Have a check or money order (no cash) for the amount made payable to the Department of Homeland Security (if you are a resident of Guam the fee is made payable to “Treasurer, Guam” or if you are a resident of the US Virgin Islands the fee is made payable to “Commissioner of Finance of the Virgin Islands”).  Where you live (with the exception of current military and former military members and spouses) and/or whether you wish to expedite your application, will determine where to send the completed N-400 application.

Starting 09/19/2015, the fee may be paid using a credit card.
Starting 12/23/ 2016, the new fee will be $640 (application) + $85 (biometric fee) for a total of $725.

Step 4 - Complete your Biometrics

After the N-400 application has been reviewed and accepted, you will receive an appointment letter from the USCIS for the date, time and location to have your fingerprints taken. Bring your USCIS letter, your permanent resident card, and another form of photo ID with you to the fingerprint location.  Once you have been fingerprinted and submitted any other documents that the USCIS may have requested,  you will await the USCIS letter for the scheduled interview, with the date, time and location. According to the USCIS website, they are currently striving to conduct the interview within an average of six months.

Step 5 - Receive your Interview Appointment

You will receive the USCIS letter with the interview appointment date, time and the location of the USCIS office where you will have your interview. Make every effort to attend the scheduled date and time for the interview as rescheduling will result in several months delay.   The USCIS suggests bringing two additional passport photos to the interview and arriving 30 minutes before hand. Bring to the interview your Permanent Resident Card, passport, state ID and any other documents that may have been requested in your appointment letter; again not bringing the correct documents can delay the process.

Step 6 - The USCIS interview.

The USCIS officer will place you under oath, state the purpose of the interview and ask to see your identification.  Then questions about your background, N-400 answers and your Citizenship eligibility will be asked.

Step 7 - The English test.

The USCIS officer will then test you on your ability to read, write and speak Basic English. Your ability to answer the N-400 questions will enable the officer to test your speaking skills. To pass the English test you must be able to read one sentence out of three and show that you understand the meaning of the sentence and write one sentence out of three and show that you understand the meaning of the sentence.

Step 8 - The Civics test.

To pass the civics part of the test, the USCIS officer will ask you ten questions (out of a possible 100) of which you must answer 6 out of 10 correctly.  Use our free Citizenship Test Questions Quiz, Citizenship Test Question & Answer Flashcards & US Citizenship Test Study Guide to help you prepare and study for the USCIS Citizenship Interview.

Step 9 - Receive a Decision

Based on your interview and test responses, you application for U.S. Citizenship will either granted, continued or denied. If it is granted, you will receive a ceremony date; if it is continued (because of failing a part of the test), you will receive a second interview date and if it is denied, you will receive a letter of explanation from the USCIS, for which you can file an appeal.

*This is a basic guide to the Citizenship process; for a complete and comprehensive overview for attaining U.S. Citizenship, visit the USCIS website.