How to Apply for Citizenship (USA)
Do you want to become a US citizen? The right to vote in US elections, avoid deportation from the US, and have a broad array of work opportunities are just a few of the benefits of going through the naturalization process. Learn about eligibility requirements, the application process, and the tests you'll need to pass in order to become a US citizen.
Fulfilling the Eligibility Requirements
Be at least 18 years old.The requires that you be 18 years of age to undergo the naturalization process, no matter how long you have lived in the United States.
Show that you've lived as a permanent resident in the US for five consecutive years.Your permanent resident card, or "green card," shows the date you were granted permanent resident status. You are eligible to begin the naturalization process exactly five years from that date.
- If you are married to a US citizen, you may begin the naturalization process after living as a permanent resident with your spouse for three years, rather than five.
- If you have served in the US armed forces for more than one year, you do not have to prove five years of continuous residence.
- If you left the US for six months or more, you may have "disrupted" your permanent resident status, and you may have to make up for the time before applying to become a citizen.
Be physically present in the United States.In most cases, you may not apply for US citizenship while out of the country.
Have good moral character.The USCIS will determine whether you have good moral character by taking the following into consideration:
- Your criminal record. Crimes committed with the intent to harm a person, terrorist acts, drug or alcohol related crimes, hate crimes, and other types of crimes could disqualify you from the naturalization process.
- Lying to the USCIS about past crimes is grounds for denial of your application.
- Most traffic fines and minor incidents will not disqualify your application.
Be able to read, write and speak basic English.Examinations on these subjects will be administered as part of the application process.
- Applicants over a certain age or with a disability will have less rigorous language requirements.
Have a basic knowledge of US history and government.A civics exam will be administered as part of the application process.
- Applicants over a certain age or with a disability will have less rigorous civics requirements.
Demonstrate an attachment to the Constitution.Taking the Oath of Allegiance will be the final step to becoming a US Citizen. Be prepared to promise to:
- Renounce foreign allegiances.
- Support the Constitution.
- Serve the United states, whether as part of the Armed Forces or through civilian service.
Applying for Naturalization
Complete the citizenship application.Download form N-400 from www.USCIS.gov (click "Forms"). Fill in the form completely, answering all the questions. If you miss anything, your application may be delayed or denied, and you will likely have to proceed with an appeal.
Have two photographs taken.Buy passport-style photos within 30 days of filling out your application at a location that is familiar with the specific requirements.
- You will need two color photos printed on thin paper with a white space around the head.
- Your face should be fully visible and nothing should cover your head, unless for religious purposes.
- Write your name and "A number" lightly in pencil on the back of the images.
Mail your application to a USCIS Lockbox facility.Find the address of the facility that serves your region. Include the following with your application:
- Your photos.
- A copy of your permanent resident card.
- Other documents necessary according to your circumstances.
- The required application fee (see the "forms" page at www.USCIS.gov).
Get fingerprinted.When the USCIS receives your application, you will be asked to come to a certain location to have your fingerprints taken.
- Your fingerprints will be sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which will perform a criminal background check.
- If your fingerprints are rejected, you may need to provide additional information to the USCIS.
- If your fingerprints are accepted, you will receive a notice in the mail telling you where and when your interview will be held.
Completing the Requirements for Becoming a US Citizen
Complete the interview.During your interview, you will be asked questions with regard to your application, your background, your character and your willingness to take the Oath of Allegiance. The interview process also includes the following:
- An English test with reading, writing and speaking components.
- A civics test during which you will be asked ten questions regarding US history; you must answer at least six correctly to pass.
Wait for a decision.After your interview, your naturalization will be either granted, denied, or continued.
- If your naturalization is granted, you will be invited to complete the process of becoming a US citizen.
- If your naturalization is denied, you may look into .
- If your naturalization is continued, which usually occurs when additional documents are needed, you will be asked to supply the needed documents and undergo a second interview.
Attend a naturalization ceremony.The ceremony is a meaningful event at which you will officially become a US citizen. During the event, you will
- Answer questions about what you have done since the interview.
- Turn in your permanent resident card.
- Pledge your allegiance to the US by taking the Oath of Allegiance.
- Receive your Certificate of Naturalization, the official document stating that you are a US Citizen.
QuestionI'm a grasp card holder. Can I bring my parents to the USA to live with me?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, you are allowed to bring in your parents if they can qualify for a visa and can get the green card.Thanks!
QuestionI am British, can I have dual citizenship?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, you may.Thanks!
QuestionI am applying for my mother and she is disabled. Will she be required to take the test?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThat would depend on the nature of her disability. If her disability impairs her ability to take the test, contact an official who can help with the naturalization process to discuss an alternative route for your mother to take.Thanks!
QuestionMy friend has her green card and has applied for citizenship, but she's waiting for her interview to be scheduled. Can she get a VISA to travel to Mexico for her wedding just in case?Givi Kutidze, Esq.Community AnswerYes, she can travel as long as she has already had her fingerprints taken. She doesn't have to wait for the interview.Thanks!
QuestionWill I need 2 copies of the form N-400 if I have an 11-year-old son?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou will need two, but you do not need to fill out all of the questions on his, as they do not all concern him.Thanks!
QuestionDoes the child become a citizen if his/her parents become citizens?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, it is very likely.Thanks!
QuestionWhat does it cost to apply for U.S. citizenship?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThe total cost is 5: 0 for filing the application, and for background check ("biometric fee").Thanks!
QuestionCan I apply for U.S. citizenship if I am not working in the U.S. and am out of the country three times a year?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, you can.Thanks!
I'm a Filipino with a tourist visa to the USA. What should I do to eventually become an American citizen?
Instead of a replacement, will i be eligible to apply for citizenship if my permanent resident card is stolen or lost?
Can I apply for US citizenship if I have been out of the country for several months at a time over the past few years?
I have been selected for the American lottery but I failed three subjects of my WACE result what should I do to get my visa?
Do I have to remain in the US after submitting my citizenship application?
- Do not skip your interview without notifying the USCIS that you need to reschedule. If you don't show up, your case will be "administratively closed." Your naturalization process could be delayed by many months if this occurs.
- If you are fluent, in English, you will be exempt from the English testing portion of the interview.
- Take time to improve both your English speaking and writing skills, if applicable, as you wait for your application for citizenship to process. Additionally, brush up on your knowledge of U.S. history and the government for a required civics exam. You can visit online resources that offer civics tests specifically for applicants to practice.
- Exemptions from taking both the language and civics exams are offered to elderly applicants who have resided in the US for more than 15 or 20 years and are over a certain age.
To apply for citizenship in the USA, you must have lived in the United States for 5 consecutive years and be at least 18 years old. You should also have a clean criminal record and be able to read, write, and speak English. If you meet these requirements, visit www.USCIS.gov and download form N-400. Fill in the form completely and submit it with 2 passport-style photos to a USCIS Lockbox facility. You can find the addresses on the USCIS website. You will then have to conduct an interview, including an English test and a civics test on the subject of U.S. history.
Sources and Citations
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Video: COMPLETE N-400 Application Instructions Step-by-Step!
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