The process of applying for naturalization is composed of many stages and attention to detail is critical. Missing appointments or failing to provide proper documentation can severely delay the process or even result in a cancellation of the application.
Naturalization for foreign nationals is accomplished by first establishing eligibility and then filing with the USCIS.
Although it can differ based on each particular applicant’s present status, the naturalization process generally follows these steps:
1. Determining Eligibility
This may seem self-evident, but it is necessary nonetheless. If one of your parents is a citizen (native born or naturalized), you may already be a citizen. Likewise, if you were born in the United States or in one of its territories (Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, etc.), you probably won’t be eligible to file an N-400.
Speaking generally, most foreign nationals can apply for naturalization after they have maintained lawful permanent residence status for at least 5 years. If the permanent resident is married to a US citizen, that time period goes down to 3 years.
There are also a good number of other prerequisites that affect one’s eligibility for naturalization. Among these are exhibiting good moral character, knowledge of US civics and English, attachment to the Constitution and maintaining physical presence in the United States. For more information on this, please refer to our Naturalization Requirements page.
2. USCIS FILING
Once proper eligibility is determined, a Form N-400 Application for Naturalization is filled out and filed with the USCIS along with supporting evidentiary documents and filing/biometric fees.
3. Filing Acknowledgement
Within a few weeks of filing the N-400, the applicant will receive their first USCIS Notice of Action form (I-797C) acknowledging receipt of the package. If the applicant has filed all the necessary documents and the notice doesn’t request further information, no additional action is needed.
4. Biometrics Notification
A second Notice of Action is received from USCIS noting the date, time and place for the applicant to be fingerprinted. Attending the appointment is mandatory, and failure to do so can be grounds for termination of the naturalization process.
5. Biometrics Appointment
All applicants must bring the Notice of Action appointment form and valid photo identification. During the appointment, fingerprints, photographs and/or digital signatures will be taken. The gathering of this information is used to conduct background and security checks and to confirm the identity of the applicant.
6. Naturalization Interview
The applicant eventually receives another Notice of Action from the USCIS, informing them of the date, time and place to be interviewed by USCIS officers.
7. Naturalization Interview
The naturalization interview is conducted in order to review all documents submitted during the application process, update any missing or changed information and to quiz the applicant on their knowledge of the English language and American government. As with the biometrics appointment, this meeting is mandatory. Failure to attend may be construed as “abandonment,” and the naturalization application could be cancelled.
In some cases the application will be approved on the spot. In other cases, the applicant will notified of the decision in writing.
For specific information on the interview/testing appointment, please see: Naturalization Interview.
8. Notice of Action – Application Adjudication
The USCIS informs the applicant as to whether or not their application was approved. If the application was not approved, the notice will state the grounds for the denial.
9. Notice of Action – Notification of Oath of Allegiance ceremony
Following approval of the naturalization application, the USCIS notifies the applicant as to the next available Oath of Allegiance ceremony.
10. Attend Oath ceremony and receive Certificate of Naturalization
Applicant attends to Oath of Allegiance ceremony and receives their Certificate of Naturalization. The applicant is now possessed of all of the rights and privileges afforded to native-born Americans.