How to apply for citizenship
Do you want to learn how to apply for citizenship? Before you apply for citizenship, you need to know: are you eligible to become a US citizen? Find out if you are eligible to apply. Then learn the steps you need to take to apply for citizenship.
If you want to apply for citizenship, you first need to find out if you pass the citizenship requirements. These include:
- Minimum of 18 years of age
- Have lived in the USA for at least five years as a resident
- No extended trips out of the USA
- No major criminal activity
- Basic understanding of US government and history
- Ability to read, write and speak basic English
How to apply for citizenship
Applying for citizenship can be very confusing. If possible, we recommend you have a lawyer help you. It can be expensive, but you may be able to find free and low-cost legal help online and in your community.
1. Complete the N-400 form
The first step is to complete the application for naturalization. This is a government form called the N-400. You can send the completed form in the mail or you can apply online. Download the N-400 form or apply online.
Important: from December 2019, USCIS is only accepting the 2019 form. Make sure any form you are filling out has this at the bottom of each page: Form N-400 Edition 09/17/19. If it has a different date, download a new form and start again.
You have to include many papers with the application and you also have to pay the fee. Here is a checklist of what you need to include when you submit your N-400 application. You have to include two passport photos with your application. Remember to write your “A-number” on the back of these photos. Some people can apply for a fee waiver so you do not have to pay the fee.
If you are filling out your paperwork without a lawyer, the free website CitizenshipWorks.org will help you through the application steps. Citizenshipworks can also connect you to free legal help online or to a Citizenshipworks partner in your area if you need extra help.
- Applying for citizenship usually costs $725. This includes the biometric fee of $85 and the filing fee of $640. Important note: the US government said the filing fee will increase from $640 to $1,170 some time after December 16, 2019. If you want to apply for citizenship, apply now and save more than $500. You can read more about the proposed changes.
- You may be able to get a fee waiver if you can show your income is low enough or if you have unexpected emergencies, such as medical costs. A waiver means that you will not have to pay. You can read more details about how to apply for a waiver. Important note: the waiver system may change in 2020. You can read more about the proposed changes. USAHello suggests you get legal advice if you are thinking about applying for a waiver because it may give USCIS a reason to refuse your application.
Important: Make a copy of your N-400 before you send it.
2. Save your receipt and check your application online
You will receive a letter of receipt that says USCIS received your application. Keep this and write down the 13-digit receipt number. Take a photo of the receipt on your phone and email it to yourself to make sure you don’t lose it. You can use the receipt number to check the status of your application.
3. Complete your biometric screening
Biometric screening is a security check. You will be asked to go to an office at a certain day and time. Make sure to go to this appointment and to arrive on time! At the appointment, they will take your fingerprints. This means they will stamp your fingerprints and run the picture through a system to make sure you are not a criminal. Learn more about the biometrics appointment.
4. Attend your citizenship interview
Complete an interview with a United States Citizenship and Immigration Officer. Learn more about the naturalization interview and how to prepare for the test.
5. Take the civics test
During your interview, you will take a test about US civics, history and government. On this exam, you must answer 6 out of 10 questions correctly. You can take our citizenship practice quiz to see if you are ready for the test. If you are not ready, you can join our free citizenship class to prepare you for the exam.
6. Wait for your decision
You will receive a written decision from USCIS about your application. You might receive your decision on the day of your interview or you might receive it later in the mail. The decision will be say if your application was:
- Granted (this means you passed!)
- Continued (this means USCIS is doing more research about you or it means you might have failed the English or Civics exams. You can take them again.)
- Denied (this means USCIS decided you are not eligible for naturalization. If this happens, you may be able to petition.)
7. Attend your citizenship ceremony
If you did pass, you will be ready to complete your citizenship ceremony and take the Oath of Allegiance. This is when you pledge loyalty to the USA.
If you have questions about the process, there are organizations you can call. These organizations offer advice in some newcomer languages. Find free or low-cost citizenship help near you.
We hoped this helped answer your question about how to apply for citizenship. Sign up below to take our free citizenship preparation classes. You can take them online, anywhere, anytime!
- How to fill out the N-400 form
- What is the naturalization test interview?
- What questions will be asked in my citizenship test?
- Where can I find free legal resources?
- How to get a green card or permanent residency
- Know your rights as an immigrant
- Know your rights as a refugee
The information on this page comes from USCIS. It is intended for guidance and is updated as often as possible. USAHello does not give legal advice, nor are any of our materials intended to be taken as legal advice. If you are looking for a free or low-cost lawyer or legal help, we can help you find free and low-cost legal services.
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