Naturalization is the process through which a foreign national acquires US citizenship. These frequently asked questions about naturalization will help you under the US naturalization process better when applying to become a naturalized US citizen.

Q: Who is a US citizen by birth?

A: Persons born in the United States or its territories acquire US citizenship at birth through their parents. US citizenship by birth is also granted to some individuals born outside the US, depending on the citizenship of their parents. These persons include:

  • Both parents were US citizens at the time of your birth, at least one of whom lived in the United States at some point
  • One parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of your birth, having spent at least 5 years in the United States (2 or more years after citizen parent's 14th birthday)

A record of your birth abroad by a US embassy or consulate is sufficient proof of US citizenship.

Q: What is US citizenship through naturalization?

A: Naturalization is the process by which those who are not US citizens by birth or through their parents can become naturalized US citizens. Naturalized citizens have the same rights and responsibilities as birth right citizens, but may not run for office of the President of the United States.

The naturalization process is mostly limited to permanent residents (green card holders) and involves a detailed application process, including an interview and tests.

Q: How do I find the date of when I became a permanent resident?

A: This is shown on your Permanent Resident Card, or green card.

Q: What form is used to apply for US naturalization? What is the filing fee for US naturalization?

A: To apply for US naturalization, you should File Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. You may be required to file additional forms depending on your situation.

As of 2015, USCIS charges a $595 application fee and an $85 biometrics (fingerprinting) fee. Those 75 and older do not have to pay the biometrics fee. Check the USCIS Application for Naturalization page for fee updates.

Q: Do I have to provide my criminal record for US naturalization?

A: Yes, because lying about an arrest or conviction, even a minor offense, can result in your naturalization application being denied.

Traffic incidents, such as parking violations or speeding tickets, do not need to be reported to the USCIS unless they are related to drugs or alcohol.

Q: Will the USCIS accommodate me if I have a disability?

A: Yes. The agency will make efforts to provide reasonable accommodations for applicants with disabilities. For example, a deaf applicant may request the assistance of a sign language interpreter for the naturalization interview and oath ceremony. Those with service animals such as seeing eye dogs are permitted to bring their animals with them to the naturalization interview and oath ceremony.

Be sure to indicate your request for accommodation when filing Form N-400.

Q: How do I pay the naturalization application fee?

A: You must send a check or money order from a US bank written out to the Department of Homeland Security. The agency will not accept cash. The biometrics fee is paid separately.

Q: How long does the naturalization process take?

A: The US naturalization process may vary by location, but it generally takes 5 to 8 months to complete the naturalization process. It may take substantially longer in areas with high numbers of immigrants, such as New York City and Los Angeles.

Q: How can I track the status of my naturalization application?

A: Check your naturalization application status by calling USCIS Customer Service at 1-800-375-5283 or you can check your case status online.

Q: I can't make it to my scheduled naturalization interview. What should I do?

A: While it is very important that you make it to your naturalization interview, USCIS understands that sometimes there will be scheduling conflicts. Make sure you contact the USCIS office where your interview is scheduled as soon as you learn of a scheduling conflict, and remember that rescheduling naturalization interview may add a few months to your US naturalization process. If you miss your scheduled interview without contacting the USCIS office, you will have one year to schedule a new interview before your naturalization application is denied.

Q: My address has changed since filing my application for naturalization. What should I do?

A: If you move or your mailing address has changed, be sure to notify USCIS immediately so you don't miss any important mail. First call USCIS Customer Service at 1-800-375-5283 to notify them of the address change, and then file Form AR-11, Change of Address Card, within 10 days of your move.

Q: What can I do if there is incorrect information on my naturalization application?

A: If you haven't taken your Oath of Allegiance, you may correct any errors on your naturalization application by contacting your local USCIS office. If you already received your Certificate of Naturalization, you may file Form N-565 to make any necessary corrections.

If the error is the fault of USCIS, you will not have to pay a fee for the corrections. Otherwise, the usual filing fee applies. It may take a few months for the USCIS to send you a corrected certificate.

Q: Can I bring a lawyer to my naturalization interview?

A: Yes, but you probably won't need a lawyer unless your case is unusually complex. If you do bring a lawyer, have them bring Form G-28 to indicate that they represent you.

Q: Can I apply for my passport at the Oath Ceremony?

A: Yes. Make sure you bring two passport-style photos and a completed passport application (Form DS-11) to the ceremony, but do not sign the form until you are in the presence of a State Department official. You may apply for your passport after taking the oath, but may have to wait in a long line.

Q: Can I change my name when I become a U.S. citizen?

A: The USCIS does not have the authority to legally change an applicant's name. However, you still may have your name changed in one of two ways:

  • Present proof that you already have legally changed your name in accordance with the laws of your state (proof may include a marriage certificate, divorce decree, or some other court order)
  • If you are scheduled to take the Oath of Allegiance in a courthouse (instead of a USCIS office), the court may grant your name change request; your new name would then appear on your Certificate of Naturalization

Q: At which point in the process do I officially become a U.S. citizen?

A: As soon as you take the Oath of Allegiance in a formal naturalization ceremony, you become a United States citizen. Some applicants will have the option of taking the oath on the same day as the interview.

Q: I can't make it to the oath ceremony. What should I do?

A: The oath ceremony is an important part of the naturalization process. If you cannot make your scheduled ceremony, you will need to send Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony, to your local USCIS office including a letter explaining why you are unable to attend the scheduled ceremony.

You will receive another notice (Form N-455) with the new date and time of your oath ceremony.

Q: What can I do if my naturalization application is denied?

A: You may request a hearing with a USCIS officer if you believe your application was wrongly denied. You must fill out Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings, within 30 days after receiving your denial letter to request a hearing (this form is provided with your denial letter).

If you are denied after your hearing, and you still believe it is in error, you may file a petition for another review of your application with the U.S. District Court.

Q: Can I reapply for citizenship?

A: You may reapply in most cases; the denial letter will tell you how soon you may do so. To reapply, you will have to submit a new Form N-400, pay the filing fee, get new fingerprints taken, and generally start from the beginning.

If you were denied because you failed the English language or civics test, you may reapply as soon as you're ready.

Q: I lost my Certificate of Naturalization. What should I do?

A: If you lose your naturalization certificate, you may submit Form N-565 with the current filing fee to either the Nebraska or Texas Service Center (depending on your location). As an alternative, you may use your US passport as proof of citizenship.

Q: My Green Card is about to expire and I'm applying for citizenship, do I need to renew my Green Card?

A: Not necessarily. As long as you apply for naturalization at least a few months before your green card expires, you will not need to renew it. Otherwise, you must renew your green card.