To obtain U.S. citizenship, individuals need to submit Form N-400: Application for Naturalization to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Over the last five years, the processing times for Form N-400 have remained relatively steady, averaging around 11 months.
There are presently 89 field offices responsible for processing Form N-400. The current average processing duration across all offices stands at approximately 15.5 months.Typically, the entire naturalization process, encompassing application processing, the citizenship interview and examination, and the oath of allegiance ceremony, takes an average of 18 to 24 months.
In this blog, we’ll provide comprehensive information regarding this form, encompassing details about the N-400 processing duration, expenses, prerequisites, and potential challenges.
This form is submitted either by mail or online to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and is typically done 90 days before meeting the continuous residence requirement. The submission of Form N-400 signifies a formal request to USCIS, asking them to review and consider the application for U.S. citizenship.
Within Form N-400, individuals are required to furnish details regarding their immigration and work history, as well as disclose any legal or criminal issues they might have encountered during their residency in the U.S.
Upon USCIS receipt and assessment of your Form N-400, the initial step involves scheduling a biometrics appointment for security screenings. Subsequently, you may receive guidance for supplementary information if necessary or an invitation for a naturalization interview. This interview includes inquiries pertaining to your application and mandates the completion of the essential English and civics tests.
Upon successful approval of your naturalization application, you will partake in the Oath of Allegiance ceremony, officially marking your transition to U.S. citizenship.
Processing Time of Form N-400
The processing duration for Form N-400 typically ranges between 8 to 10 months, contingent upon the specific USCIS field office where the application for naturalization is submitted, as indicated by USCIS processing times available on their website.
The estimated processing timeframe for Form N-400 is calculated based on the handling of 80% of the cases received and processed within the preceding six months. However, it’s important to note that these processing times serve as general benchmarks due to the unique nature of each case.
Several factors can impact the processing time of the N-400 application:
USCIS workload: A higher volume of applications may result in prolonged processing times.
Nature of naturalization eligibility: Certain categories, like spouses of U.S. citizens, might undergo expedited processing compared to others.
Accuracy of the application: Delays can occur due to incomplete or erroneous applications.
Requests for additional information: USCIS may ask for more details or documents, causing delays.
Background checks: Processing may be extended if there are disparities between the applicant’s background and the information provided in the application.
Processing Stages for Form N-400
The N-400 timeline includes several major stages:
Acknowledgment of Application
Once Form N-400 is submitted, USCIS will send a receipt notice, Form I-797C, confirming the receipt of your application. This notice includes a unique receipt number for tracking purposes.
You will be scheduled for a biometrics appointment at a nearby Application Support Center (ASC). During this appointment, your fingerprints, photo, and signature will be collected for a comprehensive background check. Additional documents such as a state-issued photo ID or driver’s license might be required.
USCIS conducts a thorough background check, reviewing both your biometrics and submitted application documents for accuracy.
Upon successful preliminary checks, you’ll receive a notice for your naturalization interview, specifying the date, time, and location.
Naturalization Interview & Tests
The naturalization interview lasts around 30 minutes and involves questions about your background and eligibility. You’ll also undergo English and civics tests to assess language proficiency and knowledge of U.S. government and history.
Decision on Application
After your naturalization interview, USCIS will evaluate your application. If approved, you’ll receive a notice of approval. In case of missing information, USCIS may request more details or schedule a follow-up interview. If found ineligible, your application will be denied.
Oath of Allegiance
Upon approval, you’ll receive a Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony to schedule your naturalization ceremony. During this ceremony, you’ll take the Oath of Allegiance, officially becoming a U.S. citizen. You’ll receive a Certificate of Naturalization as proof of your citizenship.
What if Your Form N-400 Naturalization Application Takes More Than Normal Processing Time?
Steps to address the delay or potential denial, If your Form N-400 naturalization application surpasses the standard processing time :
Request Inquiry: If your application extends beyond the normal processing duration, you can initiate an inquiry with USCIS to understand the cause of the delay.
Stay Updated: Throughout the application process, USCIS usually communicates updates or requests for additional evidence. If the processing time exceeds expectations, regularly check your application status online to ensure you haven’t missed any notifications from USCIS.
When crafting an inquiry to USCIS, ensure to include the following essential details:
Your N-400 receipt number.
Your A-number, an individualized eight- or nine-digit alien number, usually starting with the letter “A” and assigned to noncitizens upon entry into the country.
The date of your N-400 application submission.
Submitting these specifics is crucial when communicating with USCIS regarding the delayed processing of your naturalization application.
Cost of Form N-400
The total fee for filing Form N-400 stands at $725, encompassing a $640 filing fee and an $85 biometrics fee. When applying online, payments can be made through the online platform.
For mail-in applications, acceptable payment methods include credit cards, money orders, personal checks, or cashier’s checks. It’s crucial to note that each fee must be paid separately to prevent potential rejection of the application.
Applicants aged 75 and above are exempt from paying the biometrics fee. Military applicants submitting Form N-400 under section 328 or 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) are exempt from both the filing and biometrics fees.
Requirements of Form N-400
The eligibility requirements for filing Form N-400 to pursue U.S. citizenship include:
Being a minimum of 18 years old
Holding a Green Card for three years as the spouse of a U.S. citizen or five years for other naturalization categories
Maintaining continuous residence for three years if married to a U.S. citizen or five years in other circumstances
Demonstrating physical presence in the U.S. for 18 months if married to a U.S. citizen or 30 months otherwise
Exhibiting good moral character by avoiding criminal convictions and negative behavior
Possessing the ability to read, write, speak, and comprehend basic English
Having knowledge about the U.S. government and history
USCIS occasionally provides exceptions and accommodations to these naturalization requirements. To check your eligibility for naturalization, use USCIS’ naturalization eligibility tool.If uncertain about meeting the N-400 requirements, it is advisable to seek a consultation with an experienced immigration attorney.
Still not sure of the whole process? We are here to help!
Challenges Of Form N-400
Successfully navigating the naturalization process requires awareness of potential challenges and risks that may arise:
Naturalization tests: Failing the English and civics tests can result in a denial of your naturalization application.
Documentation: Submitting incomplete or inaccurate supporting documents may cause delays or lead to a denial of your application.
Criminal convictions: Certain criminal convictions can render you ineligible for naturalization or result in removal from the U.S.
Continuous residence requirements: Failure to demonstrate continuous residence in the U.S. for the required period could lead to a denial of your application.
Security concerns: Affiliation with terrorist organizations can lead to the denial of your naturalization application.
False information: Providing false information or concealing facts in your application may result in its denial.
Complex legal process: The naturalization legal process is intricate, and if your application is denied, the appeal process tends to be lengthy and uncertain.
Pursuing U.S. citizenship through Form N-400 involves a meticulous process with various stages and requirements.
The journey to naturalization demands attention to potential challenges, including test outcomes, documentation accuracy, legal implications, continuous residence, security considerations, truthfulness in information, and the complexity of the legal process. Understanding these aspects and fulfilling the prerequisites is crucial.
Is it necessary to hire an attorney for applying for U.S. citizenship?
No, it is not mandatory to hire an attorney to submit USCIS forms, such as Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, which can be completed and submitted online by individuals themselves. However, some individuals opt to seek guidance from a lawyer or an Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR)-accredited representative.
If you choose to seek legal assistance, you can start by:
Seeking legal advice.
Exploring resources available in your community.
While numerous individuals offer assistance with immigration services, it’s essential to note that not all of them are authorized or qualified to do so. If you are seeking legal help for completing your Application for Naturalization, it’s crucial to be aware that only attorneys and EOIR-accredited representatives are authorized to provide legal advice regarding the necessary forms and documents for your application.
They can also explain potential immigration options and liaise with USCIS on your behalf. For more details, refer to USCIS’ guidance on the unauthorized practice of immigration law.
Should you decide to submit Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, without legal aid, you can access information about the naturalization application process and study materials to prepare for the naturalization test through the Citizenship Resource Center. Additionally, visit the N-400, Application for Naturalization, page and carefully review the instructions provided.
Does USCIS publish the naturalization test questions?
Yes, USCIS releases a comprehensive list of civics test questions. During the interview, a USCIS officer will ask an applicant 10 out of the 100 civics test questions from the 2008 version.
USCIS offers free educational resources to aid in naturalization test preparation. These resources include study materials for the 2008 version of the civics test and the English language test.
Additionally, the “Find Help in Your Community” page enables individuals to search for low-cost or free citizenship classes available across the United States.
Does USCIS frequently alter the questions on the naturalization test?
No, USCIS does not frequently change the questions. However, certain answers may change due to elections or appointments. Therefore, while studying for the test, it’s important to ensure familiarity with the most up-to-date answers to these questions.
Visit the Civics Test Updates page to access answers to these specific questions.
What should I do if I’ve already applied for naturalization and my Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) is nearing expiration?
While lawful permanent resident status does not have an expiration date, except in cases of naturalization or status termination, it’s essential for a lawful permanent resident to possess valid and unexpired proof of their status. Applying for naturalization doesn’t alter this requirement.
However, starting from December 12, 2022, a proper submission of Form N-400 by a naturalization applicant results in receiving a Form N-400 receipt notice. When this receipt notice is presented alongside the Green Card, it automatically extends the Green Card’s validity for 24 months from the “Card Expires” date.
This receipt notice serves as proof of the extension of your Green Card, confirming your lawful permanent resident status. It is crucial for purposes such as employment or travel authorization.
How many times can I apply for naturalization?
There is no limit to the number of times you can apply for naturalization, but you must pay the filing fee for each Form N-400 you submit to the agency.