Naturalization | Family Immigration

Naturalization: Step by Step Guideline

Naturalization is the process through which people born outside the United States become citizens of the United States. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants you lawful permanent residency through the naturalization procedure (USCIS). To apply, you must meet the conditions outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act, which Congress created.

One of the most important decisions an immigrant may make is to become a citizen of the United States. Obtaining citizenship may be possible in various methods, depending on your circumstances.

  • Naturalization is how U.S. citizenship is granted to a lawful permanent resident after meeting the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
  • Acquisition of citizenship is obtained through U.S. citizenship parents either at birth or after birth, but before the age of 18.

The most noticeable difference between naturalization and citizenship by acquisition is how one becomes a citizen. For people over the age of 18, naturalization is the process of applying for citizenship. The term “acquisition of citizenship” refers to someone who obtains citizenship as a result of being:

  • Born in the United States or a U.S. Territory
  • Born to parents who are U.S. Citizens

The Naturalization Process in Ten Steps

Understanding the Citizenship Process in the United States-

(Make sure you fulfill all eligibility standards before applying and see if you qualify for any exceptions or modifications.) 

Step 1. Determine if you are already a U.S. citizen

What to do: If you are not a U.S. citizen by birth or did not acquire or derive U.S. citizenship from your parent(s) automatically after birth, go to the next step.

Step 2. Determine if you are eligible to become a U.S. citizen

What to do: Review the naturalization eligibility worksheet (PDF, 300.55 KB) to help you decide if you are eligible to apply for naturalization.

Step 3. Prepare your Form N-400, Application for Naturalization

This form is available to file online. Start by creating your free online account.

What to do:

  1. Read the instructions to complete Form N-400.
  2. Collect the necessary documents to demonstrate your eligibility for naturalization. If you reside outside the United States, get two passport-style photos taken.
  3. Use the document checklist (PDF, 178.19 KB) to make sure you collect all the required documents.

Step 4. Submit your Form N-400 and pay your fees

This form is available to file online. You may also pay your fees online.

Once you submit Form N-400, USCIS will send you a receipt notice. You can check case processing times and your case status online.

Step 5: If necessary, attend your biometrics appointment

What to do: If you need to take biometrics, USCIS will give you an appointment notice with the date, time, and location of your biometrics appointment. At the appointed time, arrive at the assigned spot. Make an appointment to have your biometrics taken.

Step 6: Complete the interview.

USCIS will schedule an interview with you to complete the naturalization process once all of the preliminary steps on your application are completed. You must appear in person at the USCIS office on the date and time specified on your appointment notice. Please remember to bring your appointment notice.

Step 7. Receive a decision from USCIS on your Form N-400

USCIS will mail a notice of the decision to you. If you filed your N-400 online, you could also access the electronic notice in your account.

  • Granted – USCIS may approve your Form N-400 if the evidence in your record establishes that you are eligible for naturalization.
  • Continued – USCIS may continue your application if you need to provide additional evidence/documentation, fail to provide USCIS the correct documents, or fail the English and/or civics test the first time.
  • Denied – USCIS will deny your Form N-400 if the evidence in your record establishes you are not eligible for naturalization.

Step 8. Receive a notice to take the Oath of Allegiance

What to expect: If USCIS approves your Form N-400 in step 7, you may be able to participate in a naturalization ceremony on the same day as your interview. If a same-day naturalization ceremony is unavailable, USCIS will mail you a notification with your scheduled ceremony’s date, time, and location. If you filed your N-400 online, you could also access the electronic notice in your application.

Step 9. Take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States

You are not a U.S. citizen until you take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony.

What to do:

  • Complete the questionnaire on Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony.
  • Report for your naturalization ceremony and check in with USCIS. A USCIS officer will review your responses to Form N-445.
  • Turn in your Permanent Resident Card (Green Card).
  • Take the Oath of Allegiance to become a U.S. citizen.
  • Receive your Certificate of Naturalization, review it, and notify USCIS of any errors you see on your certificate before leaving the ceremony site.

Step 10. Understanding U.S. citizenship

Citizenship is the common thread that connects all Americans. Check out this list of some of the fundamental rights and responsibilities that all citizens—both Americans by birth and by choice—should exercise, honor, and respect.


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