Frequently Asked Questions About the Naturalization Process
The Application Fee
How can I pay the N-400 application fee?
Payment can be made by check, money order, or credit card. To pay by credit card, complete and submit Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions, with the N-400. Applicants age 75 or older are not required to pay the biometrics fee, but will be required to attend the biometrics appointment. Check the USCIS website for the current fee.
What if I am unable to pay the N-400 fee?
If you are unable to pay the N-400 application fee, you may be able to get a full or partial fee waiver. For a full fee waiver, USCIS will consider the following situations:
- You (or your spouse or the head of household living with you) are currently receiving a means-tested benefit, such as Food Stamps, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); OR
- Your household income at the time of filing is at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines; OR
- You have a financial hardship such as recent unemployment, homelessness, or high medical expenses.
How do I apply for a full fee waiver?
Fill out Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, and submit it together with your N-400. You also need to submit evidence that you meet one of the eligibility criteria listed above. Send as much evidence as you can. Write “Fee Waiver Request” in bold letters on the mailing envelope and the top of the N-400. If the request is granted, you will get a receipt in the mail telling you that USCIS has received your naturalization application. If the request is denied, the entire application package will be returned to you, along with an explanation of why it was denied. You can re-apply with additional evidence if needed.
Will a fee waiver request delay my application?
A fee waiver request should not delay your application. You should have a decision on the request within 2-4 weeks. If not, contact an immigration lawyer or accredited representative for help in getting a response.
Will a fee waiver request make me ineligible for naturalization, or deportable?
Some people are afraid to apply for a naturalization fee waiver because they think it will make them deportable as a “public charge.” A public charge in immigration law is someone who depends on the government for financial support. However, being a public charge will not affect your citizenship eligibility, and receiving public benefits is not important for citizenship purposes as long as you received the benefits legally.
How do I apply for a partial fee waiver?
USCIS offers a reduced filing fee of $320 for naturalization applicants with family incomes greater than 150 percent and not more than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. For 2017, this means, for example, that a household of four living in New York with an income between $36,900 and $49,200 per year could pay the reduced fee. You may apply for this option using the new Form I-942, Request for Reduced Fee. This is a new policy that took effect on December 23, 2016.
Submitting the Application
What do I submit with the N-400 application?
Attachments include: payment for the required application fee and biometrics fee (check the USCIS website for current fees); a copy of the green card, front and back; and any additional explanations or statements needed for the N-400 (such as a list of trips outside the country that could not fit on the N-400). Do not send original documents. Send copies only and bring the originals to the interview. USCIS announced on 9/22/16 that photographs no longer need to be submitted with the application, since they are taken at the biometrics appointment.
Where do I send the application?
The current mailing address can be found on the USCIS website. Send the application by certified mail with return receipt so you have confirmation of its delivery. Be sure to keep a copy of the application.
Can I rush (expedite) my application?
Generally, USCIS processes naturalization applications in the order they are received. In some cases, USCIS will allow an application to be expedited. This means the person is interviewed ahead of other people in line. USCIS officials can approve a case to be expedited in certain situations, such as:
- Severe financial loss to company or person;
- Emergency situation;
- Humanitarian reasons;
- Nonprofit organization whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States;
- Department of Defense or national interest situation (These particular expedite requests must come from an official U.S. government entity and state that delay will be detrimental to the government.);
- USCIS error; or
- Compelling interest of USCIS.
To request expedited processing, send a letter with your N-400 application. The letter should explain why you are requesting expedited processing. Include documents or affidavits to support your request. Write at the top of the N-400 and on the mailing envelope in bold letters, “Expedite Request.”
You should send a copy of your expedite request to the director of the local USCIS office that will be handling your case, or deliver the request in person by scheduling an InfoPass appointment.
You may also make a request by calling the USCIS customer service line at 1-800-375-5283. Your request will be forwarded to the service center or local USCIS office handling your case.
What happens after I mail the application?
You will receive a receipt confirming that USCIS received your application. The receipt indicates the date the application was received by USCIS and provides a tracking number that can be used to check the status of the case. Case status can be checked online at https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/Dashboard/CaseStatus.do or by calling the USCIS customer service line, 1-800-375-5283. Keep the receipt with the copy of your N-400 application.
What happens at the biometrics appointment?
During the biometrics appointment, USCIS will collect your fingerprints, photograph, and signature. Note that USCIS will use this photograph for the Certificate of Naturalization, so you should dress in appropriate clothing for the biometrics appointment. During the biometrics appointment, you will be required to sign an oath reaffirming that you provided or authorized all the information in the N-400 application, understand the information, and that the information was complete, true, and correct at the time of filing.
If I am 75 or older, do I have to go to the biometrics appointment?
Yes, applicants age 75 or older are required to attend the biometrics appointment for collection of their fingerprints, photograph, and signature, even though they do not have to pay the biometrics fee.
What if I miss my biometrics appointment?
It is important to keep all appointments with USCIS in order to avoid delays in processing the application. USCIS may close your case for abandonment if you miss your appointment and do not request a different date. The biometrics appointment notice provides instructions for how to request a new appointment date if needed.
Why does USCIS take my fingerprints?
USCIS requires fingerprints to check for criminal history and determine if you have good moral character. USCIS sends fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), where they are entered into a national database of all fingerprints taken by law enforcement agencies across the country. If you have ever had your fingerprints taken under an arrest, the FBI will inform USCIS, regardless of why you were arrested, when you were arrested, and whether you were arrested under a different name. The arrest record will remain with the FBI even when a conviction is removed or expunged by the court.
USCIS will compare the FBI report with the information you provided on your application. If you have ever been arrested, be sure to seek legal advice from an attorney or accredited representative before filing the N-400.
What happens after the biometrics appointment?
USCIS will send you a notice with the location, date, and time of your naturalization interview. You will also receive a list of documents to bring with you to the interview.
How can I prepare for the interview and test?
You should carefully review your copy of the completed N-400 and learn all the terms and vocabulary on it so you will be prepared to answer questions about your application. The questions in Part 11 are especially important to study. The questions about your application are part of the English speaking test.
The English, history, and civics tests are the most difficult part of the naturalization process for many applicants. Failing these tests is the most common reason for applicants being denied. You should begin studying as soon as possible so that you are ready when USCIS sends notice of your interview. Citizenship classes may be available in your community at a non-profit immigration office or community center. You can visit America’s Literacy Directory, https://www.literacydirectory.org/ to find a citizenship class near you.
USCIS has many resources on its website to help applicants prepare for the citizenship test at http://www.uscis.gov/citizenship. Additional resources can be found on the CLINIC website at https://cliniclegal.org/clinic_toolkit/444/453].
What if I cannot attend my naturalization interview?
It is important to keep all appointments with USCIS in order to avoid delays in processing the application. If you are unable to attend the interview as scheduled, send a letter to the USCIS office listed on the notice as soon as possible with an explanation and a request for a new appointment. Include a copy of the interview appointment notice with your letter. If you fail to appear for the interview without an explanation, USCIS will close your case.
What can I expect at the naturalization interview?
At the interview, a USCIS officer will ask you to take an oath to tell the truth, then ask you questions about your naturalization application and test your knowledge of English, history, and civics. The officer will ask if any information you wrote on your N-400 application has changed. He or she may ask about any information that is different from what you wrote on your permanent resident application. Be prepared in advance to explain any differences or changes.
What are the possible outcomes of the interview?
At the interview, the USCIS officer will recommend to either approve, continue, or deny your application. Sometimes USCIS will ask you at the interview if you want to withdraw the application because you do not meet one of the requirements.
What happens if my application is approved?
You will receive Form N-652, Naturalization Interview Results at the interview telling you that you are recommended for approval. You will be notified about when and where to report for the oath ceremony. Some USCIS districts offer a same-day oath ceremony at the USCIS office. If not, you will receive a notice in the mail to appear for an oath ceremony. After you complete the oath ceremony, you will be a U.S. citizen. For more information, see CLINIC’s fact sheet, The Naturalization Oath of Allegiance Ceremony.
Why would my application be continued?
Your application is continued if you fail the citizenship test or USCIS needs more information to make a decision. If you fail all or part of the test, you will receive Form N-652, Naturalization Interview Results telling you the results. You will be rescheduled for another interview within 90 days to re-take the part that you failed. If you miss your second interview without notifying USCIS, USCIS will deny your application.
USCIS may end the interview immediately if documents are missing or questions are unanswered. USCIS will give you Form N-14, Request for Additional Information, Documents, or Forms telling you what is missing. The officer will ask you to come back for another interview with the required information, or you may be asked to submit the missing information by mail or in person without a second interview. The second interview, or the deadline for submitting the missing documents, should be at least 60 days after the first interview to allow you time to gather the information.
What if I want to withdraw my application?
You may withdraw your application at any time during the naturalization process by sending a request in writing to your USCIS district director. If the district director agrees to the withdrawal, your application will be denied without further notice. You will not have your application fees returned. You may re-apply for naturalization at a later time by paying the fees again.
What happens if my application is denied?
Your application is denied if the USCIS officer decides that you do not meet the eligibility requirements for naturalization. You should receive a letter in the mail called “Notice of Decision” within 120 days after your interview. The letter will explain why your case was denied. Depending on the reason for the denial, you may choose to re-apply for naturalization in the future. The letter will also tell you how you can appeal the denial through administrative review.
What is administrative review?
Administrative review is when you have another naturalization interview with a second USCIS officer to appeal your denial. The second officer reviews the information on your case or, if you were denied for failing the test, gives you the citizenship test again. During the appeal interview, you can provide new evidence or give testimony on your case. The evidence and testimony help to explain why you do meet the requirements for naturalization and why USCIS should approve your application.
How can I request administrative review?
Within 30 days after you receive the denial letter, you need to file Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings with the required fee. (Check the USCIS website for the current fee.) You can file the N-336 after 30 days only if you can show that a hardship prevented you from filing in time. USCIS will schedule your appeal interview within 180 days after you file the N-336.
What happens if USCIS denies my appeal?
Depending on the reason for the denial, you may be able to re-apply for naturalization. For example, if you were denied for failing the citizenship test, you can re-apply for naturalization at any time in the future. If you wish to appeal a denial of a request for administrative review, the next step is judicial review.
What is judicial review?
Judicial review is when a judge in court hears your case. In naturalization cases, a judge from the federal district court hears your case. You can file a petition for judicial review if USCIS denies your administrative review. You must file the Petition for Review with the U.S. district court in the area where you live. You must file it within 120 days after USCIS denies your administrative review. You will send one copy of the petition to your USCIS district office director and one copy to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. You should get an attorney to help you with the petition and prepare you to appear before a judge.