Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, is the form used by permanent residents (Green Card holders) to become citizens of the United States. There are a number of requirements that need to be met before an immigrant can apply for U.S. citizenship, but the benefits are plentiful.
Some benefits of citizenship include the ability to help your relatives immigrate easier, the right to vote, the right to hold a U.S. passport and the fact that you won't need to apply for Green Card renewal anymore.
What are the requirements for citizenship?
The following are the essential requirements for applying for citizenship, a process called naturalization:
- You must hold a green card for five years and continuously reside in the U.S. (meaning that you live there without leaving for trips of six months or longer),
- You must be physically present inside the U.S. for at least 30 months before applying
- You must have lived in the state where you will submit the application for at least three months
- You need to be reasonably proficient in the English language
- You need to be familiar with American history, government and society
- You need to be able to make an Oath of allegiance (There are some exceptions for those whose religion does not allow oathes).
How long does it take to become a citizen?
After you file Form N-400, the USCIS will try to get you through the process in six months, but there is always the possibility of a backlog of applications or other delays.
How do I file for citizenship using Form N-400?
You must correctly complete Form N-400 and attach all required documents. This includes documents that will help the USCIS decide whether you have good moral character, such as criminal records and tax records.
After you file your application, the USCIS will send you a letter telling you when and where you will go to have your biometrics taken. You will need to bring your notice letter, green card and a second form of identification. The USCIS will also notify you of a time and place to be interviewed. The interview includes a test of your ability to read, write and speak English. You will also be asked up to 10 questions about U.S. civics. A person who fails either part of the test will be retested on that part 60 to 90 days later.
People who can't take the English or civics test because of physical or mental disabilities can request an exemption by filing Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions (a doctor must complete and sign it).
Are there special circumstances for getting citizenship?
Less than 10 percent of the time, special circumstances, such as marriage to a U.S. citizen or active service in the U.S. military, may make you eligible for naturalization without having held a green card, holding a green card for less than five years, or having less than five years of continuous presence.
Individuals who have been removed from the U.S. or who are in a removal proceeding cannot apply for naturalization, unless they’re serving in the U.S. military.
When do I actually become a U.S. citizen?
Once the USCIS approves your application, you'll attend a ceremony to take the Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. By taking the oath, you promise to be loyal to the U.S. and its laws, to not be loyal to any other nation and to serve the U.S. when required. Once you've completed the oath, you'll be a U.S. citizen! You'll exchange your green card for a Certificate of Naturalization at the ceremony.
How much does applying for citizenship cost?
The following is a breakdown of the different fees associated with Form N-400 with application assistance:
- Application preparation fee: $199
- USCIS filing fee: $640
- Biometrics fee: $85
- Total: $924