US Naturalization: Steps & Timeline

Instructor: Amy Troolin

Amy has MA degrees in History, English, and Theology. She has taught college English and religious education classes and currently works as a freelance writer.

In this lesson, we will examine the steps in the process of becoming a US citizen. You will learn a few details about each step and a rough timeline for the entire process of naturalization.

Step 1: Determining Eligibility

Becoming a US citizen could be one of the most important things you do in your entire life, so you'll want to make sure that you do it right. In this lesson, we're going to break down the naturalization process into five steps and explain in some detail what you need to do to increase your chances of success in your quest for citizenship.

Let's begin. The first thing you need to do is determine whether you are eligible for citizenship. Take a few moments to answer the following questions:

1. Are you 18 years old or over?

2. Have you been a permanent resident of the US for at least 5 years?

3. Have you been physically present in the US for at least 30 months within those 5 years?

4. Have you lived in your current state or district for at least 3 months?

5. Are you willing to continue to live in the US during your whole naturalization process?

6. Can you speak, read, and write English?

7. Do you have a good moral character, and are you willing to support the US Constitution?

If you answered yes to all these questions, then you could certainly be eligible for naturalization and are ready to proceed to step 2

Step 2: Filling Out the N-400 Form

To start your official journey toward citizenship, you must fill out the N-400 form, which is the official naturalization application. You can find the form online or at your local USCIS office. This is a long form that asks you about yourself, your background, your family, your education, your employment, your residence in the US, your associations, your ethical beliefs and behavior, your desire to be a citizen, and your acceptance of the US Oath of Allegiance.

Be sure to read and follow the form's instruction sheet, fill out the required sections, answer all the questions in as much detail as possible, double-check your work, and be totally honest. Then send the form to the USCIS with your application fee, two passport-type photographs, and a copy of your Permanent Resident Card.

Step 3: The Biometrics Appointment

In 2-3 weeks, the USCIS will send you a receipt, saying that it has received your N-400 form and giving you a case number that you can use to check the status of your case. A week or two later, you will receive an appointment notice for your biometrics appointment, which you must attend about 5-8 weeks after you file your N-400 form.

During your biometrics appointment, you will be fingerprinted and photographed. You will also have to sign a form to confirm your identity and authorize a background check. The appointment will only take between 15 and 30 minutes, but it is required for naturalization, so don't miss it.

Step 4: The Naturalization Interview

About 3-5 months after you file your N-400 form, you will receive an appointment notice for your naturalization eligibility interview. The interview itself will take place about one month later. If the date you are assigned doesn't work for you, be sure to write to the USCIS immediately to reschedule. If you fail to show up for your interview, the USCIS will administratively close your case, and the whole process will take longer to complete.

At your interview, a USCIS officer will review your N-400 form and ask you plenty of questions about it, so be sure to know your information well. The interview will also test your ability to speak and understand English, so you should practice those skills ahead of time.

Also at the interview, you will take tests in US civics, English reading, and English writing. In the civics test, you must answer correctly at least 6 questions about US history and government. For the reading test, you must read at least one English sentence, and for the writing test, you must write at least one English sentence. Study materials are available on the USCIS website, so be sure to prepare.

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