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U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization FAQ

  1. How can I become a U.S. citizen?
  2. Who is born a U.S. citizen?
  3. How do I become a naturalized citizen?
  4. Who is an orphan?
  5. When can I apply for naturalization?
  6. What form do I use to file for naturalization?
  7. If I have been convicted of a crime but my record has been expunged, do I need to write that on my application or tell a USCIS officer?
  8. Where do I file my naturalization application?
  9. Will USCIS help me, or make accommodations for me, if I have a disability?
  10. What is the fee for processing an application?
  11. How long will it take to become naturalized?
  12. Where can I be fingerprinted?
  13. What if I cannot go to my scheduled interview?
  14. What do I do if my address has changed?
  15. Can I change my name when I naturalize?
  16. If USCIS grants me naturalization, when will I become a citizen?
  17. What should I do if I cannot go to my oath ceremony?
  18. What can I do if USCIS denies my application?
  19. Can I reapply for naturalization if USCIS denies my application?
  20. What do I do if I lose my Certificate of Naturalization? What do I use as proof of citizenship if I do not have my certificate?
  21. What is Dual Citizenship?

1. How can I become a U.S. citizen?

You may become a U.S. citizen (1) by birth or (2) through naturalization.

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2. Who is born a U.S. citizen?

Generally, people are born U.S. citizens if they are born in the United States or if they are born to U.S. citizens:

(1) If you were born in the United States:

Normally you were a U.S. citizen at birth.* (Including, in most cases, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the territories of Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and after November 4, 1986, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands),

(2) If you were born abroad to TWO U.S. citizens:

And at least one of your parents lived in the United States at some point in his or her life, then in most cases you are a U.S. citizen.

(3) If you were born abroad to ONE U.S. citizen:

In most cases, you are a U.S. citizen if all of the following are true:

  • One of your parents was a U.S. citizen when you were born;
  • Your citizen parent lived at least 5 years in the United States before you were born; and
  • At least 2 of those 5 years in the United States were after your citizen parent's 14th birthday.**

Your record of birth abroad, if registered with a U.S. consulate or embassy, is proof of your citizenship. You may also apply for a passport to have your citizenship recognized. If you need additional proof of your citizenship, you may file an "Application for Certificate of Citizenship" (Form N-600) to get a Certificate of Citizenship.

* The exception is persons who were born not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, such as children of foreign diplomats.

** If you were born before November 14, 1986, you are a citizen if your U.S. citizen parent lived in the United States for at least 10 years and 5 of those years in the United States were after your citizen parent's 14th birthday.

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3. How do I become a naturalized citizen?

If you are not a U.S. citizen by birth or did not acquire/derive U.S. citizenship automatically after birth, you may still be eligible to become a citizen through the naturalization process. Eligible persons use the "Application for Naturalization" (Form N-400) to apply for naturalization.

Persons who acquired citizenship from parent(s) while under 18 years of age use the "Application for Certificate of Citizenship" (Form N-600) to document their citizenship. Qualified children who reside abroad use the "Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate under Section 322" (Form N-600K) to document their naturalization.

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4. What are the basic requirements to apply for naturalization?

Generally, to be eligible for naturalization you must:

  • Be age 18 or older;
  • Be a permanent resident for a certain amount of time (usually 5 years but less for some individuals);
  • Be a person of good moral character;
  • Have a basic knowledge of U.S. history and government;
  • Have a period of continuous residence and physical presence in the United States; and
  • Be able to read, write, and speak basic English. There are exceptions to this rule for someone who:
    • Is 55 years old and has been a permanent resident for at least 15 years; or
    • Is 50 years old and has been a permanent resident for at least 20 years; or
    • Has a permanent physical or mental impairment that makes the individual unable to fulfill these requirements.

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5. When can I apply for naturalization?

You may be able to apply for naturalization if you are at least 18 years of age and have been a permanent resident of the United States:

  • For at least 5 years; or
  • For at least 3 years during which time you have been, and continue to be, married to and living in a marriage relationship with your U.S. citizen spouse; or
  • While currently serving honorably in the U.S. military, with at least 1 year of service, and you apply for citizenship while in the military, or within 6 months of discharge.

Certain spouses of U.S. citizens, and those who served in the U.S. military during a past war or are serving currently in combat may be able to file for naturalization sooner than noted above.

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6. What form do I use to file for naturalization?

You should use an "Application for Naturalization" (Form N-400).

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7. If I have been convicted of a crime but my record has been expunged, do I need to write that on my application or tell a USCIS officer?

Yes. You should always be honest with USCIS about all:

  • Arrests (even if you were not charged or convicted);
  • Convictions (even if your record was cleared or expunged);
  • Crimes you have committed for which you were not arrested or convicted; and
  • Any countervailing evidence, or evidence in your favor concerning the circumstances of your arrests, and/or convictions or offenses that you would like USCIS to consider.

Even if you have committed a minor crime, USCIS may deny your application if you do not tell the USCIS officer about the incident. Note that unless a traffic incident was alcohol or drug related, you do not need to submit documentation for traffic fines and incidents that did not involve an actual arrest if the only penalty was a fine less than $500 and/or points on your driver's license.

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8. Where do I file my naturalization application?

You should send your completed "Application for Naturalization" (Form N-400) to the appropriate USCIS Service Center as listed on the filing instructions. Remember to make a copy of your application. Do not send original documents with your application unless the filing instructions state that an original is required. Always make copies of documents that you send to USCIS.

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9. Will USCIS help me, or make accommodations for me, if I have a disability?

USCIS will make every effort to make reasonable accommodations for applicants with disabilities who need modifications to the naturalization process in order to demonstrate their eligibility. For example, if you use a wheelchair, USCIS will make sure you can be fingerprinted, interviewed, and sworn in at a location that is wheelchair accessible. If you are hearing impaired, the officer conducting your interview will speak loudly and slowly, or USCIS will work with you to arrange for a sign language interpreter. If you require a sign language interpreter at the oath ceremony, please indicate that in your Form N-400 in the section where you are asked if you need an accommodation for a disability. If you use a service animal such as a guide dog, your animal may come with you to your interview and oath ceremony.

USCIS is continuing to work on better ways to make the naturalization process easier for applicants with disabilities. If you know in advance that you will need some kind of accommodation, write a letter explaining what you will need and send it to the USCIS district office that will interview you after you receive your interview notice. If you have a physical or developmental disability or a mental impairment so severe that you cannot acquire or demonstrate the required knowledge of English and civics, you may be eligible for an exemption of those requirements. To request an exemption, you must file a "Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions" (Form N-648).

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10. What is the fee for processing an application?

The fee charged by USCIS for filing your naturalization application is $595.00* and the biometric services fee for having your fingerprints taken is $80.00.**

You must send the $675.00 total fee with your application to USCIS. Pay the fee with a check or money order drawn on a U.S. bank payable to the Department of Homeland Security. Do not use the initials DHS or USDHS. Do Not Send Cash.

Residents of Guam should make the fee payable to the "Treasurer, Guam," and residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands should make the fee payable to the "Commissioner of Finance of the Virgin Islands."

If required, USCIS may also take your photograph and signature as part of the biometric services.

Remember that your application fee is not refundable even if you withdraw your application or if your case is denied.

* If you are applying for naturalization based on your own service in the Armed Forces of the United States, no filing fee is required.

** If you are 75 years or older, or if you are filing on the basis of your service in the Armed Forces of the United States, or if you are filing from abroad, do not send the biometric services fee for fingerprinting with your application.

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11. How long will it take to become naturalized?

After USCIS receives your application, USCIS will tell you where you should get fingerprinted.

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12. Where can I be fingerprinted?

After USCIS receives your application, USCIS will tell you where you should get fingerprinted.

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13. What if I cannot go to my scheduled interview?

It is very important not to miss your interview. If you have to miss your interview, you should write the office where your interview is to be conducted as soon as possible and ask to have your interview rescheduled. Rescheduling an interview may add several months to the naturalization process, so try not to change your original interview date.

If you miss your scheduled interview without notifying USCIS, they will "administratively close" your case. If USCIS closes your case because you missed your interview, USCIS will notify you at your last address of record. Unless you contact USCIS to schedule a new interview within 1 year after USCIS closes your case, USCIS will deny your application.

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14. What do I do if my address has changed?

It is important that USCIS has your most current address. If USCIS does not, you may not receive important information from them. For example, USCIS may not be able to notify you about the date and time of your interview or about additional documents you may need to send or bring.

If you move after filing your "Application for Naturalization" (Form N-400), call USCIS Customer Service at 1-800-375-5283 to change your address on your pending Form N-400. Every time you move, you are required by law to inform USCIS of your new address. To meet this legal requirement, you must file an "Alien's Change of Address Card" (Form AR-11), in addition to calling USCIS Customer Service. You must file the Form AR-11 within 10 days of your move. You should also notify the U.S. Postal Service of your new address to help ensure that any mail already on its way may be forwarded to you.

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15. Can I change my name when I naturalize?

Congress did not give USCIS legal authority to change a person's name when that person naturalizes. Therefore, there are only two ways that USCIS can issue your Certificate of Naturalization under a new name:

(1) If you present proof that you have already changed your name according to the legal requirements that apply to persons living in your State, USCIS can issue the Certificate of Naturalization with your new name. Such proof might include a marriage certificate or divorce decree showing that you changed your name when you married or divorced. It might also include some other State court order establishing that you changed your name.

(2) If you are going to take the Oath of Allegiance at a Naturalization Ceremony that is held in Court, you may ask the Court to change your name. If the Court grants your request, your new name will appear on your Certificate of Naturalization.

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16. If USCIS grants me naturalization, when will I become a citizen?

You become a citizen as soon as you take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States in a formal naturalization ceremony. In some places, you can choose to take the Oath the same day as your interview. If that option is not available, or if you prefer a ceremony at a later date, USCIS will notify you of the ceremony date with a "Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony" (Form N-445).

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17. What should I do if I cannot go to my oath ceremony?

If you cannot go to the oath ceremony, you should return the "Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony" (Form N-445) that you received to your local USCIS office. Include a letter saying why you cannot go to the ceremony. Make a copy of the notice and your letter before you send them to USCIS. Your local USCIS office will reschedule you and send you a new "Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony" (Form N-445) to tell you when your ceremony will be.

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18. What can I do if USCIS denies my application?

If you think that USCIS was wrong to deny your naturalization application, you may request a hearing with an immigration officer. Your denial letter will explain how to request a hearing and will include the form you need. The form for filing an appeal is the "Request for Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings under Section 336 of the INA" (Form N-336). You must file the form, including the correct fee, to USCIS within 30 days after you receive a denial letter.

If, after an appeal hearing with USCIS, you still believe you have been wrongly denied naturalization, you may file a petition for a new review of your application in U.S. District Court.

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19. Can I reapply for naturalization if USCIS denies my application?

In many cases, you may reapply. If you reapply, you will need to complete and resubmit a new Form N-400 and pay the USCIS fee again. You will also need to have your fingerprints and photographs taken again. If your application is denied, the denial letter should indicate the date you may reapply for citizenship.

If you are denied because you failed the English or civics test, you may reapply for naturalization as soon as you want. You should reapply whenever you believe you have learned enough English or civics to pass both tests.

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20. What do I do if I lose my Certificate of Naturalization? What do I use as proof of citizenship if I do not have my certificate?

You may get a new Certificate of Naturalization by submitting an "Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document" (Form N-565) to USCIS.

If you have one, you may use your United States passport as evidence of citizenship while you wait for a replacement certificate. It is strongly recommended that you apply for a passport as soon as you become a U.S. citizen.

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21. What is Dual Citizenship?

The concept of dual citizenship means that a person is a citizen of two countries at the same time. Dual nationality laws and policies depend on each country. The U.S. Government recognizes that dual citizenship exists, but does not endorse it as a matter of policy because of the problems that it may cause. Dual citizens owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country. They are required to obey the laws of both countries. Either country has the right to enforce its laws, particularly if the person later travels there. There may be a conflict with the U.S. laws, which may cause problems for the dual citizen. Additionally, dual citizenship may limit the United States Government's efforts to assist United States citizens abroad.

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