Applying for U.S. Citizenship

U.S. citizenship provides many rights, but also involves many responsibilities. Thus, the decision to become a U.S. citizen through naturalization is important. In most cases, a person who wants to naturalize must first be a permanent resident. By becoming a U.S. citizen, you gain many rights that permanent residents or others do not have, including the right to vote. To be eligible for naturalization, you must first meet certain requirements set by U.S. law.


What are the basic requirements to apply for naturalization?

The process of applying for U.S. citizenship is known as naturalization. In order to be eligible for naturalization, you must first meet certain requirements required by U.S. immigration law. Generally, to be eligible for naturalization you must:
• Be age 18 or older; and
• Be a permanent resident for a certain amount of time (usually 5 years or 3 years, depending on how you obtained status); and
• Be a person of good moral character; and
• Have a basic knowledge of U.S. government (this, too, can be excepted due to permanent
physical or mental impairment); and
• 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 at the time of filing:
– 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.


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 husband or wife; or
• Have honorable service in the U.S. military.
Certain spouses of U.S. citizens and/or members of the military may be able to file for naturalization sooner than noted above.


The Application – Form N-400, Application for Naturalization

You can access the Application for Naturalization at

The application is 20 pages and you may submit online or paper by mail.  The Application Fee is $640. (Add the $85 biometric fee for a total of $725, where applicable. See exceptions below.)

If you file your Form N-400 online, you may pay your fee online. If you file your Form N-400 by mail (paper), you may pay the fee with a money order, personal check, cashier’s check, or by credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions. If you pay by check, you must make your check payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.


What Documents do I Need to Get Started?

  • If you submit any documents (copies or original documents, if requested) in a foreign language, you must include a full English translation along with a certification from the translator verifying that the translation is complete and accurate, and that they are competent to translate from the foreign language to English.
  • A copy of your Permanent Resident Card
  • A copy of your marriage certificate (if applicable)
  • Form N-426, Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service (if applying for naturalization based on military service)
  • DD Form 214, NGB Form 22, or discharge orders (if applying for naturalization based on military service and separated from service)
  • A copy of your official military orders (if applying for naturalization based on military service and currently serving)
  • Evidence of your citizen spouse’s employment abroad (if applying under 319(b))
  • Two passport-style photographs (if you reside outside the United States)


A Preview at Scheduling the Naturalization Test

You will receive an appointment letter from USCIS to take your biometrics (fingerprints, photograph, etc).  USCIS will then schedule the interview by sending a notice through the mail.

To become a naturalized U.S. citizen, you must pass the naturalization test. At your naturalization interview, you will be required to answer questions about your application and background. You will also take an English and civics test unless you qualify for an exemption or waiver.

You will be given two opportunities to take the English and civics tests and to answer all questions relating to your naturalization application in English. If you fail any of the tests at your initial interview, you will be retested on the portion of the test that you failed (English or civics) between 60 and 90 days from the date of your initial interview. 

An officer administers a naturalization test to determine whether an applicant meets the English and civics requirements. The naturalization test consists of two components:

  • English language proficiency, which is determined by the applicant’s ability to read, write, speak and understand English; and
  • Knowledge of U.S. history and government, which is determined by a civics test. 

An applicant has two opportunities to pass the English and civics tests: the initial examination and the re-examination interview. USCIS will deny the naturalization application if the applicant fails to pass any portion of the tests after two attempts. In cases where an applicant requests a USCIS hearing on the denial, officers must administer any failed portion of the tests.

Age and Residency Exceptions to English

  • An applicant is exempt from the English language requirement but is still required to meet the civics requirement if:
    • The applicant is age 50 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and has lived as a lawful permanent resident (LPR) in the United States for at least 20 years; or
    • The applicant is age 55 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and has lived as an LPR in the United States for at least 15 years.
    • The applicant may take the civics test in his or her language of choice with the use of an interpreter. 

Special Consideration for Civics Test

  • An applicant receives special consideration in the civics test if, at the time of filing the application, the applicant is 65 years of age or older and has been living in the United States for periods totaling at least 20 years subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence. An applicant who qualifies for special consideration is administered specific test forms.


Application FAQs

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.
  • Learn more about the biometrics appointment here.

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.

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.
  • Learn more about the biometrics appointment here.

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 ​n​ational ​i​nterest ​s​ituation (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 or by calling the USCIS customer service line, 1-800-375-5283.  Keep the receipt with the copy of your N-400 application.