Steps to Naturalization: Understanding the Process of Becoming a U.S. Citizen

The information below is taken directly from the USCIS website.  You can find much more detailed information on their website at To apply for naturalization, you will need to file Form N-400, Application for NaturalizationBelow you will find a general description of the application process.

Before you apply, be sure that you meet all eligibility requirements. Check if you qualify for any exceptions and accommodations. You can use the naturalization eligibility worksheet and document checklist to help you prepare.


Click here for a printable pdf of the above graphic from the USCIS website


Step 1. Determine if you are already a U.S. citizen.

What to do: If you are not a U.S. citizen by birth, or you did not acquire or derive U.S. citizenship from your parent(s) automatically after birth, go to the next step.


Step 2. Determine if you are eligible to become a U.S. citizen.

What to do: Review the naturalization eligibility worksheet to help you decide if you are eligible to apply for naturalization.


Step 3. Prepare your Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. 

What to do: Read the instructions to complete Form N-400. Collect the necessary documents to demonstrate your eligibility for naturalization. If you reside outside the United States, get 2 passport-style photos taken. Make sure you collect all the required documents – listed below. All applicants must send these first three items with their N-400 Application.

  • A photocopy of both sides of your Permanent Resident Card (formerly known as the Alien Registration Card or “Green Card”). If you have lost the card, submit a photocopy of the receipt of your Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card; 
  • A check or money order for the application fee and the biometric services fee, as stated in the M-479, Current Naturalization Fees, enclosure in the Guide. Applicants 75 years of age or older are exempted from the biometrics services fee. Write your A-Number on the back of the check or money order. You may also pay using a credit card. There is no additional fee when you do so. The N-400 is the only form that you can pay for by credit card using the G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transaction. Check for more specific information. 
  • If you reside outside the United States, 2 identical color photographs, with your name and Alien Registration Number (A-Number) written lightly in pencil on the back of each photo. For details about the photo requirements, see Part 5 of Form M-476, A Guide to Naturalization, and the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization instructions. If your religion requires you to wear a head covering, your facial features must still be exposed in the photo for purposes of identification

All applicants must also send copies of the following documents, unless an original is specifically requested:

  • If an attorney or accredited representative is acting on your behalf, send:
    • A completed original Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Representative. 
  • If your current legal name is different from the name on your Permanent Resident Card, send:
    • The document(s) that legally changed your name (marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court document). 
  • If you are applying for naturalization on the basis of marriage to a U.S. citizen, send the following 4 items: 
    • Evidence that your spouse has been a U.S. citizen for the last 3 years:
      • Birth certificate (if your spouse never lost citizenship since birth);
      • Certificate of Naturalization;
      • Certificate of Citizenship; or
      • The inside of the front cover and signature page of your spouse’s current U.S. passport; or
      • Form FS-240, Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States of America;
    • Your current marriage certificate; and
    • Proof of termination of all prior marriages of your spouse (divorce decree(s), annulment(s), or death certificate(s)); and 
    • Documents referring to you and your spouse:
      • Tax returns, bank accounts, leases, mortgages, or birth certificates of children; or
      • Internal Revenue Service (IRS)-certified copies of the income tax forms that you both filed for the past 3 years; or
      • An IRS tax return transcript for the last 3 years. 
  • If you were married before, send:
    • Proof that all earlier marriages ended (divorce decree(s), annulment(s), or death certificates(s)). 
  • If you are currently in the U.S. military service and are seeking citizenship based on that service, send:
    • A completed original Form N-426, Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service. 
  • If you have taken any trip outside the United States that lasted 6 months or more since becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident, send evidence that you (and your family) continued to live, work and/or keep ties to the United States, such as:
    • An IRS tax return “transcript” or an IRS-certified tax return listing tax information for the last 5 years (or for the last 3 years if you are applying on the basis of marriage to a U.S. citizen).
    • Rent or mortgage payments and pay stubs. 
  • If you have a dependent spouse or child(ren) who do not live with you, send:
    • Any court or government order to provide financial support; and
    • Evidence of your financial support (including evidence that you have complied with any court or government order), such as:
      • Cancelled checks;
      • Money and receipts; 
      • A court or agency printout of child support payments; 
      • Evidence of wage garnishments; 
      • A letter from the parent or guardian who cares for your child(ren). 
  • If you have ever been arrested or detained by any law enforcement officer for any reason, and no charges were filed, send:
    • An original official statement by the arresting agency or applicant court confirming that no charges were filed. 
  • If you have ever been arrested or detained by any law enforcement officer for any reason, and charges were filed, send:
    • An original or court-certified copy of the complete arrest record and disposition for each incident (dismissal order, conviction record or acquittal order). 
  • If you have ever been convicted or placed in an alternative sentencing program or rehabilitative program (such as a drug treatment or community service program), send:
    • An original or court-certified copy of the sentencing record for each incident; and
    • Evidence that you completed your sentence: a. An original or certified copy of your probation or parole record; or b. Evidence that you completed an alternative sentencing program or rehabilitative program. 
  • If you have ever had any arrest or conviction vacated, set aside, sealed, expunged or otherwise removed from your record, send: 
    • An original or court-certified copy of the court order vacating, setting aside, sealing, expunging or otherwise removing the arrest or conviction, or an original statement from the court that no record exists of your arrest or conviction. NOTE: If you have been arrested or convicted of a crime, you may send any countervailing evidence or evidence in your favor concerning the circumstances of your arrest and/or conviction that you would like U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to consider. 
  • If you have ever failed to file an income tax return since you became a Lawful Permanent Resident, send:
    • All correspondence with the IRS regarding your failure to file. 
  • If you have any Federal, state or local taxes that are overdue, send:
    • A signed agreement from the IRS or state or local tax office showing that you have filed a tax return and arranged to pay the taxes you owe; and
    • Documentation from the IRS or state or local tax office showing the current status of your repayment program. NOTE: You may obtain copies of tax documents and tax information by contacting your local IRS offices, using the Blue Pages of your telephone directory, or through its Web site at
  • If you are applying for a disability exception to the testing requirement, send: 
    • An original Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions, completed less than 6 months ago by a licensed medical or osteopathic doctor or licensed clinical psychologist.


Step 4. Submit your Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.

Once you submit Form N-400, USCIS will send you a receipt notice. You can check case processing times and your case status online.


Step 5. Go to the biometrics appointment, if applicable.

What to do: If you need to take biometrics, USCIS will send you an appointment notice that includes your biometrics appointment date, time, and location. Arrive at the designated location at the scheduled time. Have your biometrics taken.  Learn more about the biometrics requirements here.


Step 6. Complete the interview.

Once all the preliminary processes on your case are complete, USCIS will schedule an interview with you to complete the naturalization process. You must report to the USCIS office at the date and time on your appointment notice. Please bring the appointment notice with you.

Click here for Interview and Test Preparation information.


Step 7. Receive a decision from USCIS on your Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.

USCIS will issue you a written notice of decision.

Granted—USCIS may approve your Form N-400 if the evidence in your record establishes that you are eligible for naturalization.

Continued—USCIS may continue your application if you need to provide additional evidence/documentation, fail to provide USCIS the correct documents, or fail the English and/or civics test the first time.

Denied—USCIS will deny your Form N-400 if the evidence in your record establishes you are not eligible for naturalization.


Step 8. Receive a notice to take the Oath of Allegiance.

What to expect: If USCIS approved your Form N-400 in step 7, you may be able to participate in a naturalization ceremony on the same day as your interview. If a same day naturalization ceremony is unavailable, USCIS will mail you a notification with the date, time, and location of your scheduled ceremony.

Click here for what to expect After the Test and Interview

Click here for what to do After Becoming a U.S. Citizen


Step 9. Take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.

You are not a U.S. citizen until you take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony.

What to do: Complete the questionnaire on Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony. Report for your naturalization ceremony and check in with USCIS. A USCIS officer will review your responses to Form N-445. Turn in your Permanent Resident Card (Green Card). Take the Oath of Allegiance to become a U.S. citizen. Receive your Certificate of Naturalization, review it, and notify USCIS of any errors you see on your certificate before leaving the ceremony site.


Step 10. Understanding U.S. citizenship.

Citizenship is the common thread that connects all Americans. Check out this list of some of the most important rights and responsibilities that all citizens—both Americans by birth and by choice—should exercise, honor, and respect.

For more detailed information on the naturalization process, please visit the Citizenship Through Naturalization page on the USCIS website.