In our previous article, Paths to Become a US Citizen, we discussed the two main ways of becoming a US citizen; through birth or naturalization process. Today, we are going through the naturalization process step by step to guide you on your way to becoming a US citizen.

Generally, those who have been green card holders for at least 5 years (3 years for those applicants who are married to a US citizen) can apply for naturalization and complete each required step (to know more about naturalization eligibility and exceptions read our previous article).

To successfully pass each step and get your citizenship, you should learn about the procedure and the required documents and knowledge. Read on to get more familiar with the path ahead of you.

Aspiring US citizens are recommended to consult with a citizenship lawyer to make sure their application will be approved. Call for a free consultation. here.

Naturalization Process, a Step-by-Step Explanation

The naturalization process is a series of steps through which an adult foreign green card holder becomes a permanent resident; an American citizen. This status is granted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The whole process takes 8 to 14 months to complete.

If you are not still sure whether you are eligible for naturalization or not, you can use this online tool to see your eligibility status. Or simply call your immigration lawyer.

The whole process of naturalization can be divided into four main steps:

  1. Fill out and submit Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
  2. Biometrics.
  3. Attend the interview and the exam.
  4. Take the Oath of Allegiance.

We will walk you through each step separately.

Filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization

You can file your Application for Naturalization form online after creating an account on the USCIS website from here. If you apply online, you will be able to see your case alerts, correspondence, and status throughout the whole process. Besides, you will be able to edit personal information and upload some evidence for your case.

You can also mail your Form N-400 to addresses provided by the USCIS. You can see the list of addresses here. Make sure you send your application to the right place. If you are outside the US when applying or you are requesting a fee reduction, you must mail your naturalization application.

What Is Form N-400?

This is a 20-page form that requires different information, such as personal information, eligibility information, information about your residence, and much more. Filling out the form can be confusing, which is why you are better off getting a citizenship attorney to do it for you. In this case, you will not worry if your case gets rejected because of providing the wrong information or any other misfortune.

You can see the latest version of Form N-400 here in PDF and its instructions.

Documents Required to Submit with Your Form N-400

Whether you are filing your application online or mailing it, you have to attach the required documents to support the information you provided in the form. If you are filing online, you will need to upload a digital copy of the documents.

The necessary supporting documents for the naturalization process include

  • A copy of your green card (both sides),
  • Receipt of the application fee.

Some applicants need other documents as well. Some of these additional documents include

  • Proof of marital status (for those who are or were married to a US citizen),
  • 2 passport-style photos (for those applying from out of the US),
  • For military service applicants, Form N-426,
  • For those who want to be exempt from the citizenship test, Form N-648.

Check out the complete list of required documents here.

Application for Naturalization Fee

When you want to submit your Form N-400, you have to pay a total of $725.

Of course, some can get a fee reduction or waiver. Our Paths to Become a US Citizen article has more information about who is exempt from the fee and how to request a fee reduction.

Tips for Submitting Your Naturalization Application

If you have decided to fill out the Form N-400 by yourself, keep the following tips in mind.

  • If you want to mail your Form N-400, it is recommended to type your information and then print the form. If it is not possible for you, only use black ink to fill out the form.
  • If any of your documents are not in English, provide the certified translated version as well.
  • Your form must be neat, without any cluttering, crossing out, highlighting, and so forth. 
  • Do not submit documents that are not required.
  • Review your form before submission and make sure you have signed the form.

A naturalization lawyer knows how to fill out the form and gather the required documents in the way the USCIS prefers. Schedule an appointment to visit our citizenship lawyer in Orange County, CA.

Biometrics Requirement 

After 5 to 11 weeks of your application submission to the USCIS, you will receive a notice to attend a biometrics appointment. This is done in your local USCIS field office.

This is perhaps the simplest step of the naturalization process. It is basically taking your fingerprints to check your background. The fingerprinting itself takes only 10 to 15 minutes, but you might have to wait in line.

The Interview and Exam for Citizenship

You are almost at the end. In this step, you have to attend the citizenship interview and after that the citizenship exam. If you pass these two parts and there are no problems with the documents, your application will be approved. Otherwise, later you will get a notice that explains why your request for naturalization has been denied. Of course, you can appeal within 30 days.

What Is the Naturalization Interview?

You will get a notice about the details of your naturalization interview. If you are in the US, the interview will be at your local USCIS office, and if you are abroad, you will have it at a US embassy or consulate. For military applicants during their deployment, the interview will take place at a military facility. 

During the interview, your documents and the information you have provided are checked. So, you are going to answer some questions about the same information.

What Is the Naturalization Test?

Those who are not exempt from the naturalization test (see the Naturalization Requirements here for more information) must pass a two-part exam. The first part evaluates your English skills, including speaking, reading, and writing. 

The second part is called the Civics Test and to pass this part, you have to have a basic knowledge of U.S. history and government to be able to answer a minimum of 6 questions correctly. There are 10 questions in this part of the exam.

If you fail both or one of these parts, you will be given another chance to take the whole exam or the part you failed, again. So, you can take the naturalization exam twice, but not more. That is why, it is crucial to study and prepare for the test. You can find the naturalization test resources here.

Take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America

Now, you might receive your application for naturalization approval, but you are not a US citizen yet. You have to attend the Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America ceremony. In simple terms, you take an oath to fulfill your citizenship responsibilities, including

  • Defending and supporting the U.S. Constitution,
  • Renouncing your allegiance to any other country,
  • Being willing to fulfill military and civilian duties.

This ceremony might be on the same day as your interview, or you will get a Naturalization Oath Ceremony notice to attend the ceremony at a specified time and place. However, it is usually at your local USCIS field office.

In case you couldn’t attend at the appointed time, you can write a letter and explain the reason. Then attach this letter to the notice you have received and give them to the place where the ceremony is going to be held. You should ask for rescheduling the ceremony. However, you can request rescheduling it only ONCE. Otherwise, your application will be rejected.

Documents to Take and Receive 

When you go for the ceremony, make sure you have your green card (if it has been issued for you), the notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony, a photo ID (issued by the US government, such as a driving license), your travel documents issued by the USCIS, and other documents you submitted when filing your application.

After completing this step, you will receive your Certificate of Naturalization. This is your proof of being a US citizen. If you lose it, you will have to pay for the replacement and go through some application process.

Important Tips for the Naturalization Oath Ceremony

  • Dress formally.
  • Be there at least 30 minutes earlier for the check-in process and the officer’s questions.
  • Some objects are forbidden to take to this place, such as guns and knives, it is a good idea to ask about forbidden items to avoid further trouble.
  • You do not need to memorize the Oath. They will give you the text at the ceremony.
  • When you receive your Certificate of Naturalization at the end of the ceremony, check it for misspelled words and other errors before leaving the premise. If you find anything, you should inform the officials there.

Do you still have questions about the naturalization steps? Contact a green card lawyer now. here.

Timeline of the Naturalization Process

As mentioned above, the whole process of naturalization can take 8 to 14 months. However, the precise processing time depends on which office is handling your case. In the table below, you can see the timeline of each step of naturalization.

Naturalization Steps

Filing Form N-400

Biometrics Appointment

The Naturalization Interview and Exam

The Oath of Allegiance



You can submit your application 90 days before the date when the 5 or 3-year period ends. This Early Filing is suitable for those who want to get their citizenship as soon as possible. Or, you can file any time after the 5 or 3-year waiting time.

You should expect the notice for this step 5 to 11 weeks after Form N-400 submission.

These two usually take place on the same day, around 14 months after Form N-400 submission. If you cannot pass the exam, you can schedule another time.

This can happen on the same day of the interview and exam (of course if your application is approved), or you will get a notice a few days later to attend your Oath of Allegiance Ceremony.

If your case is denied, a letter will be sent to inform you. You can appeal within 30 days. It is also possible to file your request again.

Our Naturalization Attorney Is Here to Guide You

The law office of Tuan Le, Orange County, CA, offers you a step-by-step guide throughout the whole naturalization process. Going through all these complicated steps with our experienced citizenship attorney on your side will make you feel relaxed and confident. He knows what it takes to pass these steps and become a US citizen.

There is no need to be worried about the documents, filling out forms, the interview, the tests, etc., just give us a call at (714) 877-5840  and schedule an appointment. We will celebrate your citizenship together!

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