Apply for U.S. Citizenship FAQ

Updated on 08/29/2020

To become a U.S. citizen is the last step for an alien immigrating to the United States. Here we answer the most common questions that people ask when they apply for U.S. citizenship.

1. Why should I consider becoming a U.S. citizen?

If you make the important decision to become a United States citizen, you’ll be showing a commitment to the U.S. and loyalty to the federal constitution. In return, you’ll have access to all of the rights and privileges that citizens enjoy, including:

  • Voting in presidential and other federal elections and running for many of the elected offices that are open only to citizens
  • Obtaining and traveling on a U.S. passport allowing one to access to 184 countries and territories without a travel visa or with a visa on arrival
  • Being on a jury
  • Being eligible to apply for certain law enforcement jobs

2. What is the government agency that handles citizenship applications?

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within the Department of Homeland Security is the department that is responsible for processing citizenship applications. Applications are handled exclusively by this federal government department. There are no state agencies or bodies involved.

3. How many ways to become a U.S. citizen?

There are three ways:

  • Birth in the U.S.
  • Naturalization
  • Citizenship through U.S. citizen parent

4. What is naturalization?

Naturalization is the process through which a foreign-born individual becomes a citizen of the United States by making an application through the USCIS. Persons born in the U.S. (or born in a foreign country to U.S. citizens) become citizens at birth and need not apply for citizenship.

5. What is citizenship through U.S. citizen parent?

With some prerequisites, two types of individual are eligible to acquire citizenship through their U.S. citizen parents automatically. One is who was born in a foreign country to a U.S. citizen. Another is who was born in a foreign country and his or her parent becomes a U.S. citizen before such individual turns 18 years of age.  Both of them need not to apply for citizenship. Both of them are entitled to apply for a U.S. passport or a Certificate of Citizenship to confirm their citizenship.

Not sure if you or your child is eligible for citizenship through U.S. citizen parent? You can free check eligibility through DYgreencard without providing any personal information.

6. Who is eligible to apply for citizenship through naturalization?

An individual who has been a lawful permanent resident (also known as “green card holder”) of the U.S. for at least 5 years can apply for citizenship through naturalization. As one of benefits as the spouse of a U.S. citizen who has been a U.S. citizen for the last 3 years, a green card holder can apply for citizenship through naturalization so long as the marriage is legitimate and has lasted at least 3 years. Some members of the U.S. military and some spouses of U.S. citizens who are regularly engaged in specified employment abroad may also be eligible to apply. The process and forms for them are a little different.

You must also be at least 18 years old. You must be a person of good moral character and advocate to the principles and ideals of the U.S. Constitution.  You must show that you have been physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months out of the 5 years (or 15 months  out of the 3 years if married a U.S. citizen) immediately preceding the date of filing your naturalization application. You must demonstrate continuous residence in the U.S. for at least 5 years (or 3 years if married a U.S. citizen) immediately preceding the date of filing your naturalization application.

In addition, you must pass an English test and Civic test.  The purpose of the tests is to ensure you are able to read, write, and speak basic English and have general knowledge of U.S. history and government. You may download the study material or learn more about how to prepare for citizenship test. You can be exempted from English test (means you can speak your native language and conduct civic test in your native language at the naturalization interview) if you are:
  • 50 years of age or older and have lived in the U.S. as a green card holder for at least 20 years at the time of filing naturalization application; or
  • 55 years of age or older and have lived in the U.S. as a green card holder for at least 15 years at the time of filing naturalization application.

Not sure if you’re eligible to apply for citizenship through naturalization? You can free check eligibility through DYgreencard without providing any personal information. When you’re ready to apply, DYgreencard can guide you through every milestone of the naturalization process. Learn more, or get started today.

7. How to start the citizenship process?

Most applicants will complete a USCIS form “N-400” (that’s why it’s called the “N-400 process”). The form is then submitted with the required application fee for citizenship. The application fee is $640 plus $85 biometric services fee, $85 is not require if you are 75 years of age or older.  You may apply for fee reduction or waiver if you meet the low income requirements.

You may get the most recent version of N-400 at Now USCIS provides online filing service to the Form N-400. It is convenient; however, you will not have an immigration lawyer to review you application. Without lawyer reviewing, in case your application has defects, these defects might bring you huge troubles even negative your lawful permanent resident status. Keep in mind, USCIS always has right to revoke your green card.

At DYgreencard, your complete application for naturalization including supporting documents will be fully reviewed by an experienced immigration attorney. You will have confidence in citizenship application. Learn more about we can do for you, or get started today.

8. Will I need any additional documents for citizenship application?

 Yes, you may submit your N-400 application with the following initial evidence:

  • 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 applicable)
  • Two passport-style photographs (if you reside outside the United States)

You must bring the originals of the above to your naturalization interview. Moreover, depends on your situations, you may be required to bring more documents at your naturalization interview.  For example, if you apply for citizenship based on 3- year marriage to a U.S. citizen, you need to bring evidence to prove your good-faith martial relationship and mutual residence in the last three years. In case you have a criminal record, you must bring a certified copy of a judgment, police report or other similar records regarding your criminal history. Assume you have any trip outside the U.S. for more than 6 months, you must bring evidence to prove you maintain your continuous residence in the U.S. during that trip period. Learn more in our article Documents to Bring to Your N-400 Citizenship Interview.

9. What is the rest of the U.S. citizenship process?

You’ll first receive a confirmation that your application has been filed. Then receive a notice of an appointment for your photograph and fingerprinting (so-called “biometrics”). Learn more about appointment for biometrics in our Biometrics Appointment FAQ. Once that’s completed, you’ll receive an interview appointment notice. The interview will be held at your designated local USCIS office.

At the interview, the immigration officer will verify with you the information provided in your Form N-400 in English unless you are exempt from English test. The officer will also conduct the civic test in English unless you are exempt from English test. If you failed any of the tests, you will give another opportunity by attending a second interview. Practically, you will receive the second interview appointment notice within 2 months from the date of first interview.

Once you’ve passed the test (s), you’ll be scheduled to take the citizenship Oath of Allegiance Ceremony on condition that you have no specified situation that makes you inadmissible to obtain U.S. citizenship.  You’ll receive a notice of the time and place of the Oath Ceremony.

It is advisable to have professional training for a naturalization interview before you appear at the interview.  You may contact DYgreencard to find an experienced immigration attorney who may conduct training for you with a reasonable price.

10. What is the citizenship oath?

You must take the Oath of Allegiance at the citizenship oath ceremony, in which you agree to: 

  • Support the Constitution;
  • Renounce and abjure absolutely and entirely all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which the applicant was before a subject or citizen;
  • Support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic;
  • Bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and

         A.  Bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; or

         B.  Perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; or

         C.  Perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law.

At the oath ceremony, you will be issued a Certificate of Naturalization (see sample below), which is a proof of your U.S. citizenship. You may apply for a U.S. passport with it. Learn more about the oath ceremony in our article What to Expect at Oath Ceremony?

Certificate of Naturalization Sample
Certificate of Naturalization

11. Do I need to tell the USCIS if I have a criminal record?

Yes. You must always disclose all arrests, even if you weren’t convicted or entered a guilty plea, or your criminal records have been expunged or cleared. There are some exceptions for minor traffic violations. Remember, however, that a failure to disclose is grounds for denial of your application.

12. May I change name in the citizenship process?

Yes. Depends on the type of oath ceremony you are scheduled to attend, the way to change your name in the citizenship process is different.  If you attend a ceremony in which the court administers the oath of allegiance, this is called a judicial ceremony. An oath administered by USCIS is called an administrative ceremony.  Under a judicial ceremony, you can change name directly on the site of your oath ceremony. Under an administrative ceremony, you cannot change name directly unless you present a certified name of change decree granted by the court with jurisdiction. 

13. How long does it take to become a U.S. citizen through naturalization?

Citizenship processing time varies, but according to the USCIS’s website, the historical average time, including waiting time, since 2016 has been around eight and one-half months.  That naturally assumes that your application is completed and filed correctly and that all required documents have been submitted.

We at DYgreencard can help you prepare the naturalization application completely. The entire application package will be thoroughly reviewed by an immigration attorney with extensive experience. Learn more about how we work, or get started today.

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