Applying for U.S. citizenship means you’ll have to complete Form N-400 from the USCIS. Completing a form sounds simple, right? The truth is that these forms can be challenging to complete accurately, and one little mistake can set you back to square one.
Form N-400 is U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ application for U.S. citizenship through naturalization. A long and complex application, the form is 20 pages and has 18 sections. Here’s a step-by-step guide to complete Form N-400, along with some filing tips.
Form N-400, Citizenship Application Basic Tips
It’s critical to complete Form N-400 clearly and carefully. Here are some tips to ensure your citizenship application gets completed accurately:
- Only answer questions that apply to your situation. You are not required to answer every question on the N-400 application. In these cases, you should write “N/A” rather than leaving the space blank.
- Answer all questions truthfully. Lying on an immigration application could result in serious consequences. It’s possible to have your immigration status revoked for lying about your eligibility.
- Don’t forget to sign your form. This happens more often than you might think. The USCIS rejects all unsigned forms.
- Be sure to use the most current version of the form. The USCIS regularly updates its forms. You can find the most recent versions of all their forms on their website.
- Write clearly and legibly. Don’t be afraid to use extra pages if necessary.
After following these tips, remember to double and triple check your completed form. Look over everything to ensure there are no mistakes.
Naturalization Eligibility Requirements
There are nine basic requirements to become a U.S. citizen through naturalization:
- You are at least 18 years old when you apply (except active-duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces).
- You are a permanent resident of the United States for at least five years (three years for spouses of U.S. citizens), though there are exceptions.
- You have lived within the state or USCIS district where you claim residence for at least three months before filing.
- You have demonstrated physical presence within the U.S. for a required period. In most cases, the requirement is 30 months within five years or 18 months within a three-year period for spouses of U.S. citizens, though there are exceptions.
- You have demonstrated continuous residence for five years immediately preceding the date you file your application or three years for spouses of U.S. citizens.
- You demonstrate good moral character and have a clean criminal record.
- You demonstrate an attachment to the principles and ideals of the U.S. Constitution.
- You demonstrate a basic knowledge of U.S. history and government and an ability to read, write, speak, and understand basic English. There are English language exceptions for older applicants.
- You take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States.
Filing Form N-400 is only a part of the equation. You will also need to meet these criteria to get naturalized.
How Much Does Submitting a Form N-400 Cost?
The cost of Form N-400 is currently $725. The price consists of a $640 processing fee and an $85 biometrics fee. There is no way to get around this fee unless you fill out Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver. You can pay when you send in your application, or you can pay online with a credit card as well.
Can I Submit Form N-400 Online?
Yes, you can fill out and submit your Form N-400 online. Keep in mind that you can only use the online option if you’re currently living in the U.S. Anyone residing outside of the U.S. at the time of applying must do so through the mail.
How Long Does It Take for Form N-400 to Process?
Form N-400 can take roughly eight months to process. This is primarily due to the sheer number of submissions every month and the amount of work required to conduct background checks, confirm documents, etc. This is why you want to get things done right the first time. Nothing’s worse than waiting months only to learn that one error caused your rejection.
The eight-month timeframe is only for processing the form. You will still need to go through interviews and tests before you officially become a U.S. citizen. So, in total, expect around 15 months or so to complete naturalization.
Step-by-Step Instructions for Form N-400, Citizenship Application
Follow these instructions to complete your application for naturalization. These step-by-step instructions are available in 18 parts.
Part 1: Information About Your Eligibility
The first section is only 1 question: your citizenship eligibility category. You may select only one category. Don’t write your A-number in the box to the right.
Part 2: Information About You
This section asks for basic information such as your name, social security number, gender, date of birth, the date you became a permanent resident, country of birth, and country of citizenship or nationality.
You will also have a chance to disclose if you have a physical or developmental disability or mental impairment that prevents you from taking the English language or civics test. If the answer is yes, you will also need to complete and file Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions.
Part 3: Accommodations for Individuals with Disabilities and Impairments
If you have a disability, you can request the USCIS make accommodations for your naturalization test. For example, you could request a sign-language interpreter, wheelchair access, or whatever else will help you get through the exam, such as bringing along a nursing aide or a shortened waiting time.
Part 4: Information to Contact You
This section is simple. Provide contact information, including your phone number and email.
Part 5: Information About Your Residence
Provide your current address and every address you have lived at within the last five years. If there’s not enough room for your answers, you can write, “Please see attachment” in the field and then attach a separate piece of paper with the answer.
At the top of the attachment page, print your name, A-number, and the words “Attachment to Form N-400.” Then state which question(s) from which part(s) of the form you are answering.
Part 6: Information About Your Parents
These questions ask for information about your parents, including if one or both of your parents are U.S. citizens. If you are the child of a U.S. citizen through one of your parents, you could be eligible for citizenship automatically and do not need to complete Form N-400.
Part 7: Biographic Information
State your ethnicity, race, height, weight, eye color, and hair color. The USCIS uses this information to complete background checks.
Part 8: Information About Your Employment and Schools You Attended
Provide information about where you went to school and where you worked over the last five years. If you cannot remember everything accurately, just put in as much information as you can recall. If you have gone through periods of unemployment, unpaid work, self-employment, disability, retirement, or taking care of your home or children, list these too.
Part 9: Time Outside the United States
Provide information about the time you spent outside the U.S. within the last five years. The USCIS asks these questions to verify that you met the physical presence requirement. If you cannot remember specifics, provide as much information as you can.
Part 10: Information About Your Marital History
This section can be very confusing to understand. Here are some clarifications on some confusing or worrying questions.
Question 5 asks if your current spouse is a U.S. citizen. Some applicants worry that they will not be eligible for citizenship if they acquired permanent residence through marriage and then divorced that spouse before applying for citizenship. Generally, you must be married to a U.S. citizen for at least three years to be eligible for naturalization. However, there are exceptions.
Question 8 asks, “How many times has your current spouse been married?” Your answer should include your current marriage. For example, if your spouse was married twice before your marriage, your response should be “3.”
Part 11: Information About Your Children
Provide information about your children, including children who are:
- Missing or deceased
- Married or unmarried
- Living with you or elsewhere
- Stepchildren who are not legally adopted
- Born out of wedlock
This section of the form will ask for basic information. Always ensure that all of the information you provide is as accurate as possible.
Part 12: Additional Information About You
This section asks for information to confirm your eligibility for citizenship, specifically regarding the good moral character requirement. Answering “yes” to any of these questions could result in your application getting denied. In this case, it’s a good idea to seek the advice of an immigration lawyer.
Part 13: Applicant’s Statement, Certification, and Signature
This section asks you to promise that you have understood the Form N-400 questions and provided accurate responses. If you are not sure about some questions or are confused by parts of the application, it’s a good idea to seek help.
Part 14: Interpreter’s Contact Information, Certification, and Signature
If you used an interpreter to help you complete the application, this is where you and your interpreter must sign. Generally, applicants who use an interpreter also request an age or disability-related waiver of the English requirement. If you are not eligible for such a waiver, it is a good idea to wait to apply for naturalization until your English is stronger.
Part 15: Contact Information, Declaration, and Signature of the Person Preparing This Application, if Other Than the Applicant
If a lawyer, paralegal, or other document preparer completed Form N-400 for you, have them sign this section.
Part 16: Signature at the Interview
Do not fill out this section. Instead, you will complete it during your citizenship interview.
Part 17: Renunciation of Foreign Titles
Leave this section blank. You will complete it during your interview. If you go by a foreign title such as “Princess” or “Duke,” you are required to give this up to become a U.S. citizen.
Part 18: Oath of Allegiance
Leave this section blank. You will complete it during your interview.
Form N-400 Supporting Documents
You are required to include documentation that proves your eligibility when you submit your Form N-400 citizenship application. All applicants must submit:
- A photocopy of both sides of your permanent resident card, also referred to as a green card. If you have lost your 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 ($725) and the biometric service fee ($85). Applicants 75 years of age or older are exempt 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.
- If you reside outside the United States, two identical color photographs, with your name and A-Number written lightly in pencil on the back of each photo.
You may also need to provide further documentation for certain circumstances. Every person’s situation is unique, so if you’re having trouble completing your Form N-400, it’s best to get professional help. The last thing you want is to fill out your application correctly, only for it to get rejected because of missing supporting documents.
Tips When Filing Form N-400
When you begin filling out your Form N-400, we recommend you follow these tips to ensure a correct, legible submission.
Complete Form N-400 With a Computer
USCIS will accept an application completed by hand with a black pen. However, if you make a mistake, you may have to start over. By using a computer, it’s much easier to fix any mistakes that you may make.
Make Sure You Have the Proper Amount of Payment for Fees
Did you know the number one reason for rejected applications sent to the USCIS is incorrect fee payments? Save yourself the trouble and double check before submitting your N-400 application.
Know How Much Time You Spent Outside of the U.S.
The N-400 citizenship application will ask you detailed questions about time spent outside of the U.S. Many times, these dates are hard to remember; however, the information provided in your passport and other travel documents can help.
Write Legibly and Use Black Ink
The USCIS can be very picky with the legibility of the forms they process. If you can’t fill out your application through the computer, always use standard black ink and write as neatly as possible.
Keep Your Documents Organized
Don’t clutter up your form. Keep all your documents organized and sorted neatly when you send them in. Try to avoid making any mistakes, highlights, or using white-out. If you do end up making a mistake, it’s best to start the page over correctly instead. You don’t want to risk something being illegible or unreadable.
Don’t Provide Documents Unnecessarily
You may think that with the amount of supporting documentation required for different scenarios, you should just send them all. Don’t do this as it makes your application much harder to process for the USCIS. It’s best to send only the documents that are required for your situation.
Triple Check Everything
If you’ve double-checked your form and all the supporting documents, check them again. It’s worth taking the time to look over everything multiple times to ensure nothing is missing or incorrect.
Slight mistakes can end up costing you large chunks of time and money. In fact, one of the most common mistakes people make is forgetting to sign. Something as simple as forgetting to sign your form can lead to rejection and starting the entire process over again.
Get Professional Help
Filling out Form N-400 can be confusing for many people, especially if English isn’t their first language. The USCIS provides resources to help facilitate the naturalization process, but sometimes it isn’t enough. If you’re having a tough time filling out your forms, it’s best to invest in a professional filing service to help you get things done correctly.
Get Help Filing Your Form N-400 Today
Immigration law can be immensely stressful and confusing to understand. Making even a simple mistake on critical immigration documents can cause delays or outright rejection of your naturalization. FileRight can provide you with expert assistance and the self-service tools you need to ensure all of your documents get done correctly.