How to prepare for the U.S. citizenship application

If you’re thinking about completing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, there’s a lot you must consider. Cost is a big component of that. As of August 2018, the filing fees for the N-400 are $640 plus an $85 biometrics fee that most people will have to pay.

You should also make sure you are eligible to apply for citizenship. Once you determine your eligibility you can start organizing the documents you’ll need to complete the application.

Let’s go over a few of the items the USCIS requires from everyone and then we’ll get into some more specifics.

Documents everyone needs to prepare for citizenship

When you file your immigration application, think of it as a case in a courtroom. You’re trying to prove to the government why you deserve the immigration benefit you are requesting. Thinking of it that way will help you understand how the system works.

Each answer you provide on the application needs to be proven. In a courtroom, you prove a case through evidence. To prove you’re a permanent resident, you send a copy of your green card. That’s called supporting evidence.

There are some documents most people who fill out the N-400 must have. The USCIS states there are three things.

  1. A photocopy of both sides of your Permanent Resident Card, or your 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
  2. A check or money order for the application fee and biometrics fee. You should write your A-number on the back of the check or money order.
  3. If you reside outside the United States, two identical color photographs, with your name and Alien Registration Number written lightly in pencil on the back of each photo.

The USCIS will usually accept photocopies of original documents unless they specifically ask for you to send the original document.

Other documents you may need for citizenship

Documents that prove other portions of your N-400 can include a variety of paperwork. Remember, you are trying to prove the answers you gave in the application. We’ll go over some of them here.

If your current legal name is different from the name on your green card, you will likely have to send:

Documents that legally change your name which could include a marriage certificate, divorce decree or another court records.

If you’re applying for citizenship after marrying a U.S. citizen, you’ll need:

  • Evidence your U.S. citizen spouse has been a citizen for the last three years. That could include a birth certificate, naturalization certificate, certificate of citizenship, a photocopy of the inside of the front cover and signature page of your spouse’s current U.S. passport. If your spouse became a U.S. citizen being born abroad you need to send in Form FS-240, Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States of America.
  • Your current marriage certificate.
  • Proof of termination of all prior marriages of your spouse.
  • Documents referring to you and your spouse:
  1. Tax returns, bank accounts, leases, mortgages, or birth certificates of children
  2. Internal Revenue Service-certified copies of the income tax forms you both filed for the past three years.
  3. An IRS tax return transcript for the last three years.

If you are currently in the U.S. military service and are seeking citizenship based on that service, send:

If you have taken any trip outside the United States that lasted 6 months or more since becoming a green card holder, you’ll need to provide evidence that you and your family continue to live in work in and 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 ever been arrested or detained by law enforcement for any reason, and no charges were filed:

  • An ORIGINAL official statement by the arresting agency or applicant court confirming that no charges were filed.

If charges were filed against you:

  • 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 been convicted or placed in an alternative sentencing program or rehab:

  • An ORIGINAL or court-certified copy of the sentencing record for each incident.
  • Evidence you completed your sentence
  1. An ORIGINAL or certified copy of your probation or parole record
  2. Evidence that you completed an alternative sentencing program or rehabilitative program.

If you have ever failed to file an income tax return since you became a green card holder:

  • All mail between you and the IRS regarding your failure to file a tax return.

If you have any Federal, state or local taxes that are overdue:

  • A signed agreement from the IRS or state or local tax office showing you have filed a tax return and arranged to pay the taxes you owe.
  • Documentation from the IRS or state or local tax office showing the current status of your repayment program.

If you are applying for a disability exception to the testing requirement:

If you did not register with the Selective Service and (1) are male, (2) are 26 years old or older, and (3) lived in the United States in a status other than as a lawful nonimmigrant between the ages of 18 and 26:

These documents are not all required for every citizenship application. What you send ultimately depends on what answers you gave in your application. Again, these are some of the documents you may need to send to prove the answers you gave on your application.

If the application process seems confusing, there are ways to help avoid a headache. FileRight is here to take the guesswork out by examining the answers you give on your application and providing a list of supporting evidence you will need to prove your case.

Getting started on your citizenship application with FileRight is easy. The first step is to take the automated eligibility quiz. If you are deemed eligible you can get started on your application right away using FileRight’s online preparation service.

Once done you’ll be able to print out a customized filing packet with instructions on how to mail your application to the USCIS just the way they like it.

FileRight’s goal is to ensure you complete your immigration application correctly, the first time.

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