The U.S. citizenship application, officially known as Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, is the longest and most complex USCIS form that most people will ever use. However, with preparation, you can complete the application on your own. We want to make sure you’re ready. There are several pieces of information that you’ll need available to prepare the application. When them at your side, filling out the U.S. citizenship application can actually be a quick process. That’s why we’ve put together a downloadable U.S. citizenship application checklist.
First, it’s important to make sure you’re eligible. The vast majority of people that file the U.S. citizenship application file as a 5-year permanent resident. In other words, it’s been at least 5 years since the “resident since” date on your green card. (You may actually file your citizenship application up to 90 days before the 5-year anniversary.) However, some candidates file the citizenship application as 3-year permanent residents married to a U.S. citizen or file as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces. In fact, there are some more obscure ways of obtaining citizenship through naturalization. You can learn more in the USCIS Guide to Naturalization.
Continuous residence means that you have lived within the United States as a permanent resident for a specified period of time before filing the citizenship application. As mentioned above, the continuous residence requirement is 5 years, or 3 years if married to a U.S. citizen. Continuous residence is waived if you are applying on the basis of your service in the U.S. armed forces. Any single trip outside the United States of 6 months or longer can disrupt your continuous residence. This is not a cumulative requirement. For example, seven separate 1-month long trips generally will not disrupt the continuous residence requirement. Learn how travel abroad affects N-400 citizenship eligibility.
Tip: If you’ve traveled abroad for periods of six months or more, contact an immigration attorney before filing your U.S. citizenship application.
Physical presence refers to the length of time you must be physically present in the United States during your time as a permanent resident. If applying as a 5-year permanent resident, you must be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of the citizenship application. If applying as a 3-year permanent resident married to a U.S. citizen, only 18 months of physical presence are required. Physical presence is a cumulative requirement. Therefore, you must combine the number of days of all your trips outside the U.S. As with continuous residence, physical presence is waived if you are applying on the basis of your service in the U.S. Learn more about physical presence.
You will need to document any trips abroad made over the previous 5 years (or 3 years if applying based on marriage). Gather your travel records; you will need to know the dates that you departed/returned for each trip. You may be able to find your electronic travel records Customs and Border Protection’s website. CBP gathers travelers’ I-94 arrival/departure information automatically from their electronic travel records. This information is gathered electronically for air and sea travelers. However, if you entered the U.S. at a land border port of entry, a paper form I-94 is still issued. To view your electronic travel records for the last five years:
- Go to the CBP I-94 Page
- Enter your name, birth date, passport number and country that issued the passport
- Click “Get Travel History” to get five years of travel records
Tip: If you can’t find your records on the CBP website, be a defective. Check credit card statements and frequent flyer records to determine the dates of your travel.
Good Moral Character
Before approving your U.S. citizenship application, USCIS will determine if you have good moral character. Many people mistakenly assume this only includes arrests. USCIS will may deny your citizenship application if they feel you are involved with illegal gambling, prostitution or consume illegal drugs. Any failure to pay alimony or child support payments will be reviewed. And of course, USCIS will also review your case to ensure the truthfulness of statements used to gain previous immigration benefits.
Tip: If you believe that you may have some issues in your past that could make USCIS question your moral character, it is best to have a quick conversation with an immigration attorney before filing the citizenship application.
Spouses and Children
The U.S. citizenship application will ask you to provide detailed information on all current and previous spouses as well as children. For spouses, this will include current address, birth dates, marriage/divorce dates and immigration status. For children, the citizenship application checklist requires information about address, birth date and A-number (if applicable).
Tip: You will need to list all children, even if they are married, missing, deceased or living in another country. If you have more than four children, we offer a template so that you can attach additional records to your citizenship application.
You will be asked to provide your Selective Service Number and the date you registered if you are a male who lived in the United States any time between your 18th and 26th birthdays. If you are a female candidate, this requirement does not apply to you. Take the time to understand how failing to register for Selective Service can create a problem.
Job and School Information
Be prepared to provide information about all the schools you’ve attended and/or jobs you’ve worked over the past 5 years (3 years if applying based on marriage to a U.S. citizen). In fact, you’ll need to account for all periods of employment or unemployment. You might also be a homemaker or retired. Unemployment does not disqualify you from U.S. citizenship. But it’s necessary to explain each period of time.
Tip: The citizenship application provides space for only three jobs and schools. Download a free template so that you can attach additional records to your citizenship application.
Download the U.S. Citizenship Application Checklist
- If you’ve already determined that you’re eligible for citizenship, you can download our Citizenship Application Checklist to help you prepare.
- When you’re ready to begin N-400 Citizenship Application, we’ll guide you through the citizenship application with step-by-step instructions and alerts if there is a problem.
- Once you’ve filed the citizenship application, we provide free resources to help you prepare for the citizenship test and interview.
CitizenPath makes it simple to prepare the U.S. citizenship application. The online service provides simple, step-by-step guidance through USCIS applications and petitions. We even provide alerts if your answer to a question could be a problem. And CitizenPath guarantees that USCIS will accept your application. CitizenPath provides support for the Citizenship Application (Form N-400), Green Card Renewal (Form I-90), and several other popular forms.