What Happens After Filing N-400, Application for Naturalization
As an applicant for U.S. citizenship, you’re probably anxious to know what happens after filing N-400 and how long it will take to become a naturalized citizen. Although the steps that take place are fairly consistent, the N-400 processing time can vary significantly based on the USCIS case load, the USCIS office where you filed, and your ability to properly submit an accurately prepared Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
The following list describes the basic steps in the process for most people. There is also an approximate amount of time provided. However, this time frame can vary significantly for some cases.
Receipt of Application
APPROXIMATELY 2 TO 3 WEEKS AFTER FILING
If your Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, has been properly filed, USCIS will initially respond by mailing you a letter that confirms receipt of your application. The receipt letter is formally known as Form I-797C, Notice of Action (see example below) and arrives approximately 2-3 weeks after filing. If your Form N-400 has not been properly filed, USCIS may send a Notice of Action to reject the petition or may send a Request for Evidence that requests additional items. Either will significantly delay your request. So it’s important to prepare the N-400 correctly and submit all required documents according to the filing instructions.
Appointment Notice for Biometrics
APPROXIMATELY 3 TO 5 WEEKS AFTER FILING
Next, you will receive an appointment notice that assigns your biometrics appointment date, time and location. (The location will generally be the USCIS Application Support Center nearest you.) USCIS requires applicants to be fingerprinted for the purpose of conducting a security clearance and criminal background check. Don’t be alarmed — All applicants must have background checks.
Tip: If you are 75 years old or older at the time of filing, the biometric service fee will be waived. However, you will be required to attend a biometrics appointment regardless of age. If you didn’t receive your biometrics appointment notice, you can make a case inquiry.
APPROXIMATELY 5 TO 8 WEEKS AFTER FILING
The biometrics appointment, also known as a biometrics screening, is generally a short appointment (approximately 30 minutes) so that USCIS can collect your fingerprints, photograph and signature. Your appointment notice will tell you what you need to take to the appointment. Expect to take some form of photo identification to enter the building. If you do not have your green card, USCIS can accept other ID documents such as:
- Passport or national photo identification issued by your country
- Driver’s license
- Military photo identification
- State-issued photo identification card
To learn more about the appointment, read USCIS biometrics appointment.
Tip: If you think you might have a criminal record, contact an immigration lawyer before going to a biometrics appointment. Some crimes will make you ineligible for immigration benefits. A lawyer can request a background check before USCIS does and deal with it as necessary.
Appointment Notice for Naturalization Interview
APPROXIMATELY 3 TO 5 MONTHS AFTER FILING
After completing the biometrics appointment, USCIS will send another appointment notice for your naturalization interview. Make every attempt to attend the interview time as scheduled for you. Rescheduling an interview may add several months to the naturalization process. By now you should be preparing — go to How to Prepare for the Citizenship Interview and Test.
Tip: You must notify USCIS if you change your address after filing your Form N-400 within 10 days of your relocation by filing Form AR-11, Alien’s Change of Address. You also must call USCIS at 1-800-375-5283 to change the address with your pending N-400 application.
APPROXIMATELY 4 TO 6 MONTHS AFTER FILING
At the interview, a USCIS officer will typically go through the entire N-400 application to confirm that the answers previously provided are still correct. In fact, your ability to understand these questions and answers is part of your English comprehension test. Additionally, they will ask you to read and write a sentence in English, will administer the history/civics examination, and will review the results from your background check. If there are any issues that are out of the ordinary, like a previous arrest or if taxes are owed to the government, then further questions and examination are usually done.
- If you are informed at the interview that you’ve been preliminarily approved for naturalization, then the next step will be to wait for the notice with the place and time of the oath ceremony. An applicant does not officially become a United States Citizen until after he or she is sworn in at the oath ceremony.
- In some cases, the USCIS officer will not be able to make a decision on the application for naturalization on the day of your interview. In these cases, the USCIS officer will continue your case. This may include a request for you to provide additional evidence or require a second interview. Read about the most common reasons N-400 applications are continued or denied.
After your interview, USCIS will give you Form N-652, Naturalization Interview Results. It provides you with information about the results of your interview. They will either grant, continue, or deny your naturalization application after your interview.
- Granted—USCIS may approve your Form N-400 if the evidence on record establishes your eligibility for naturalization.
- Continued – USCIS may continue your Form N-400 if you failed a test or did not give USCIS the correct documents. This will add time to your case as you correct the problem.
- Denied—USCIS will deny your Form N-400 if the evidence on record establishes you are not eligible for naturalization.
Tip: If you believe that USCIS incorrectly denied your Form N-400, you may request a hearing to appeal this decision by filing Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings, within 30 days of the decision date.
Notice of Oath Ceremony
APPROXIMATELY 1 TO 4 WEEKS AFTER INTERVIEW
If your interview was successful, you will soon receive a notice to take the Oath of Allegiance (N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony). The notice will include a request to answer some additional questions that will be submitted at the actual oath ceremony. See a sample.
Tip: If you cannot attend your scheduled naturalization ceremony, return the notice, Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony, to your local USCIS office, along with a letter requesting a new date and explaining why you cannot attend the scheduled naturalization ceremony. Failing to appear more than once for your naturalization ceremony may lead to a denial of your application.
Oath of Allegiance Ceremony
APPROXIMATELY 5 TO 8 MONTHS AFTER FILING
You are not a U.S. citizen until you take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony. The oath is administered by USCIS at an administrative ceremony or by a judge in a judicial ceremony. A court has exclusive authority to conduct the ceremonies in certain USCIS districts. After taking the Oath of Allegiance, you will turn in your green card and receive your Certificate of Naturalization. Congratulations!
Tip: Review your Certificate of Naturalization and notify USCIS of any corrections to your certificate before leaving the ceremony site.