How long does it take to become a US citizen?

November 22, 2022 by Monica Prado

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Currently, citizenship processing time by the USCIS can take between 6-14 months.

The naturalization application is a long and complex process, particularly for those applying for themselves. But before jumping to conclusions or getting even more confused about the process. Let’s clarify some important information about the naturalization process.

First of all, it’s essential to establish the benefits of becoming a US citizen, as some opportunities are accessible only to those citizenship-eligible lawful permanent residents, such as, but not limited to:

  • Protection from being deported from the United States, having a lawful permanent resident status is not a guarantee of non-removability, being a citizen is the only guarantee of being able to stay in the country no matter what;
  • File a petition for family reunification (parents, unmarried sons and daughters, and siblings). These petitions can be expedited when a person becomes a citizen;
  • Automatically citizenship for children under 18;
  • Freedom to travel and to seek assistance at any US embassy around the world, also the ability to be out of the country for an extended period and come back to it with ease;
  • Right to vote at the local and national level, the ability to choose the leaders of the free world, and to have your voice heard.
  • Eligibility for specific government jobs, with a possibility of earning increased.

Where does the citizenship process begin? Form N-400

The United States is known for being the dreamland and has received its immigrants with open arms throughout the decades. Having granted naturalization to over 7 million people in the last decade alone.

Taking a step towards becoming a US citizen is a significant decision in an immigrant’s life. The journey to citizenship starts by filling the Form N-400, the “Application for Naturalization Form,” an official United States Citizenship and Immigration Services document used by US permanent residents / Green Card holders eligible to become US citizens.

The citizenship process can start as early as 90 days before the end of your 3 or 5-year wait period as a green card holder as long as the other eligibility criteria are met. Filling the Form N-400 early is not a requirement, but it certainly saves you some precious waiting time for the big day.

The government charges a non-refundable fee of $725 for filling out the N-400 naturalization form, which refers to $640 for processing charges and $85for biometric services.

A fee waiver can be filled in particular situations when eligibility requirements are applicable. Form N-400 must be accompanied by all supporting documents that must be in English or provide a certified English translation. 

The documents required to submit your N-400 application are as follows:

  • Proof of Permanent Resident status (copy of green card);
  • Application fee payment (Form G-1450);

Some additional documents may be necessary according to circumstances, such as:

  • Proof of identity and 2 passport-style photos from those applying from abroad;
  • Proof of current married status;
  • Medical Certifications for Disabilities if applying for a naturalization test exception.

Steps to become a US citizen

Once your application process is accepted, you can expect to receive the USCIS a receipt notice within usually 3-4 weeks after submitting the process.

If USCIS sends you a notice of action, it means that your application was not filled out correctly and was rejected.

Biometrics Appointment

A notice for a biometrics appointment is sent by the USCIS, which requires the applicant to schedule an appointment to get fingerprinted, photographed, and collect the signature.

This information is submitted to the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) for background checks, as they are required before the final interview.

Biometrics are usually taken by a USCIS officer, and you must present a valid government-issued ID to enter the office at the scheduled date and time.

Citizenship interview and exam

Once all the preliminary steps are taken, and everything gets successfully processed comes the time for the long awaited interview. This step has the longest waiting time (ps. be patient!). 

The United States Center of Immigration Service will send a single notification, which means if your address happens to be inaccurate in their database, you are throwing your naturalization process out the window.

You will have to start it all over again. With that being said, the interview’s location, date, and time will be listed in the notification letter.

Another important tip to follow is not to miss the interview. It is a hustle to reschedule and, worse, add several months to your process, prolonging the anxiousness to obtain citizenship.

During the interview, the immigration officer will review your applications and may find the need to ask some additional and relevant questions regarding your eligibility.

The citizenship test will be applied unless you are eligible for a waiver. In most cases, the exam is scheduled and taken on the same day.

The citizenship exam is not challenging. However, it does require a certain level of preparation. This test has 2 components: English language skills and a civics practice test.

The English component includes reading, writing, and speaking English. The civil part consists of 10 questions out of a list of 100 questions, and you must answer 6 correctly in order to pass the test.

If you fail the test, a retake must be scheduled 60-90 days following the first exam. The appropriated portion needs to be retaken, and the process can only move forward once this step is completed.

Receiving the decision on your citizenship application

You are one step closer to the American Dream if you have provided all the necessary documentation, had a successful interview, and passed the test. Your citizenship may be approved on the same day as the interview and test.

Otherwise, USCIS will send their decision in writing, and they have 120 days from the day of your citizenship interview and exam.

If your naturalization process is denied, you will receive a notice explaining the reasons for the denial of your application. If you believe the decision was wrongly made, then there is a possibility to file Form N-336 requesting a hearing for appealing the decision within 30 days of the denial.

To avoid your process being rejected and to increase the chances of having a smooth transition from a lawful permanent resident / green card holder to a United States citizen.

It’s essential to have a five-star legal team in charge of your US citizenship process from beginning to end.

Receiving a notice to take the Oath of Allegiance

If you are lucky, the Oath of Allegiance can, in many cases, also take place on the same day as the interview and test.

However, the rule is that the USCIS will send a notification by mail, scheduling your naturalization ceremony. The letter will contain the date, time, and location, usually scheduled for 2-6 weeks after the interview and exam.

The Oath of Allegiance is essential to the U. S citizenship process and should be taken seriously. The appointment must not be missed, and if it needs to be rescheduled, you need to follow the instructions on Form N-445 on how to notify the USCIS office.

Becoming a US citizen

The applicant officially becomes a United States of America citizen and receives the naturalization certificate. After taking the Oath of Allegiance during the naturalization ceremony.

Once you have the naturalization certificate in your hands, you can apply for a US passport and vote at the local, state, and national elections.

The ceremony may take place in the courtroom, in a standard room on a federal building, and also can take place at a monumental landmark such as USS Constitution, Independence Hall, or even at the White House as seen in some cases.

No matter where your naturalization ceremony is scheduled to take place, remember this is the apex of your life as an immigrant. This is your moment and such a special occasion, so wearing appropriate attire is necessary.

Respect all the formalities, be cautious, and arrive about one hour before the scheduled time, as a check-in must be done by a USCIS officer, which will check your eligibility and collect all paperwork, which includes:

  • Form N-445, the Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony that you will either receive at the conclusion of your interview and exam or later by mail;
  • Green Card (Permanent Resident Card), which must be returned before you receive your naturalization certificate;
  • Reentry permit or Refugee travel documents (if applicable);
  • Any additional document requested by the USCIS.

The Oath of Allegiance is a sworn declaration that all applicants must take to receive the naturalization certificate.

The oath pledge that you surrender loyalty to your home country’s government and become loyal to the United States of America. Defending and supporting the Constitution and its values, you agree to bear arms and serve in the US armed forces or perform work of national importance as required by the law.

Modifying the oath leaving the bearing arms and the military services out, is possible. However, an objection must be firmly proven based on religious beliefs or deeply moral or ethical codes.

An important note is that the decision to become a US citizen must be taken freely, as freedom is one of the essential values of American society.

What’s next in the citizenship process? What happens after I recite the Oath at the naturalization ceremony?

After you pledge your allegiance to the United States, there will be a congratulatory speech to all applicants participating in that ceremony, welcoming you as an official US citizen.

You will then receive your naturalization certificate. Please review it, make sure all the information stated is correct, and sign it.

Now it’s time to celebrate! Congratulations, you are now a US citizen!

Your citizenship comes along with some of the most important rights and responsibilities all US citizens, by birth and by naturalization, should respect and honor to ensure the vitality of the United States democracy, which are:

  • Freedom of speech;
  • Freedom to worship;
  • Right to prompt and fair trial by a jury;
  • Right to vote and be voted;
  • Right to apply to federal employment required citizenship;
  • Defend the Constitution of the United States;
  • Respect the law;
  • Pay taxes honestly to local and federal authorities;
  • Serve in the jury upon needed;
  • Serve the country as required.

Why does getting US citizenship take so long?

All citizenship applications are handled by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and their field offices located geographically strategically across the country.

The processes are assigned to each office based on their ZIP codes. Therefore heavily populated areas tend to receive a higher number of applications than less populated areas.

The updated processing time of each field office is published by the USCIS once a month.

The application processing time between the filling of form N-400 and receiving the certificate of naturalization can vary for many reasons, including the number of applications received, staff size at regional offices, and case specific-elements that can make a particular situation more complex and time-consuming.

Some things that may be considered minor to most people may cause a significant delay in processing your case. The most common reasons why citizenship processes get delayed are incorrect or lack of supporting documents and address changes without notification to the USCIS office.

That’s why it is crucial to take all the necessary steps to make sure the application is filed correctly, and all the required documents are sent as per USCIS recommendation to avoid frustrations.

Even though the USCIS is committed to delivering a timely decision, it is important to be aware of potential backlogs due to unforeseen circumstances, making it vital to start the naturalization as soon as possible once eligible.

The status of the citizenship application can be checked throughout the entire process.

Online by using the US citizenship status tracker at the USCIS website.

Phone by calling the USCIS’s contact center at 1-800-375-5283, have your need to provide your name, date of birth, USCIS receipt number, and Alien registration number.

You can even check the status of your application by mail. In this case, ensure that your address is up to date with USCIS, as they will automatically send you a status notification.

Ways to accelerate the processing time

A US naturalization application must be accurate, error-free, and supported by a detail-oriented set of documents.

This is more complex than it may sound. If the USCIS reports an error or lack of supporting documents on your application, it will send you a Request for Evidence (RFE). This does not mean rejection, but it certainly configures extra work and adds time to the process.

Although premium processing is not possible for application for naturalization, under certain circumstances, some types of applicants, such as people of substantial government interest, cases of emergency, and those who receive SSI (Supplemental Security Income), are about to expire, the USCIS may be able to expedite the citizenship application review.

Other reasons why the application review may be granted:

  • Humanitarian reasons;
  • A request made by the Department of Defense or any other government agency;
  • If a previous application was denied or the current one is being delayed by a USCIS mistake;
  • Personal or business financial loss provenance of any long wait.

The USCIS is not required to expedite any process except in cases involving SSI benefits, and it uses its own discretion to accept or not the requests.

The request to review your case can be made through the USCIS Contact Center by mail, by writing a letter to your local USCIS field office, the same that handled your form N-400 application, or by phone at 1 (800) 375-5283.

Remember that this request is based on exceptions, and based on that, you will need to strongly prove your need to be granted this exception, so be ready to prove your reasons and have the proper documentation to support your statements.

In such a situation, it’s highly advised that you get legal advice from an immigration attorney to make sure that your application is backed up by a knowledgeable team, increasing your chances of approval.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to become a US citizen?

Currently, between 6-14 months.

Why does the US citizenship process take so long?

Processing time can vary for many reasons, such as the volume of applications received, staff size at regional offices, and case specific-elements that can make a particular situation more complex and time-consuming.

What are the application steps for US citizenship?

  • Determine your eligibility;
  • Prepare and submit Form N-400 – Application for Naturalization;
  • Go to biometrics appointment;
  • Complete interview and exam;
  • Receive the decision by USCIS;
  • Receive the Notice to take the Oath of Allegiance;
  • Take the Oath of Allegiance and receive the Certificate of Naturalization.

Do you need help applying for US citizenship?

Although it is not required, it’s highly advised that you get your application backed up by a knowledgeable team, increasing your chances of approval.

How much does it cost to apply for US citizenship?

$725 includes $640 for processing charges and $85 for biometric services. 

Do I have to take the English language test?

Yes, unless you are eligible for a waiver, you must take the English test, which consists of reading, writing, and speaking.

How to take the American Citizenship test?

The civics practice test includes 10 questions out of a list of 100 questions, and you must answer 6 correctly in order to pass the test.

What to expect at the citizenship ceremony?

A USCIS official will take the Oath of Allegiance. Then you will receive your Certificate of Naturalization.

How to check the status of my application for naturalization?

It can be checked online using the US citizenship status tracker on the USCIS website. Phone at 1-800-375-5283 – USCIS’ Contact Center or by mail.

How early can I apply for U.S citizenship?

You can file Form N-400 and begin your citizenship process as early as 90 days before the end of your 3 or 5-year wait period as a green card holder.

What are the differences between a US citizen and a lawful permanent resident / green card holder?

The most significant differences are US citizens’ ability to obtain a passport and the right to vote.

What to do after getting my citizenship?

Now you can apply for your US passport, register to vote, and update your Social Security information.

Why become a US Citizen?

The main benefits of becoming a US citizen are:

  • Protection from deportation;
  • Family reunification;
  • Automatically citizenship for children under 18;
  • Freedom to travel;
  • Right to vote;
  • Eligibility for specific government jobs.

How can I speed up the US citizenship process?

If your case falls into one of the situations listed below:

  • Humanitarian reasons;
  • A request made by the Department of Defense or any other government agency;
  • If a previous application was denied or the current one is being delayed by a USCIS mistake;
  • Personal or business financial loss provenience of any long wait;
  • Recipients of SSI (Supplemental Security Income)
  • Others by USCIS discretion.

What can make me ineligible from becoming a U.S citizen?

  • Not file your yearly tax returns when you meet the minimum income requirement;
  • Leave the U.S for extended periods;
  • Have severe criminal violations;
  • In certain cases, if you registered to vote by mistake or signed a petition by mistake;
  • Falsely claimed to be a US citizen on any application.

Deciding to become a US citizen is a commitment that should not be taken lightly. Such an important decision must accompany the proper measurements to ensure the best outcome.

Taking the steps toward the naturalization process is the final step to conquering the true American Dream.

The naturalization process is not simple and straightforward. Laws and regulations are complex and constantly changing. Therefore, seeking specialized help is key to reaching a successful result. PassRight is the answer to your US citizenship questions, with a 96% approval rate and hundreds of clients to prove that, a rock star team that works above and beyond with your goals in mind.

Are you ready to start your citizenship process? Don’t wait any longer. Contact us and set up an introductory meeting.