American Citizenship Questions

How can I become a United States citizen?

A person may become a U.S. citizen by birth or through naturalization.

Who is born a United States citizen?

Generally, people are born U.S. citizens if they are born in the United States or if they are born to U.S. citizens:

  1. By being born in the United States - If you were born in the United States (including, in most cases, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands), you are an American citizen at birth (unless you were born to a foreign diplomat). Your birth certificate is proof of your citizenship.
  2. Through birth abroad to TWO United States citizens - In most cases, you are a U.S. citizen if ALL of the following are true:
  3. Both your parents were U.S. citizens when you were born; and at least one of your parents lived in the United States at some point in their life.
  4. Your record of birth abroad, if registered with a U.S. consulate or embassy, is proof of your citizenship. You may also apply for a passport to have your citizenship recognized. If you need additional proof of your citizenship, you may file a Form N-600, "Application for Certificate of Citizenship" to get a Certificate of Citizenship.
  5. Through birth abroad to ONE United States citizen - In most cases, you are a U.S. citizen if ALL of the following are true:
    • One of your parents was a U.S. citizen when you were born
    • Your citizen parent lived at least 5 years in the United States before you were born; and at least 2 of these 5 years in the United States were after your citizen parent's 14th birthday.
    • Your record of birth abroad, if registered with a U.S. consulate or embassy, is proof of your citizenship. You may also apply for a passport to have your citizenship recognized. If you need additional proof of your citizenship, you may file an "Application for Certificate of Citizenship" (Form N-600) with USCIS to get a Certificate of Citizenship.
    • *If you were born before November 14, 1986, you are a citizen if your U.S. citizen parent lived in the United States for at least 10 years and 5 of those years in the United States were after your citizen parent's 14th birthday.

How do I become a naturalized citizen?

If you are not a U.S. citizen by birth or did not acquire U.S. citizenship automatically after birth, you may still be eligible to become a citizen through the normal naturalization process. People who are 18 years and older use the "Application for Naturalization" (Form N-400) to become naturalized. Persons who acquired citizenship from parent(s) while under 18 years of age use the "Application for a Certificate of Citizenship" (Form N-600) to document their naturalization . Adopted children who acquired citizenship from parent(s) use the "Application for a Certificate of Citizenship on Behalf of an Adopted Child" (Form N-643) to document their naturalization.

When does my time as a Permanent Resident begin?

Your time as a Permanent Resident begins on the date you were granted permanent resident status. This date is on your Permanent Resident Card (formerly known as Alien Registration Card or Green Card).

What form do I use to file for naturalization?

You should use an "Application for Naturalization" (Form N-400).

If I have been convicted of a crime but my record has been expunged, do I need to indicate that on my application or tell an Immigration officer?

Yes. You should always be honest with Immigration regarding all:

Even if you have committed a minor crime, Immigration may deny your application if you do not tell the Immigration officer about the incident. It is extremely important that you tell Immigration about any arrest even if someone else has advised you that you are not required to do so.

Where do I file my naturalization application?

You should send your completed "Application for Naturalization" (Form N-400) to the appropriate USCIS Service Center. For information about the Service Center that serves your area. Remember to make a copy of your application.

Will the USCIS provide special accommodations for me if I am disabled?

Some people with disabilities need special consideration during the naturalization process. The USCIS will make every effort to make reasonable accommodations in these cases. For example, if you use a wheelchair, we will make sure your fingerprint location is wheelchair accessible. If you are hearing impaired and wish to bring a sign language interpreter to your interview, you may do so. Asking for an accommodation will not affect your eligibility for naturalization. The USCIS makes decisions about making accommodations on a case-by-case basis.

How can I pay my application fee?

You must pay your application fee with a check or money order drawn on a U.S. bank in U.S. dollars payable to the "USCIS.". You must send your fee with your application. Remember that your application fee is not refundable even if you withdraw your application or USCIS denies your case.

How long will it take to become naturalized?

The time it takes to be naturalized varies from one local office to another. In 1997, in many places, it took over 2 years to process an application. The USCIS continues to improve the naturalization process. As of October 2001, the USCIS reported that it takes, on average, between 6 and 9 months to become naturalized.

How do I determine the status of my naturalization application?

If you have been scheduled for a naturalization interview: Calling: If your application is pending for longer than the processing time projected on your receipt, and you have not recently received any type of notice or update from the USCIS, you can call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 for information. When you call, please have your A-number, any receipt number issued to you after the USCIS received your application, and the last notice you received about your case. Customer Service Representatives use information provided by each local office to answer questions about case status and processing times. Writing or visiting the USCIS Office: While calling can be more convenient, you may instead choose to request an update by writing or going to your local USCIS office.

  • If you write, please provide the following in your letter
  • Your current name and address, and, if different, your name as it appears on yourapplication;
  • Any A-number, which is an 8 or 9 digit number following the letter "A", assigned to you orto your application;
  • Your date of birth;
  • The date and place where your application was filed;
  • Any receipt number from any receipt notice issued by the USCIS for your application;
  • A copy of the most recent notice sent to you by the USCIS on your case, if you have received one;and
  • The date and office where you were fingerprinted and where you were interviewed, if this has been done.
  • Sign your request, or, if you are preparing the request for the applicant, have him or her sign the request. Please mark your envelope: ATTN: Status Inquiry. If you have NOT been scheduled for a naturalization interview: Calling: You may obtain case status by calling 1 (800) 375-5283, and following the automated instructions. Please have your receipt number ready. Writing: While calling can be more convenient, you may instead choose to request an update by writing the Service or Benefits Center where your case is pending. Please note that the Texas Service Center prefers that customers fax their inquiries. If you write, please provide the following in your letter: x Your current name and address, and, if different, your name as it appears on your application; x Any A-number, which is an 8 or 9 digit number following the letter "A", assigned to you or to your application; x Your date of birth; x The date and place where your application was filed; x Any receipt number from any receipt notice issued by the USCIS for your application; x A copy of the most recent notice sent to you by the USCIS on your case, if you have received one; x The date and office where you were fingerprinted and where you were interviewed, if this has been done. If you filed electronically, include a copy of your Confirmation Receipt notice. Sign your request, or, if you are preparing the request for the applicant, have him or her sign the request. Please mark your envelope: ATTN: Status Inquiry.

    Where can I be fingerprinted?

    After the USCIS has received your application, you will be notified of the location where you should get fingerprinted.

    What if I cannot make it to my scheduled interview?

    It is very important not to miss your interview. If you have to miss your interview, you should notify the office where your interview is scheduled by mail as soon as possible. In your letter, you should ask to have your interview rescheduled. Rescheduling an interview may add several months to the naturalization process, so try not to change your original interview date. If an emergency arises and you absolutely cannot make your appointment, call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800375-5283 to request rescheduling. The USCIS will record the information, and pass it on to the local office, which will make the final decision whether to reschedule your appointment. If you miss your scheduled interview without notifying the USCIS, we will "administratively close" your case. Unless you contact USCIS to schedule a new interview within 1 year after USCIS closes your case, they will deny your application. The USCIS will NOT notify you if we close your case because you missed your interview.

    If the USCIS grants me naturalization, when will I become a citizen?

    You become a citizen as soon as you take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. In some places, you can choose to take the Oath the same day as your interview. If that option is not available or if you prefer a ceremony at a later date, the USCIS will notify you of the ceremony date with a "Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony" (Form N-445).

    What should I do if I cannot go to my oath ceremony?

    If you cannot go to the oath ceremony, you should return the "Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony" (Form N-445) that the USCIS sent to you. You should send the N-445 back to your local office. Include a letter saying why you cannot go to the ceremony. Make a copy of the notice and your letter before you send them to the USCIS. Your local office will reschedule you and send you a new "Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony" (Form N-445) to tell you when your ceremony will be.

    Can I reapply for naturalization if the USCIS denies my application?

    In many cases, you may reapply. If you reapply, you will need to complete and resubmit a new N-400 and pay the fee again. You will also need to have your fingerprints and photographs taken again. If your application is denied, the denial letter should indicate the date you may reapply for citizenship. If you are denied because you failed the English or civics test, you may reapply for naturalization as soon as you want. You should reapply whenever you believe you have learned enough English or civics to pass the test.

    What do I do if I have lost my Certificate of Naturalization? What do I use as proof of citizenship if I do not have my certificate?

    You may get a new Certificate of Naturalization by submitting an "Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document" (Form N-565) to the USCIS. You may get the form by calling the Forms Line (1 800-870-3676).

    Submit this form with the fee to your local USCIS office. It may take up to 1 year for you to receive a new certificate. If you have one, you may use your passport as evidence of citizenship while you wait for a replacement certificate.

    How do I register with selective services?

    Selective Service registration allows the United States Government to maintain a list of names of men who may be called into military service in case of a national emergency requiring rapid expansion of the U.S. Armed Forces. By registering all young men, the Selective Service can ensure that any future draft will be fair and equitable.

    Federal law requires that men who are at least 18 years old, but not yet 26 years old, must be registered with Selective Service. This includes all male non-citizens within these age limits who permanently reside in the United States. Men with "green cards" (lawful permanent residents) must register. Men living in the United States without Immigration documentation (undocumented aliens) must also register. But men cannot register after reaching age 26.

    Why Do I Need to Register with the Selective Service?

    Failure to register for the Selective Service may (in certain instances) make you ineligible for certain immigration benefits, such as citizenship.

    I lost my Naturalization Certificate and I need to travel outside the U.S., how can I obtain proof of my citizenship so that I can apply for a U.S. passport with the Department of State?

    You should file Form N-565 (Application for Replacement Naturalization Citizenship Document) with your local USCIS office to replace the lost certificate. You may also contact the Department of State for information on how to obtain a passport.

    Visa Classifications

    Green Cards

    US Citizenship

    Additional Resources

    Google Search


    Google Translate