Form N-400: What you need to know

Learn about the requirements, fees, processing time and more for this application to become a U.S. citizen.

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What's Inside

What's Inside

Form N-400, officially known as the United States Application for Naturalization, is a crucial document eligible immigrants use to apply for U.S. citizenship through naturalization.

Lawful permanent residents—also known as green card holders—must meet specific criteria to qualify for U.S. citizenship and follow a few more steps to become citizens. This article will guide you through the N-400 process, including the eligibility criteria, how to complete the form and what happens after you submit it.

What is Form N-400?

Form N-400 is administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a branch of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Visa holders may use this document to begin applying for naturalization

Naturalization is when a foreign-born individual becomes a U.S. citizen by application, not by birth. Form N-400 needs to be accurately completed and submitted to the USCIS for citizenship consideration.

Eligibility criteria for Form N-400

In order to use Form N-400, you need to meet specific criteria established by USCIS. These criteria include:


Applicants must be 18 years old or older when filing Form N-400. Different forms and procedures apply to applicants for naturalization under the age of 18.

Permanent resident status

Individuals must have held a lawful permanent resident status for at least five years before filing the N-400. This residency period is reduced for spouses of U.S. citizens and certain qualifying military service members:

  • Spouses of U.S. citizens need to have their green cards for only three years before they may file USCIS N-400. 
  • Service members need to have served for one year of military service with an honorable discharge; however, certain exceptions apply for service in “zones of hostility”.

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Continuous residence

Applicants must have continuously resided in the United States for a specific period before filing Form N-400. The continuous residence requirement varies depending on whether the applicant is filing as a regular permanent resident or as a spouse of a U.S. citizen. Other exceptions may apply to members of the U.S. military, so check with your branch of service to confirm whether this is true for your specific situation.

Physical presence

Applicants need to demonstrate that they’ve been physically present in the United States for a minimum number of months during the continuous residency period. Typically, this means they’ve been absent from the U.S. for no more than six months at any one time.

Good moral character

USCIS assesses an applicant’s character to determine whether they’ve exhibited good moral conduct, including compliance with U.S. laws and regulations. 

English language proficiency

Most applicants need to demonstrate their ability to read, write, speak and understand basic English by passing a spoken and written English language test. You may be exempt from this exam due to your age or a qualifying exemption like a medical condition or physical or developmental impairment.

Knowledge of U.S. government and history

Applicants must pass an American civics test, which assesses their knowledge of U.S. history, government structure and key civic principles like how elections work.

Completing Form N-400

Once you’ve determined you’re eligible to use Form N-400 to apply for naturalization, you can complete the form and continue your immigration journey. The following are key steps in completing the Form N-400 and preparing to submit it to USCIS:

1. Download the form

Form N-400 is available for download on the official USCIS website. Ensure that you’re using the most recent version of the form to avoid any processing delays.

2. Read the instructions

These guide you through completing the form, including explanations of each section and the required supporting evidence.

3. Gather required documents

You may need photocopies of your green card, identification documents and any relevant certificates, like birth certificates, marriage certificates and divorce decrees.

4. Provide accurate information

Double-check that all information is accurate and truthful before submission to avoid delays. Deliberately submitting false information may subject you to potential legal consequences.

5. Pay the fee

The current Form N-400 fee is $640, plus an $85 fee for fingerprints, photographs and other biometrics. Fee waivers are available for eligible individuals with financial hardships.

6. Submit the application

Once the form is completed and the required documents are gathered, mail the application, fee payment and supporting documents to the appropriate USCIS address. You may also submit your filing online if you create a USCIS account.

Form N-400 processing time

Currently, most Form N-400s are processed anywhere from less than a year to a year and a half from the submission date. The exact timeline depends upon your individual circumstances. You can use the USCIS processing times webpage to learn the average processing time for your individual service center or field office.

Additional Form N-400 processing requirements

After submitting Form N-400, applicants typically receive a notice for a biometrics appointment. Most field offices send applicants a notice for a biometrics appointment within a few weeks, but depending on your case and the field office’s case volume, your length-to-appointment time may vary. At the biometrics appointment, USCIS will collect fingerprints, photographs and other biographical information for background checks.

If USCIS determines that you meet the initial eligibility requirements for U.S. citizenship, you’ll receive an interview notice to take your U.S. citizenship test at your local USCIS office. The interview is a critical part of the naturalization process and involves assessing an applicant’s language skills and knowledge of U.S. government and history. During the interview, USCIS officers also review the applicant’s Form N-400 and supporting documents.

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Oath of Allegiance and Certificate of Naturalization

If USCIS approves the N-400 application and the applicant passes all required tests and interviews, they’re scheduled for an oath ceremony. At the ceremony, applicants take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States, renouncing any previous allegiance to other countries. After taking the oath, applicants receive a Certificate of Naturalization, which serves as proof of U.S. citizenship.

How an attorney may help

While it’s not required to have an attorney assist you, it may be difficult to file Form N-400 correctly and completely without the assistance of an immigration attorney. This is especially true if English isn’t your first or primary language. 

When filing your Form N-400 and converting your status from lawful permanent resident to American citizen, an experienced immigration attorney can help you understand the eligibility criteria, complete the form accurately and find resources to prepare for the civics and English language tests. These are essential steps in successfully navigating the journey to naturalization.

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Frequently asked questions

How long does it take to get citizenship after filing my Form N-400?

While it depends on your specific case and USCIS field office, most Form N-400s are processed anywhere from less than a year to a year and a half after being submitted. The entire citizenship process may take approximately two years. In December 2022, USCIS enacted a policy to automatically extend the green cards of lawful permanent residents once they file a Form N-400 in anticipation of processing delays.

What is the 90-day rule for Form N-400?

The 90-day rule allows green card holders to submit their Form N-400 up to 90 days prior to the end of their three-year or five-year residency requirement. You may calculate your Form N-400 early filing deadline, or 90-day rule deadline, using the USCIS Early Filing Calculator.

Can I travel while my Form N-400 is pending?

You can travel while your N-400 is pending. However, you need to comply with the “physical presence” requirement. This means that applicants for naturalization need to be able to demonstrate physical presence in the U.S. for at least 30 months or 913 days before filing a Form N-400. Note that continuous residence and physical presence requirements for naturalization are related but not the same. As long as you maintain a continuous residence in the U.S. for the entire period and are physically present in the U.S. for at least 913 days before filing, you'll meet these criteria for naturalization.

What additional evidence do you need to provide for Form N-400?

Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may need to provide additional evidence for Form N-400. This could include your birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce decree, tax returns for yourself or your spouse, military records, records regarding the payment or non-payment of child support, arrest and conviction records and/or information relating to any disability exceptions to the testing requirements for naturalization.

Disclaimer: This article is provided as general information, not legal advice, and may not reflect the current laws in your state. It does not create an attorney-client relationship and is not a substitute for seeking legal counsel based on the facts of your circumstance. No reader should act based on this article without seeking legal advice from a lawyer licensed in their state.

This page includes links to third party websites. The inclusion of third party websites is not an endorsement of their services.

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