The "Application for Naturalization," or Form N-400, is a government form employed by eligible green card holders to apply for U.S. citizenship. The first step of "naturalization" (the process of becoming a U.S. citizen) is to file Form N-400 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
While the steps after filing N-400 are routine, the Form N-400 processing time varies depending on the USCIS caseload, the filing office, and if you filed the naturalization application package accurately. After Form N-400 and related forms are filed, the processing period can take anywhere from 8 to 12 months. The processing period may take longer for some and shorter for others, and in some instances, USCIS may request additional information or an extra interview. You can always check your case status with your receipt number online, and the USCIS website also reports typical processing times. You can make a case inquiry if you think your case falls outside standard processing times.
Currently, the government fee for filing an N-400 is $725, including $85 for biometrics services and $640 for processing, which is nonrefundable no matter the application status. However, certain applicants are eligible for a waiver or reduction of the fees.
Only eligible individuals may file an N-400 for naturalization. There is a minimum age of, and you must have had a green card for five years (three years as the spouse of a U.S. citizen) unless applying on the qualifications of military service.
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You are ineligible for an N-400 if you:
As mentioned above, the current filing fee for U.S. citizenship is $725, which includes the nonrefundable processing fee and biometrics fee. Again, certain cases may apply for filing fee waivers or reductions. Some other exemptions include:
There are a variety of ways for you to pay your filing fees (including biometric services).
If you're in the United States, you may pay:
If you're not in the United States or a US territory, you may make an application at an international office. You should check the Forms section of the USCIS website to see how you may apply and what payment methods are allowed.
If you are making more than one or combined application, you may pay for them with one payment method - credit/debit card, check, or money order. A combination of payment methods will not be accepted.
If you make several applications and pay for them with a single payment method, but any one of your applications isn't accepted, your entire package and payment will be rejected and returned to you.
You may pay your fees by personal check, cashier's check, bank draft, certified checks, or money orders payable in US funds and drawn on US financial institutions. Please note that some USCIS offices no longer accept money orders or cashier's checks.
If you pay by check, know the following:
If you have to correct an error on a form filed with USCIS, wait until you receive notice that the agency received it. The notice should feature a receipt number or other case identifier to pinpoint the filed form. After receiving the notice, you should explain the mistake to the USCIS contact center via phone call to request that they fix the problem. USCIS customer service officials should be able to amend small errors right away, but if they tell you it may take a while to fix it, record the reference number in case you need to call again. Certain mistakes are too severe for the Contact Center, so you should send a letter to the USCIS office responsible for processing your form, explaining the error, and correcting it with a new signed form. In some cases, the case may be transferred between USCIS offices, so you may need to wait until you're confident of the office's address who will handle your case. You can also check your case status online or call the Contact Center.
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The speediest path to an American green card is through sponsorship from an immediate relative. UNLIKE OTHER PERMANENT RESIDENT VISA CATEGORIES, the I.R. visa isn't subject to lengthy waiting times or quotas. The I.R. visa is eligible if you are a child under 21, a spouse, or parent of a current American citizen. You must be legally married to your U.S. Citizen wife or husband to be eligible as a spouse. While the marriage doesn't have to occur in the U.S. to be eligible, it also needs to be legally recognized in the country or state where you were married.
If you are not currently legally married, you may apply for a temporary K-1 fiance visa, allowing the foreign spouse to enter the U.S. for 90 days to marry your U.S. citizen fiance legally. Following the marriage, you may apply for your green card while residing in the U.S. To obtain permanent residency in America via marriage, remember that U.S. immigration officials will thoroughly check the legitimacy of your marriage, digging up evidence from joint assets, personal communications, and even social media.
Moreover, you must have met your spouse in person before obtaining the K-1 visa, and your permanent residency depends on remaining married to your U.S. citizen spouse for a minimum of two years. For minor children under the age of 21, the process is more straightforward since they can generally receive citizenship simultaneously with their parents. In addition, if your child is a current U.S. citizen, then they may sponsor your green card when they are 21.
Since the U.S. provides birthright citizenship, people occasionally come to the U.S. to give birth to try and gain permanent residency in the U.S. through their children. While giving birth in the U.S. can help set your child up for U.S. citizenship, birth tourism is discouraged. Unmarried children of U.S. citizens over the age of 21 may apply for permanent residency through the F1 family preference category.
You may file Form N-400 90 days before completing your permanent residence requirement if you are a permanent resident for a minimum of 5 years or a permanent resident for a minimum of three years if you are married to an American citizen. When determining your 90-day early filing date, start by listing your 3-year or 5-year date as a permanent resident. If the residency date on your Permanent Resident Card says "July 5, 2016," for example, you met the 5-year permanent resident requirement on July 5, 2021.
If you've met all other requirements for eligibility, the earliest you may file is April 6, 2021, which is 90 days before July 5, 2021. To ensure you file within the 90-day window, you can use the USCIS Early Filing Calculator. If you file more than 90 days before your anniversary date, the form will be denied.
Online filing is superior to mailing a paper form since you can:
To file your N-400 online, you must create a USCIS account and obtain a USCIS online account number. This is a simple process as long as you have the information and documentation to answer accurately. To take this application route, you will have to be locally in the US and not be applying for a waiver or fee reduction.
To create your account, you must answer questions about your immigration history. As you complete your application, keep your personal documents near to hand - passport, copies of your visa application, immigration visa, and copies of your immigration petition. All of this will allow USCIC to verify your identity and get the process moving.
If you don't have the correct documents, you won't be able to answer the questions accurately, which will restrict access to your profile. Ideally, you want to have access to your ISCIS online account and be allowed to update your profile, and have access to your case information.
If you need help to accurately answer the questions asked online, you can arrange a free appointment with a local USCIS office. They can verify your identity when you first arrive in the US and have your personal information correctly secured.
There may be times when you need your online account number. Many people report that the number is difficult to find because it isn't in a prominent place. You will find it on your user profile page after your application. You will have been issued a notice of action letter - read it carefully because this is where you will find your account number.
When you make an application, you will have to provide three documents:
And if you are outside of the US and its territories, you must also provide two identical color photographs with your Alien Registration Number (A-Number) written on the back.
Additionally, here are some of the other documents you may need to provide:
If you're filing your N-400 as the spouse of a U.S. citizen, the marriage must be authenticated. Part of the authentication process includes providing three years of tax returns, either tax transcripts or joint tax returns. In addition, all applicants must give proof of IRS tax payments or any overdue tax obligations with federal income tax returns for the last five filing years. If you are filing based on marriage, you only need three years of IRS tax payments.
The immigration process can be lengthy and challenging. Brudner Law is a top immigration law firm in Orange County. Work with Brudner Law today!
Looking for an immigration lawyer? Consult with Brudner Law today!