U.S. Naturalization FAQ
1. How can I become a U.S. citizen?

You may become a U.S. citizen (1) by birth or (2) through naturalization.

2. Who is born a U.S. 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. If you were born in the United States:
    Normally you were a U.S. citizen at birth.1 (Including, in most cases, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the territories of Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and after November 4, 1986, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands),

  2. If you were born abroad to TWO U.S. citizens:
    And at least one of your parents lived in the United States at some point in his or her life, then in most cases you are a U.S. citizen.


  3. If you were born abroad to ONE U.S. 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 those 5 years in the United States were after your citizen parent's 14th birthday.2

    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.
1. The exception is persons who were born not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, such as children of foreign diplomats.

2. 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.

3. How long will it take to become naturalized?

The time it takes to be naturalized varies by location. USCIS is continuing to modernize and improve the naturalization process and would like to decrease the time it takes to an average of 6 months after the Form N-400 is filed.

4. Where can I be fingerprinted?

After USCIS receives your application, you will be notified where you should get fingerprinted.

5. How do I find out the status of my naturalization application?

You can check online.

6. Can I change my name when I naturalize?

Congress did not give USCIS legal authority to change a person's name when that person naturalizes. Therefore, there are only two ways that USCIS can issue your Certificate of Naturalization under a new name:

1. If you present proof that you have already changed your name according to the legal requirements that apply to persons living in your State, USCIS can issue the Certificate of Naturalization with your new name. Such proof might include a marriage certificate or divorce decree showing that you changed your name when you married or divorced. It might also include some other State court order establishing that you changed your name.

2. If you are going to take the Oath of Allegiance at a Naturalization Ceremony that is held in Court, you may ask the Court to change your name. If the Court grants your request, your new name will appear on your Certificate of Naturalization.

7. What can I do if USCIS denies my application?

If you think that USCIS was wrong to deny your naturalization application, you may request a hearing with an immigration officer. Your denial letter will explain how to request a hearing and will include the form you need. The form for filing an appeal is the "Request for Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings under Section 336 of the INA" (Form N-336). You must file the form, including the correct fee, to USCIS within 30 days after you receive a denial letter.

If, after an appeal hearing with USCIS, you still believe you have been wrongly denied naturalization, you may file a petition for a new review of your application in U.S. District Court.

8. Can I reapply for naturalization if USCIS denies my application?

In many cases, you may reapply. If you reapply, you will need to complete and resubmit a new Form 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 both tests.

9. What do I do if I lose 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 USCIS. Submit this form with the appropriate fee to the Nebraska or Texas Service Center, depending on which Service Center has jurisdiction over your residence.

If you have one, you may use your U.S. passport as evidence of citizenship while you wait for a replacement certificate. It is strongly recommended that you apply for a passport as soon as you become a citizen.

10. If my Permanent Resident Card expires while I am applying for naturalization, do I still need to apply for a new card?

If you apply for naturalization 6 months or more before the expiration date on your Permanent Resident Card (formerly known as an Alien Registration Card or "Green Card"), you do not have to apply for a new card. However, you may apply for a renewal card if you wish by using an "Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card" (Form I-90) and paying the appropriate fee.

If you apply for naturalization less than 6 months before the expiration date on your Permanent Resident Card, or do not apply for naturalization until your card has already expired, you must renew your card.

11. If I am a U.S. citizen, is my child a U.S. citizen?

A child who is born in the United States, or born abroad to a U.S. citizen(s) who lived in (or came to) the United States for the required period of time prior to the child's birth, is generally considered a U.S. citizen at birth. A child who is:
  • Born to a U.S. citizen who did not live in (or come to) the United States for the required period of time prior to the child's birth, or

  • Born to one U.S. citizen parent and one alien parent or two alien parents who naturalize after the child's birth, or

  • Adopted (stepchildren cannot derive or acquire citizenship through their stepparents)
    and is permanently residing in the United States can become a U.S. citizen by action of law on the date on which all of the following requirements have been met:
    • The child was lawfully admitted for permanent residence*; and

    • Either parent was a United States citizen by birth or naturalization**; and

    • The child was still under 18 years of age; and

    • The child was not married; and

    • The child was the parent's legitimate child or was legitimated by the parent before the child's 16th birthday (children born out of wedlock who were not legitimated before their 16th birthday do not derive United States citizenship through their father); and

    • If adopted, the child met the requirements of section 101(b)(1)(E) or (F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and has had a full and final adoption; and

    • The child was residing in the United States in the legal custody of the U.S. citizen parent (this includes joint custody); and

    • The child was residing in the United States in the physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent.

If you and your child meet all of these requirements, you may obtain a U.S. passport for the child as evidence of citizenship. If the child needs further evidence of citizenship, you may submit an "Application for Certificate of Citizenship" (Form N-600) to USCIS to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship. (NOTE: A child who meets these requirements before his or her 18th birthday may obtain a passport or Certificate of Citizenship at any time, even after he or she turns 18.)

*NOTE - Children who immigrated under the "IR-3" or "IR-4" categories must have had an immigrant petition filed on their behalf before their 16th birthday; see answers to the next question below. All adoptions for any other type of immigration benefit, including naturalization, must be completed by the child's 16th birthday, with one exception: A child adopted while under the age of 18 years by the same parents who adopted a natural sibling who met the usual requirements.

**NOTE - The "one U.S. citizen parent" rule applies only to children who first fulfilled the requirements for automatic citizenship (other than at birth abroad) on or after February 27, 2001. In order to qualify for automatic citizenship (other than at birth abroad) on or before February 26, 2001, both of the child's parents must have been United States citizens either at birth or through naturalization-both parents if the child had two parents; the surviving parent if a parent had died; the parent with legal custody if the parents were divorced or legally separated; or the mother only, if the child had been born out of wedlock and the child's paternity had not been established by legitimation.

12. If I am a U.S. citizen, but my child does not meet the requirements listed above, can I still apply for citizenship for my child?

A child who is regularly residing in the United States can become a citizen of the United States only by meeting the requirements listed in the answer to previous question. If a child regularly resides in the United States and is not a lawful permanent resident, he or she cannot acquire citizenship automatically until he or she is granted lawful permanent residence. If a child who has been lawfully admitted for permanent residence fails to qualify for citizenship under the provisions of law, he or she may apply for naturalization after reaching 18 years of age by filing Form N-400, provided that he or she has the required 5 years of lawful permanent residence.

U.S. citizens with children by birth or adoption (stepchildren do not qualify) who do not regularly reside in the United States, may apply for citizenship for such a child if all of the following conditions are met:
  • The child is under 18 years of age; and

  • The child is not married; and

  • The child regularly resides outside the United States; and

  • The child is temporarily present in the United States pursuant to a lawful admission and is maintaining such lawful status; and

  • The child is in legal and physical custody of a parent who is a U.S. citizen; and

  • The child is the U.S. citizen's legitimate child, or was legitimated before the child's 16th birthday (children born out of wedlock who were not legitimated before their 16th birthday may be eligible for this procedure through his or her mother); and

  • If adopted, the child meets the requirements of section 101(b)(1)(E) or (F) of the INA and had a full and final adoption; and

  • Either of the following is true:
    • The citizen parent has lived at least 5 years in the United States, and at least 2 of which were after the citizen parent's 14th birthday; or

    • If the child's citizen parent has not lived in the United States for at least 5 years, 2 of which were after that parent's 14th birthday, the citizen parent currently has a parent (the child's grandparent) who:
      • Is also a U.S. citizen; and

      • Lived in the United States for 5 years, at least 2 of which were after the citizen grandparent's 14th birthday; and

      • Is living or deceased at the time of the adjudication of the application and the taking of the Oath.

    If the foregoing conditions are met, the citizen parent can apply for citizenship and a Certificate of Citizenship on behalf of the child using an "Application for Citizenship and Issuance of a Certificate under Section 322" (Form N-600K). Both the citizen parent and the child must appear at an interview with a USCIS officer in the United States. The child must meet all of the required conditions at the time he or she takes the Oath of Allegiance. (NOTE: The Oath may be waived if the child is too young to understand it.)