How long does it take to become a U.S. citizen after filing my application for naturalization?

After filing your application for naturalization, the approval time to become a US citizen can take anywhere from 5 to 8 months between application and interview. If you live in an area with heavy immigrant populations, it is not unusual to wait two years or more to become a US citizen. Learn more about the USCIS's immigration application process in our free legal guide below.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 9, 2021

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Most people need to file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, to start the process. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires you to submit two passport-style photos along with your application.

USCIS is a government agency that processes naturalization applications (and other immigration forms). In order to handle the huge volume of applications, USCIS is supported by field offices across the United States. Once your application for naturalization and supporting documents (such as a photocopy of your green card) are filed, the approval time to become a US citizen varies by person and location. The short answer is that the national average processing time can take anywhere from 5 to 8 months between application and interview. Any missing information or documentation will eventually slow down the process.

If you live in an area with heavy immigrant populations, it is not unusual to wait 2 years or more to become a US citizen. The USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services or Immigration Services) claims to be working on reducing the processing times for naturalization to approximately 6 months. However, that goal has not yet been reached. Furthermore, processing wait times for U.S. citizenship applications have been steadily rising, so it’s important to apply as soon as possible to prevent any delays. If you properly file Form N-400 Application for Naturalization, USCIS will send back an email with a receipt notice that confirms receipt of your application.

How long do you have to wait?

The waiting time between the filing of the application for naturalization and the naturalization interview can seem especially long. It helps to understand what is happening during that time. After you have mailed in your application, you should first receive back the certified mail receipt (a green postcard) that you included with your application. If you haven’t received this back within 14 days, you should check with the US Postal Service to make sure your application was not lost in the mail. Look next for an official receipt notice from the USCIS that confirms that your application was entered into the Immigration Services system. Check your bank records and make a copy of the cashed check when it shows up. If your application gets lost, your cashed check might have your case number printed on it, and that will be helpful in tracking your case in the system.

After your application makes it into the system, your file goes to your local USCIS District Office. You will likely not know for sure when this happens and it will be very difficult to get an answer from the District Office. You will, however, at some point receive notification of your appointment to get your fingerprints taken in person by Immigration Services. If you’re between the ages of 14 and 75, you must have your fingerprints taken (unless the fingerprinting officer waives the requirement). After your fingerprints are taken and the results sent from the FBI back to Immigration Services, you should receive notice of your appointment for the citizenship interview.

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How can you prevent delays in your naturalization application?

You can take steps to prevent delays in your application and to track your application along the way. To prevent delays in the naturalization application process:

  • Double check your application for naturalization before you submit it. Rushing an application usually results in errors or omissions. Either will require more work by you and the officer processing your request and will delay your quest to become a US citizen.
  • Send your application for citizenship to the correct address. Where you mail your application to will also depend on where you live.
  • Update your attorney and the officer handling your application of any changes in address or contact information. If they can’t find you, neither will be able to advise you when additional items are needed or when you have reached the next step in your citizenship process. This will also result in delays.
  • Make your appointments. Missed appointments, like fingerprinting, will not only delay your application but could result in the denial of your application and ultimately derail your quest for naturalization. If you fail to appear for an interview, your application will be considered “administratively closed.” Your application will not be reopened unless you so request in a timely manner.

Because of internet access, USCIS now has more options for checking the status of your application on a regular basis. It also includes features for rescheduling interviews. Utilize these features to stay on top of your application. To check on the status of your application for naturalization, go to the USCIS website.

If your application is approved, the oath ceremony will also occur on the same day as your interview and exam. Otherwise, USCIS will schedule it about two to six weeks later. You’ll take a Form N-445, officially called the “Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony”) with the date, time, and location of the next open ceremony. You’ll also get a Certificate of Naturalization, and you may even be able to register to vote.

If you can’t attend your naturalization ceremony at the scheduled time, you must give back the notice to your local USCIS office (along with a letter asking for a new date and describing why you cannot come on the original date). If you don’t appear more than once at your naturalization ceremony, your application may be denied.

If you are still confused about any part of the naturalization process, contact an immigration lawyer. They can assist you in reviewing your application so that you do not create unnecessary delays for yourself as you apply to become a US citizen.

Moreover, if you think you might have a criminal record, it might be best to contact an immigration lawyer before scheduling a biometrics appointment. A lawyer can request a criminal background check before USCIS does and deal with it as required.

Get answers to your citizenship questions today!

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