Questions and Answers about U.S. Citizenship

USCIS has developed responses to several frequently asked questions related to the naturalization process.

 


Question: Do I need a lawyer to apply for U.S. citizenship?

Answer: No you don’t, you can file USCIS forms yourself, including Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. However, some people choose to seek assistance from a lawyer or Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR)-accredited representative. The USCIS website includes information and tips on filing immigration forms.

If you decide to get legal assistance, you can start here:

Many people offer to help with immigration services. Unfortunately, not all of them are authorized or qualified to do so. If you are seeking legal help to complete your Form N-400, please be aware that only attorneys and EOIR-accredited representatives can provide legal advice about which forms and documents to attach to your application, explain immigration options you may have, and communicate with USCIS about your case. For additional information, please review USCIS’ guidance on the unauthorized practice of immigration law.

If you decide to file a Form N-400 without legal assistance:

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Question: Does USCIS publish the naturalization test questions?

Answer: USCIS publishes a complete list of the 100 civics questions and answers for the naturalization test that USCIS may ask applicants during the naturalization interview. These questions are available in English, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. During the naturalization test, a USCIS officer will ask an applicant any 10 of these 100 civics questions. The USCIS officer will ask the applicant only the civics questions on this list.

USCIS provides free educational resources to help applicants prepare for the naturalization test. The Citizenship Resource Center provides study materials to help applicants prepare for the English and civics tests and videos to help potential applicants understand what to expect during the naturalization application process and naturalization interview. In addition, the site contains interactive practice exercises and naturalization self-tests that applicants can use to measure their level of preparedness. Many of these citizenship resources are also available in other languages.

In addition, the Find Help in Your Community page allows individuals to search for low-cost or free citizenship classes throughout the United States.

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Question: Does USCIS make frequent changes to the questions on the naturalization test?

Answer: No. The questions on the naturalization test do not change. Some answers may change because of elections or appointments. As you study for the test, make sure you know the most current answers to these questions.

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Question: Will I be asked all 100 civics questions during the naturalization interview?

Answer: No. While there are 100 available civics questions on the naturalization test (PDF, 295 KB), you will not be asked to answer all of them during your naturalization interview. You will be asked up to 10 questions from the list of 100 questions. You must answer correctly six (6) of the 10 questions to pass the civics test.

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Question: Because my Green Card allows me to travel between the United States and my home country, can I live in both places until I am ready to apply for citizenship?

Answer: To qualify for citizenship, generally applicants must demonstrate they have continuously resided in the United States for at least 5 years before filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. This means you must be residing exclusively in the United States – not in any other country.

You may travel to another country, including your home country, provided no other legal impediment precludes you from doing so. However, if a trip lasts longer than180 days, USCIS may determine that you have not continuously resided in the United States and therefore are ineligible for naturalization.

In addition to examining the length of your trip abroad, USCIS will look at the frequency of your travel. To qualify for naturalization, an applicant must spend at least half of his or her time in the United States. This is known as the “physical presence” requirement. If you take frequent, short trips abroad that result in you spending more than half your time outside the United States, then you will also be ineligible for naturalization.

The requirements of “continuous residence” and “physical presence” are interrelated but are different requirements. A naturalization applicant must satisfy each requirement to be eligible for naturalization. For additional information on the continuous residence or physical presence requirements of naturalization, including exceptions to these requirements, please review A Guide to Naturalization (PDF, 1.01 MB).

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Question: Will USCIS approve my Form N-400 naturalization application once I pass the reading, writing, and civics portions of the naturalization test?

Answer: No. In addition to preparing for the reading, writing, and civics portion of the naturalization test, you will need to prepare for the speaking portion of the naturalization test and meet all other naturalization requirements. The speaking test occurs during the eligibility review. USCIS offers interactive practice tests to help you prepare.

During your naturalization interview, a USCIS officer will review the responses you provided on your Form N-400, Application for Naturalization with you. The USCIS officer will ask questions to clarify or confirm your responses. Prepare yourself for the English speaking test by making sure you understand each question on the application and can respond to each question according to your situation.

You have demonstrated an ability to speak English if you generally understand and can respond accurately to the USCIS officer. Applicants may ask the USCIS officer to repeat or rephrase questions during the naturalization interview. For additional information on how USCIS officers assess English language abilities, please see the Scoring Guidelines for the U.S. Naturalization Test (PDF, 343 KB).

Certain applicants, because of age and time as a permanent resident, are exempt from the English requirements for naturalization and may take the civics test in the language of their choice. For more information, see exceptions and accommodations.

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Question: Can I legally change my name while my naturalization application is pending?

Answer: Yes. You can legally change your name after filing your application for naturalization with USCIS. If your name has changed after you filed a naturalization application, you must promptly provide USCIS with the document(s) that legally changed your name(s), such as a marriage certificate, divorce decree, court order, or other official record. Make sure to mention your name change and bring the documents related to your name change at the time of the interview.

You can also legally change your name when you naturalize. The instructions to Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, include information on what is required when you wish to change your name at the time of naturalization. At the time of the interview, the USCIS officer will record the name change request and ask you to sign a name change petition, which USCIS files with a court before the judicial oath ceremony. Upon receipt of the petition, the court signs and seals the petition. The petition is later presented to you during the naturalization ceremony as evidence of the name change. 

All name change requests facilitated through USCIS will require you to take the oath of allegiance at a judicial ceremony, rather than an administrative one. As far as possible delays, USCIS has little control over the judicial ceremony calendar. However, most courts are very supportive in accommodating the need for naturalization ceremonies..

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Question: Do I need to bring original documents such as birth and marriage certificates to the naturalization interview?

Answer: Yes. You should bring certain original documents to your interview. In the instructions to Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, USCIS provides an extensive list of examples of original documents that you should bring to the interview, depending on different case scenarios. Examples of these documents include: original birth, marriage, divorce, final adoption and naturalization certificates; court orders/decrees; evidence of child support payments; court-certified arrest reports; and probation/parole records. Certain certified copies of documents can also be provided. 

You should also submit copies–preferably certified copies–of these documents at the initial filing of your application. These documents should be submitted as evidence in support of your application, and will facilitate the USCIS officers’ review of your request.

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Question: When should I submit Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions?

Answer: Applicants for naturalization seeking an exception to the English and/or civics requirements for naturalization because of a physical or developmental disability or mental impairment are encouraged to submit this form at the time they file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, with USCIS. However, USCIS recognizes that certain circumstances may prevent concurrent filing of the naturalization application and the disability exception form. Accordingly, an applicant may file the disability exception form during any part of the naturalization process, including after the application is filed but before the first examination, during the first examination, during the re-examination if the applicant’s first examination was rescheduled, and during the rehearing on a denied naturalization application.

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Question: How will I know what the decision is on the Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions, I submitted?

Answer: The decision on your Form N-648 will be made at the time of your naturalization interview. If your Form N-648 is found to be sufficient, and the licensed medical professional who completed your Form N-648 indicated on the form that you were unable to comply with all of the educational requirements, the officer will conduct the eligibility interview in your language of choice with the use of an interpreter and will not test you on any of the educational requirements.

If your Form N-648 is found to be sufficient, and the licensed medical professional indicated on the form that you were unable to comply with only some of the educational requirements, the officer will administer the tests for the other requirements.  You will be permitted to use an interpreter if the medical professional indicated that you were unable to comply with the English speaking requirement.

If your Form N-648 is found to be insufficient, the officer must proceed with the eligibility interview in English and administer all portions of the English and civics testing as if you had not submitted Form N-648.

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Question: What should I do if I have already applied for naturalization and my Permanent Resident Card, also known as “Green Card,” is expiring?

Answer: A permanent resident is required to have valid, unexpired proof of lawful permanent residence in his or her possession at all times.  Applying for naturalization does not change this requirement.  For this reason, you must generally apply to renew your expiring Green Card even if you have applied for naturalization. If you have questions, please make an InfoPass appointment. For more information on renewing your Green Card, visit uscis.gov/green-card/after-green-card-granted/renew-green-card or uscis.gov/i-90.

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Question: If I fail a portion of the naturalization test, when will I be retested?

Answer: Unless you are eligible for an exception to the English or civics requirements, you will be given two opportunities to meet the English and civics requirements. If you fail any portion of these requirements, you will be retested during a new interview on the portion of the test that you failed (English or civics) between 60 and 90 days from the date of your initial interview.

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Question: How many times can I apply for naturalization?

Answer: There is no limit to the number of times you can apply for naturalization.

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