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Module 1: Understanding the Naturalization Process

This module will provide you with a basic understanding of the naturalization process.

What is naturalization?

Naturalization is commonly referred to as the manner in which a person not born in the United States voluntarily becomes a U.S. citizen. People not born in the United States who want to become citizens of the United States must go through a legal process to become naturalized citizens.

How is naturalization different from citizenship?

Naturalization is the legal process a non-U.S. citizen undergoes to become a citizen of the United States. A person can become a citizen of the United States through one of the following ways:

  • Through the naturalization process
  • By deriving citizenship from his or her parent when the parent naturalizes
  • By being born in the United States
  • By being born to U.S. citizen parents abroad
What are the general requirements for naturalization in the United States?

The following bullets highlight the general requirements, as established by the Immigration and Nationality Act, for a person seeking to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Note: Eligibility requirements may be different for applicants who are married to a U.S. citizen, members of the U.S. military, or are children of naturalized citizens. For more information, see the Citizenship Through Naturalization section of the USCIS website.

The person must:

  • Be at least 18 years old at the time of filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
  • Be a permanent resident (have a “green card”) for at least 5 years.
  • Have lived within the state or USCIS district with jurisdiction over their place of residence for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing Form N-400. 
  • Have continuous residence in the United States as a permanent resident for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing Form N-400. 
  • Be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing Form N-400. 
  • Be able to read, write, and speak basic English unless exempt based on age and time as a permanent resident or a physical or developmental disability or mental impairment. See Exceptions and Accommodations
  • Have a basic understanding of U.S. history and government (civics). 
  • Be a person of good moral character. 
  • Demonstrate an attachment to the principles and ideals of the U.S. Constitution.
How does someone apply for naturalization?

To apply for naturalization, submit Form N-400, Application for Naturalization online. 

How much does it cost to apply for  naturalization?

Application filing fees can change. To find the current filing fee, review the latest fee schedule (PDF) (PDF, 263.18 KB) on the USCIS website. 

Where can people find legal assistance?

If learners need help with an immigration issue, they can use the services of a licensed immigration attorney or an accredited representative from an organization recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals. Refer learners to the Avoid ScamsFind Legal Services, and Finding Help in Your Community sections of the USCIS website for more information on finding legal services.

Summary

Your role as a volunteer is to have a basic understanding of the naturalization process so that you may prepare learners for naturalization. This module was designed to provide you with general information on the naturalization process. Use this information to help learners understand and navigate the naturalization process. Remember that Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, is a legal document and that you should not complete the form for learners. Instead, direct learners to a recognized organization, an accredited representative, or a licensed immigration attorney.

USCIS Resources