Naturalization process for military members and their spouses

  • Read this guide in its entirety. Reading and understanding this guide is the first step in the naturalization process for military members and their spouses. Some naturalization requirements are difficult to understand and many people have questions about naturalization. If you read this guide before beginning the naturalization process, many of your questions will be answered. An understanding of this guide will prepare you for application, and better-prepared applications will result in faster processing times. It is the member’s responsibility to enter the naturalization process fully informed and ready to provide the necessary information and documents.

  • Complete the Naturalization Eligibility Worksheet. This only applies to members who are applying based on five years as a Legal Permanent Resident (See section titled “Completing Your Application and Getting Photographed”). Complete the eligibility worksheet available at your ACS Customer Service Section to decide if you are eligible to apply for naturalization. If you do not meet all the requirements, you may save both time and money by waiting until you are eligible to apply. If you complete the eligibility worksheet and have questions about your eligibility, you should seek advice by:

    1. Going to an INS information counter
    2. Contacting a community immigrant assistance organization, or
    3. Talking to an immigration attorney.

Obtain an Application for Naturalization (Form N-400)

Once you have completed the eligibility worksheet and believe you are eligible for naturalization, you should obtain an application. The application is called the “Application for Naturalization” (Form N-400). You may obtain an N-400 at your ACS Customer Service Section, by calling the INS Forms Line (1-800-870-3676) or by downloading it from the internet at www.ins.usdoj.gov

Completing your Application and Getting Photographed

Complete your application

Once you have an N-400, you must fill it out completely. Part 2 of the form has a large influence on the amount of time it takes to process your application. Most military members will check block “a” or “b”, depending on whether or not you meet the 5-year Permanent Resident requirement. If you do not meet the 5-year Permanent Resident requirement and check block “d”, you must complete Forms N-426 (“Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service”) and G-325B (“Biographic Information). If you meet the 5-year Permanent Resident requirement, check block “a” because the N-426 and G-325B are not required which will shorten processing time. INS may ask for additional information if you leave it out of your application which will delay the processing. Please be aware that you will be required to answer questions about your application at your interview. When completing your application, you should answer all questions honestly.

Get two photographs taken

You must include two color photographs with your application. If photographs are not sent with your application, INS will return the application. Your photographs should be the same size as the sample below.

The photographs must also be

  • Unmounted and printed on thin paper, on white background with a ¾ profile view of the right side of your face; and

  • Taken within 30 days of the date they are sent to INS

  • our head should also be bare (unless you are required to wear a headdress by a religious order).

Print your name and “A” number lightly in pencil on the back of each photograph. For more information on the photograph requirements, see the single page titled “Color Photograph Specifications” located at your ACS Customer Service Section.

Collect the necessary documents

You will need to include copies of several documents with your application. Use the checklist on the following link: (checklist) to make sure you include the right documents. Please be sure to send an English translation with any document that is not already in English. The translation must include a statement from the translator that he or she is competent to translate and that the translation is correct.

Important Checklist

The attached checklist will tell you when you need to send original documents and when you may send copies. If you must send an original document to INS, remember to make and keep a copy for your records. Click on the following link: checklist.

Bring your application, documents, and fee to the Military Personnel Customer Service Section.

The Military Personnel Unit will review your package and fill out the N-426 verifying your service dates and will mail the G-325B to Ft Meade for the background check (Note: Members applying based on five years as a Permanent Resident are exempt from submitting the N-426 and G325B. If you try to take or mail your application to a local INS office, it will be returned to you. The fee you must send with your application is on the “Current Naturalization Fees” sheet available on the INS home page at www.ins.usdoj.com. If you are unable to pay the required fees, you may request a fee waiver in accordance with INS guidelines which are detailed at the INS web site identified above.

Getting Fingerprinted

The following are the steps required to have your fingerprints taken:

    • Receive an appointment letter from INS. Once INS receives your application, you will receive a letter from INS telling you where and when to have your fingerprints taken. In most cases the letter will tell you to go to an Application Support Center or a police station. A van will come to certain areas to fingerprint applicants who are located far from the nearest fingerprinting location. Your notice from INS will tell you if a van serves your area.

    • Go to the fingerprinting location. Take your notice letter from INS, your Permanent Resident Card, and another form of identification (drivers license, passport, state identification card) with you. Your second form of identification should have your photograph on it.

    • Get your fingerprints taken. Currently, most sites are using ink to take fingerprints. Eventually, every fingerprinting site will use electronic technology to take fingerprints without ink.

In order to conduct a criminal background check, INS will send your fingerprints to the FBI. In some cases, the FBI may reject your fingerprints because of the quality of the prints. If the FBI rejects your fingerprints, INS will notify you and schedule a second visit to the fingerprinting site. If your fingerprints are rejected, you will not be asked to pay again. If the FBI rejects your prints twice, you will be asked to provide police clearances for each place you have lived in the past five years. You will need to contact the police departments in the places you have lived to get these clearances.

  • Mail additional documents if INS requests them. While the FBI is checking your background, INS will locate your immigration file. Sometimes, INS may need additional documents from you before they can schedule your interview. If INS needs more information from you, they will either contact the ACS Customer Service Section or send you a letter telling you what they need and where to send it.

  • Wait for INS to schedule your interview. Once everything is ready, INS will schedule you for an interview. They will send you an interview notice in the mail that will tell you the date, time, and place of your interview. It is very important you make every effort to attend the interview

The Interview

Once your application has been processed, INS will schedule you for the interview. The steps of the interview process are as follows:

Receive an appointment for your interview

You will receive a notice in the mail telling you when and where you must appear for your interview. You will not receive a second notice. If you must reschedule your interview, you should directly contact the office where your interview is scheduled by mail as soon as possible. You should explain your situation and ask to have your interview rescheduled. When a new date has been set, INS will send you a new interview notice.

IMPORTANT:

To make sure you get your interview notice, you must notify INS whenever your address changes. Use INS Form AR-11, “Alien’s Change of Address Card” for this purpose

Go to your local office for the interview at the specified time

You should appear at the office where you are to be interviewed before the time of your interview. Many INS offices are crowded so unless you need to, you may not want to bring other people with you. If you fail to appear at your interview without contacting INS, your case will be “administratively closed”. If this happens and you do not contact INS within 1 year to reopen your case, your application will be denied.

Important:

Rescheduling an interview may add several months to the naturalization process, so try to attend your original interview date.

Provide additional documents if INS requests them

In some cases, INS may ask you to bring additional documents to the interview. These documents will be listed on your appointment letter. If you fail to bring the necessary documents, your case may be delayed or denied.

Take the English and civics test

During your interview, your ability to read, write, and speak English will be tested. You will also be given a civics test to test your knowledge and understanding of U.S. History and Government. See test at following link: The New Redesigned Naturalization Test.

English

Your English will be tested in one of the following ways:

    • Reading. In order to test your reading ability you may be asked to:

Read out loud parts of the N-400;

Read a set of civics questions and then answer them; or

Read several simple sentences out loud.

  • Writing. In order to test your writing skills, the INS officer will ask you to write one or two simple sentences (see the The New Redesigned Naturalization Test.)

  • Speaking. Your speaking ability will be tested when you answer questions about yourself and your application during your interview.

Civics

During your interview, you will be asked to verbally answer a set of civics questions or to take a written multiple-choice test with up to 20 questions. Please see the The New Redesigned Naturalization Test for all possible questions.

Answer questions about your application and background

At your interview, an INS officer will place you under oath and then ask you about:

  • Your background
  • Evidence supporting your case
  • Your place and length of residence
  • Your character
  • Your attachment to the Constitution
  • Your willingness to take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States

In addition, the INS officer may ask you some other questions to make sure you meet all the eligibility requirements. Be prepared to explain any differences between your application and the other documents you have provided to INS. Remember that you are under oath. Always tell the truth during your interview. If you lie during your interview, you will be denied US citizenship. If you are granted citizenship but then INS finds out that you lied on your application or during your interview, your citizenship may be taken away.

A representative may accompany you to your interview if you have sent a “Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Representative” (Form G-28). Also, if you are exempt from the English requirements, you may bring an interpreter to the interview. If you have any disabilities, you may bring a family member or legal guardian with you at the discretion of the INS officer.

Receive a decision

After your interview, your application for citizenship will be granted, denied, or continued.

Granted

Sometimes INS can tell you if you will be granted citizenship at the end of your interview. In some cases, you may be able to complete the oath ceremony the same day as your interview (where available). Otherwise, you will receive a notice telling you when and where your oath ceremony will be.

Continued

The INS officer may also “continue” your case. This means your case is put on hold. If your case is continued, it will add time to your naturalization. The most common reasons for continuation are:

  1. Failing the English and civics tests, and
  2. failing to give INS the documents they need.

When your case is continued, you will be either be asked to

  1. Come to a second interview, usually within 60-90 days of the first interview, or
  2. provide additional documents.

If you do not do what INS asks, your application may be denied.

Denied

INS may also deny your application for naturalization. If INS denies your application, you will receive a written notice telling you why. There is an administrative review process for applicants who receive denials. If you feel that you’ve been wrongly denied citizenship, you may request a hearing with an INS 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 Proceedings Under Section 336 of the Act” (Form N-336).