Frequently Asked Questions on Naturalization
Q: How can I become a United States citizen?
A: A person may become a U.S. citizen (1) by birth or (2) through naturalization.
Q: When does my time as a Permanent Resident begin?
A: Your time as a Permanent Resident begins on the date you were granted permanent resident status. This date is on your Permanent Resident Card (formerly known as Alien Registration Card).
Q: If I have been convicted of a crime but my record has been expunged, do I need to indicate that on my application or tell an INS officer?
A: Yes. You should always be honest with INS regarding all: arrests; convictions (even if they have been expunged); and crimes you have committed for which you were not arrested or convicted.
Even if you have committed a minor crime, INS may deny your application if you do not tell the INS officer about the incident.
Q: How long will it take to become naturalized?
A: The time it takes to be naturalized varies form one local office to another. In many places, it took over 2 years to process an application. INS is currently modernizing and improving the naturalization process so to decrease the time it takes to become naturalized to 6 months.
Q: Where can I be fingerprinted?
A: After INS has received your application, you will be notified of the location where you should get fingerprint.
Q: How do I determine the status of my naturalization?
A: You may call the Service Center where you sent your application.
Q: What if I cannot make it to my scheduled interview?
A: It is very important not to miss your interview. If you have to miss your interview, you should notify the office where your interview is scheduled by mail as soon as possible. Rescheduling an interview may add several months to the naturalization process. If you miss your scheduled interview without notifying INS, your case will be "administratively closed". Unless you contact INS to schedule a new interview within 1 year after INS close your case, INS will deny your application.
Q: What do I do if my address has changed?
A: If your address changes, you should complete the "Alien's Change of Address Card" (From AR11) and send it back to INS.
It is important to make sure INS has your latest address. If INS Does not have a current address for you, you may not receive important information. For example, INS may not be able to notify you of your interview date and time. INS also may not be able to tell you if you need to send or bring additional documents to your interview.
Q: If INS grants me naturalization, when will I become a citizen?
A: You become a citizen as soon as you take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. I some places, you can choose to take the Oath the same day as your interview. If that option is not available or if you prefer to ceremony at a later date, INS will notify you of the ceremony date.
Q: What should I do if I cannot go to my oath ceremony?
A: If you cannot go to the oath ceremony, you should return the "Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony" (Form N-445)( that INS sent to you. Include a letter saying why you cannot go to the ceremony. Your local office will reschedule you a new ceremony.
Q: What can I do if INS denies my application?
A: If you feel that you have been wrongly denied naturalization, you may request a hearing with an immigration officer.
In many cases, you may reapply for naturalization. The denial letter should indicate the date you may reapply for citizenship. If you reapply, you will need to resubmit a new N-400 and pay the fee again. You will also need to have your fingerprints and photographs taken again.
Q: What do I do if I have lost my Certificate of Naturalization? What do I use as proof of citizenship if I do not have my certificate?
A: You may apply for a new Certificate of Naturalization by submitting Form N-565 to INS. It may take up to 1 year for you to receive a new certificate. You may use your passport as evidence of citizenship while you wait for a replacement certificate.
Q: Do I need to obtain a new Permanent Resident Card when INS issues a new version of the card?
A: No, you only need to renew your Permanent Resident Card when it expires.