Did you know that you can become an American citizen through "naturalization" without being born in the US or having American citizen parents? If you are a Green Card holder in the US and want to become an American citizen, we have prepared this guide for you!

You can find out if you are eligible for American citizenship by taking the free test on our website!


The main topics to be covered in this article:

American Citizenship Application Requirements 

In order to apply for citizenship through naturalization, you must meet all of the following requirements:

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How Many Years After Receiving a Green Card Can Citizenship Be Obtained?

In order to apply for US citizenship, you need to be a Green Card holder for a certain period of time. However, how long you can apply depends on the type of Green Card you have, how long you have been a Green Card holder and how long you have been physically present in the United States:

Person Making the ApplicationTime to ApplyTotal Time Physically Present in the U.S. (before filing the application)
Green Card holder (must have obtained their Green Card through means other than marriage to an American citizen. For example, a spouse of a Green Card holder or a Green Card holder who received a Green Card through a Green Card lottery).4 years and 9 months after receiving a Green Card (if the residency requirement is met without interruption)30 months (2.5 years)
Green Card holder married to a US citizen (US citizen spouse must have been a citizen for at least 3 years)2 years and 9 months after receiving a Green Card (if the condition of residence with spouse is met without interruption)18 months (1.5 years)
Widow of an American citizen who died while serving in the militaryAnytime (no time limit, provided that he/she is a Green Card holder at the time of the citizenship interview)Not required
Green Card holder who has served in the US military for at least 1 year during peacetimeWhile on active duty or within 6 months of being honorably discharged from the army (honorable discharge means not being discharged from the army)Not required
Green Card holders who have served in the US military for less than 1 year during peacetime5 years after receiving a Green Card (service period also counts)30 months (2.5 years)
A person who served as a member of the military during wartime (Green Card holder or not)AlwaysNot required



IMPORTANT: If your U.S. residency is interrupted due to an extended stay abroad, it will resume upon your return to the U.S.

American VCitizenship Application Process

STEP 1: Applying for Citizenship

  • Once you have met all the requirements to apply for naturalization, you must collect concrete evidence that you have met those requirements. You can find the list of documents you need to collect to send with the form on the USCIS website. Do not forget to check the USCIS website frequently to make sure that this list is up-to-date.
  • After collecting the documents, you can apply for citizenship by filling out the N-400 form and paying the required fee. The application can be submitted online or by mail to USCIS. However, we recommend that you apply online so that you can easily track the status of your application.
  • Once the form has been submitted, USCIS will send you a notification that it has received your application.

STEP 2: Biometric Appointment

  • After you apply for citizenship with the N-400 form, your biometric appointment will take place in about 1 month.
  • USCIS will inform you about the date and place of your biometric appointment. At this appointment, you will be fingerprinted and then photographed.

STEP 3: Interview and Examination

  • The interview and the test take place on the same day, approximately 6-14 months after you submit your citizenship application. Keep in mind, however, that this timeframe is very variable. USCIS will notify you of the date and location of the interview.
  • In the interview, you will be asked many questions about you and your application. Give open and honest answers to these questions.
  • After the interview, you will take a two-stage test. The first stage tests your knowledge of American history and government. Then your English language skills are assessed in the categories of reading, writing and speaking. You will then be informed by USCIS about your interview and test results.

You can visit our detailed guide on how to prepare for the interview and exam.

 

STEP 4: Making the Pledge of Allegiance

  • If your interview and test were successful and your application has been approved, you will proceed to the next step, the Oath of Allegiance Ceremony. You cannot become an American citizen until you complete this step.
  • At the ceremony, you swear an oath of allegiance to the United States and its constitution, and after the ceremony is over, you will receive your Certificate of Naturalization.

You are now American citizens, congratulations!

How Long Does It Take to Apply for American Citizenship?

The time it takes to process your US citizenship application depends on many factors, such as the processing speed of the USCIS office where you are located. You can check the average citizenship application processing time of the USCIS office processing your application at https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/. Once on the link, all you need to do is select the N-400 form and the USCIS office that will handle your application.

 

American Citizenship Application Fee

As of 2022, the total fee to apply for US citizenship is $725 ($640 form fee + $85 biometric service). You may also be able to request an exemption or reduction in the application fees. See here. Is it possible to be exempt from some steps in applying for American citizenship?

 

Exemption from Certain Steps in Applying for American Citizenship 

Exemption from the two-stage exam

  • In some cases, it is possible to be partially or completely exempted from the two-stage exam on the day of the interview:
Exempt PersonsExemption from English TestExemption from Citizenship Test
Persons over 50 years of age, who have lived in the U.S. as a Green Card holder for at least 20 yearsYesYou cannot be exempt but you can take the test in your own language
Persons over 55 years of age, who have lived in the United States as a Green Card holder for at least 15 yearsYesYou cannot be exempt but you can take the test in your own language
65 years of age or older, who have lived in the U.S. as a Green Card holder for at least 20 yearsYesYou cannot be exempt, but you can take the "facilitated" test in your own language
Green Card holders with a medical disability (the disability must last for at least 12 months)Yes (if your request for exemption has been approved)Yes (if your request for exemption has been approved)

Exemption from Oath of Allegiance

  • If you have difficulty understanding the oath due to a physical, developmental or intellectual disability:

In this case, you can request to be exempted from the oath. If your request is granted, you will not need to take the oath. For the request, you only need to submit these two documents before the ceremony (no special form is required): the written request (which must be prepared with the help of a legal guardian, attorney or representative) and the evaluation report written by the doctor most relevant to your medical history.

  • If you do not want to say phrases such as "I swear" or "so help me God" in the text of the pledge ofallegiance:

You can report this to USCIS and ask to be told a different version of the text.

Application Fee Exemption or Fee Reduction

In some cases, it is possible to be exempt from American citizenship application fees:
 
  • There is no form or biometric fee for those serving in the US military.
  • If you are 75 years or older, you are exempt from the $85 biometric fee.
  • If you cannot afford the total fee of $725, you must fill out an I-912 form with proof of your inability to pay. You must also submit this form with your naturalization application, Form N-400. You can find examples of documents to prove your inability to pay in the instructions for the I-912 form.
  • If you do not meet the requirements for fee exemption, i.e. your income is more than 150% but less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, you can request a fee reduction. To do so, you must submit the I-942 form together with documents to prove your income.You can find the documents you need to submit for the application in the instructions for the I-942 form .

For detailed information on how to calculate whether your income is sufficient according to the Federal Poverty Guidelines, please visit our guide.

 

Do you want to find out if you are eligible for US citizenship?

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Becoming an American Citizen

Before becoming an American citizen, you should make sure you understand the rights and responsibilities of American citizenship. Nevertheless, we would like to emphasize that the advantages do not outweigh the responsibilities of citizenship.

Advantages

Disadvantages:

Utku Galip Akçok

Utku Galip Akçok

Attorney Utku Galip Akçok is the founder of ALO. Like you, he came to the US as an immigrant and has experienced all the difficulties you have experienced.

Frequently Asked Questions

According to the US government, your place of residence is, in simple terms, the place where you live your life. That is, where you make your home, where you work, where you have ties, where you spend most of your time, and generally where you live your life.

Your residency must be uninterrupted, and uninterrupted does not mean physically present all the time, it means that your residency status continues in the abstract. However, physical presence is not required to be continuous because it is based on the sum of the periods you have been in the US. In other words, according to the physical presence requirement, the sum of the periods you have been in the US must exceed 30 months (2.5 years).

For example, if you travel to Turkey for 4.5 months, your residence in the US will continue, but the physical presence requirement will not be met during this period. On your return from Turkey, the period from the time you enter the US until your next trip counts as physical time spent in the US.

You have the chance to retake the part or the whole exam that you failed. However, you will only get a second chance, failing the second exam will result in your application being rejected. The second exam takes place within 60 to 90 days after the first exam.

Yes, you can apply, there is no limit, but you have to pay an application fee each time.

To apply for citizenship, you must have a valid, unexpired Green Card. Once you have applied for a Green Card renewal, you can start your citizenship application before your new Green Card arrives. To do this, you must provide proof that you applied for a Green Card renewal with the I-90 form. As proof, you can submit a notification from USCIS that it has received your I-90 application.

If the applicant has a physical, developmental or intellectual disability, they may be exempted from both tests. The exemption can be applied for using the N-648 form. This form is filled out by a doctor.

You do not have to have a lawyer to apply for citizenship. A person who wishes to apply for citizenship in the United States can apply individually. However, if the naturalization process is complex or involves special circumstances that are unique to the individual, it may be helpful to seek legal advice from a lawyer.

A lawyer can help you better understand the application process and organize the necessary documents. It can also help you to better prepare your application for potential problems. 

 

You must bring to the interview the originals of the official documents such as birth, marriage, divorce certificates, etc. that you sent with the N-400 form when you applied. (When applying with the N-400 form, you send certified copies of these documents with the form).

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