Frequently Asked Questions & Answers

1. What are the various ways to become a US citizen?

There are three primary ways to become an American citizen:

  1. Naturalization: The conferring, by any means, of Citizenship upon a person after birth
  2. Jus soli, or right of birthplace: Any child born in the U.S. automatically acquires U.S. Citizenship, even if the child’s mother was in the U.S. illegally. This provision does not apply to a child whose parent was a foreign diplomat at the time of birth
  3. Jus sanguinis, or right of blood: Even though a child is born outside the U.S., the child automatically acquires U.S. Citizenship if at least one parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of the child’s birth

2. What privileges do I enjoy as a U.S. citizen?

As a U.S. citizen, you:

  1. Are entitled to vote in national, state, and local elections
  2. Have the right to travel on a U.S. passport
  3. May sponsor relatives, such as your parents, spouse, children, brothers and sisters for permanent resident status in the U.S.
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3. What privileges do I enjoy on H-3 visa?

You may be eligible to obtain U.S. Citizenship if:

1.You are a foreign national with five years permanent residence in the U.S. and at least half that time you were physically present inside the U.S. with no periods of absence over six months

2.You are a permanent resident for three years, who is currently married to a U.S. citizen, and has been married to the same U.S. citizen for the past three years

3.You have served the U.S. Armed Forces for at least three years

4.You performed active duty military service in the U.S. Armed Forces during:

a.World War I (November 11, 1916 – April 6, 1917)

b.World War II (September 1, 1939 – December 31, 1946)

c.Korea (June 25, 1950 – July 1, 1955)

d.Vietnam (February 28, 1961 – October 15, 1978) or

e.Persian Gulf (August 2, 1990 – April 11, 1991)

f.Persian Gulf (September 11, 2001 – Present)

5.You were married to a U.S. citizen who died during a period of honorable active duty service in the U.S. Armed Forces

6.You served on a vessel operated by the U.S. and have been a U.S. permanent resident for the past five years

7.You are an employee or an individual under contract to the U.S. Government and have been a U.S. permanent resident for the past five years

8.Are a person who performs ministerial or priestly functions for a religious denomination or an interdenominational organization with a valid presence in the U.S., and have been a U.S. permanent resident for the past five years

9.You are a spouse of a U.S. citizen who is one of the following:

a.A member of the U.S. Armed Forces

b.An employee or an individual under contract to the U.S. Government

c.An employee of an American institution of research recognized by the Attorney General

d.An employee of a public international organization of which the United States is a member by law or treaty

e.An employee of an American-owned firm or corporation engaged in the development of foreign trade and commerce for the United States

f.A person who performs ministerial or priestly functions for a religious denomination or an interdenominational organization with a valid presence in the United States

4. When does my time as a permanent resident begin for the purpose of Naturalization?

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).

5. How do I become a naturalized U.S. citizen?

If you are not a U.S. citizen by birth or did not acquire U.S. Citizenship automatically after birth, you may be eligible to become a citizen through the process of Naturalization, if you are:

  1. 18 years and older, use the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, to become naturalized
  2. Under 18 years of age, you may acquire Citizenship from your parent(s) by using Form N-600, Application for a Certificate of Citizenship, to document your Naturalization

6. Where do I file my Naturalization application?

You should send your completed Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, to the United States Citizenship Immigration and Services Service Center having jurisdiction over your place of residence.

Note: Remember to make a copy of your application. Do not send original documents with your application unless the checklist of documents states that an original is required.

7. How can I pay my application fee for Naturalization?

You must pay your application fee with a check or money order drawn on a U.S. bank in U.S. dollars payable to the ‘USCIS’.

  1. Residents of Guam should make the fee payable to ‘Treasurer, Guam’
  2. Residents of the Virgin Islands should make the fee payable to ‘Commissioner of Finance of the Virgin Islands’

Note: You must send your fee with your application. Remember that your application fee is not refundable even if you withdraw your application or USCIS denies your case.

8. If I have been convicted of a crime but my record has been expunged, do I need to indicate that on my Naturalization application or tell an Immigration officer?

Yes, you should always be honest with Immigration regarding all:

  1. Arrests (including those by police, Immigration officers, and other Federal agents)
  2. Convictions (even if they have been expunged)
  3. Crimes you have committed for which you were not arrested or convicted

Note: Even if you have committed a minor crime, Immigration may deny your application if you do not tell the Immigration officer about the incident. It is extremely important that you tell Immigration about any arrest even if someone else has advised you that you are not required to do so.

9. What is the processing time for Naturalization application?

The processing time for Naturalization application varies from one local office to another.

10. Where can I be fingerprinted for Naturalization?

After the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has received your application, it will notify you of the location where you should get fingerprinted.

11. What should I do if I cannot make it to my scheduled interview for Naturalization?

It is very important not to miss your interview. If you will not be able to attend your interview you should:

  1. Notify the office where your interview is scheduled by mail as soon as possible
  2. Ask to have your interview rescheduled. Rescheduling an interview may add several months to the Naturalization process, so try not to change your original interview date. If an emergency arises and you absolutely cannot make your appointment, call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 to request rescheduling. The NCSC will record the information, and pass it on to the local office, which will make the final decision whether to reschedule your appointment

Note: If you miss your scheduled interview without notifying the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the USICS will ‘administratively close’ your case. Unless you contact the USCIS to schedule a new interview within one year after it closes your case, it will deny your application. It will not notify you if your case is closed because you missed your interview.

12. Will the USCIS provide special accommodations for me if I am disabled?

Some people with disabilities need special consideration during the Naturalization process. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will make every effort to make reasonable accommodations in these cases. For example, if you use a wheelchair, the USCIS will ensure your fingerprint location is wheelchair accessible. If you are hearing impaired and wish to bring a sign language interpreter to your interview, you may do so. Asking for an accommodation will not affect your eligibility for Naturalization. The USCIS makes decisions about making accommodations on a case-to-case basis.

13. If the USCIS grants me Naturalization, when will I become a citizen?

You become a citizen as soon as you take the Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. In some places, you can choose to take the Oath the same day as your Naturalization interview. If that option is not available or if you prefer a ceremony at a later date, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will notify you of the ceremony date with a Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony.

14. What should I do if I cannot go to my Oath Ceremony for Naturalization?

If you cannot go to the Oath Ceremony, you should return the Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony, which the USCIS sent to you. You must also include a letter saying why you cannot go to the ceremony. Make a copy of the notice and your letter before you send it to the USCIS. Your local office will reschedule you and send you a new Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony, to tell you when your ceremony will be.

15. What can I do if the USCIS denies my application for Naturalization?

There is an administrative review process for those who are denied Naturalization. If you feel that you have been wrongly denied Naturalization, you may request a hearing with an immigration 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 Form N-336, Request for Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings, under section 336 of the INA.

16. Can I reapply for Naturalization if the USCIS denies my application?

Yes, in many cases, you may reapply. If you reapply, you will need to complete and resubmit a new Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, and pay the fee again. You will also need to have your fingerprints and photographs taken again. If your application is denied, the denial letter should indicate the date you may reapply for Citizenship. If you are denied because you failed the English or Civics test, you may reapply for Naturalization as soon as you want. You should reapply whenever you believe you have learned enough English or Civics to pass the test.

17. What should I do if I have lost my Certificate of Naturalization?

You may get a new Certificate of Naturalization by submitting Form N-565, Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document, to the USCIS if you have lost your Certificate of Naturalization. It may take up to one year for you to receive a new certificate.

18. What should I use as proof of Citizenship if I have lost my Certificate of Naturalization?

If you have one, you may use your passport as evidence of Citizenship while you wait for a replacement certificate.

19. If I am a U.S. citizen, what is the process to naturalize my child?

A child who is born in the U.S., or born abroad to U.S. citizen(s) who lived in (or came to) the U.S. for a period of time prior to the child’s birth, is considered a U.S. citizen at birth.

This is applicable to a child who is:

  1. Born to a U.S. citizen who did not live in (or come to) the U.S. for a period of time prior to the child’s birth, or
  2. Born to one U.S. citizen parent and one alien parent or two alien parents who naturalize after the child’s birth, or

3. Adopted and is permanently residing in the U.S. This child can become a U.S. citizen by action of law on the date on which all of the following requirements have been met:

a.The child was lawfully admitted for permanent residence

b.Either parent was a U.S. citizen by birth or Naturalization

c.The child was still under 18 years of age

d.The child was not married

e.The child was the parent’s legitimate child or was legitimated by the parent before the child’s 16th birthday (Stepchildren or children born out of wedlock who were not legitimated before their 16th birthday do not derive U.S. Citizenship through their parents.)

f.If adopted, the child met the requirements of section 101(b)(1)(E) or (F) and has had a full and final adoption

g.The child was residing in the U.S. in the legal custody of the U.S. citizen parent (this includes joint custody)

h.The child was residing in the U.S. in the physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent

20. If I am a U.S. citizen, but my child does not meet the requirements listed above, can I still apply for Citizenship for my child?

  1. A child who is regularly residing in the U.S. can become a U.S. citizen only by meeting the requirements listed in Question 20 above
  2. If a child regularly resides in the U.S. and is not a legal permanent resident, the child cannot acquire Citizenship automatically until the child is granted legal permanent residence
  3. If a child who has been lawfully admitted for permanent residence fails to qualify for Citizenship under the provisions of law, the child may apply for Naturalization by filing Form N-400 after reaching 18 years of age, provided that the child has the required five years of legal permanent residence

21. I lost my Naturalization Certificate and I need to travel outside the U.S. How can I obtain proof of my Citizenship so that I can apply for a U.S. passport with the Department of State?

You should file Form N-565, Application for Replacement Naturalization Citizenship Document, with your local office to replace the lost certificate. You may also contact the Department of State for information on how to obtain a passport.

22. What documents do I need to bring to my U.S. Citizenship interview?

The documents that you should bring to your interview are:

  1. Green Card
  2. Passport and other travel documents
  3. Marriage certificate, or divorce certificate if you are using the three year rule for marriage to U.S. citizen. (If your spouse is deceased at the time of the interview, you should bring a copy of the death certificate
  4. Income tax returns
  5. Child support receipts
  6. Military and Selective Service records
  7. Criminal records. (If you have a criminal record, you may bring a lawyer with you to your interview)

23. What should I do if there is no birth record or file for me and I need to apply for U.S. Citizenship?

1.If you were born in the U.S. and there is no birth record on file, you will need the following documents to substantiate your Citizenship:

a.A letter from the Vital Statistics office of the state of your birth with your name and what years were searched for your birth record

b.Early public records to prove your birth in the U.S.

2.If you were born outside the U.S. and your U.S. parent(s) did not register your birth at the U.S. embassy or consulate, you may apply for a passport. You will need:

a.Your foreign birth certificate that includes your parents’ names

b.Evidence of your parent(s) U.S. Citizenship

c.Your parents’ marriage certificate

24. How do I get a birth certificate proving my US Citizenship if I was born abroad?

If one or both of your parents was a U.S. citizen when you were born abroad, your parent(s) should have registered your birth at a U.S. embassy or consulate, and, received a Form FS-240, Consular Report of Birth Abroad. This form is acceptable legal proof of birth and U.S. Citizenship.

25. Can I claim U.S. Citizenship if I was born while my parents were in the U.S. on student status?

Yes, almost anybody born in the U.S. is a U.S. citizen regardless of the nationality or status of the parents. The only exception is for children of foreign diplomats who have full diplomatic immunity. Anyone else may apply for an American passport by presenting an original birth certificate showing birth in the U.S. and adequate identity documents.

26. If I cannot transmit Citizenship to my child, is there a way that my child can become a U.S. citizen?

Yes, when you cannot transmit Citizenship to your child born overseas because you do not have the required physical presence time in the U.S., you have two options:

  1. You may apply for the expeditious Naturalization of your child, if a U.S. citizen grandparent has enough physical presence time in the U.S. This procedure must be done through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The process can take from six months to a year or more, and the child must go to the U.S. to be naturalized
  2. The U.S. citizen parent may file for an immigrant visa for the child. Under the Child Citizenship Act, once the child enters the U.S. on an immigrant visa, the child automatically becomes a U.S. citizen

27. Can my spouse obtain a U.S. passport or Citizenship through marriage?

A U.S. citizen cannot transmit Citizenship to a spouse. Your spouse would be required to apply for an immigrant visa and reside in the U.S. as a legal permanent resident. An application for Naturalization is made to the Department of Homeland Security on fulfilling a residency requirement. Once naturalized, your spouse would be eligible to apply for a U.S. passport.

28. Can I become a U.S. citizen again after losing my U.S. Citizenship once?

Probably, some Supreme Court decisions have opened the way for review of many loss of Citizenship cases. Although each case is different, many do not stand up to the revised level of scrutiny and can be vacated with the consequent restoration of Citizenship.

Note: You can also go through the Naturalization process to regain U.S. Citizenship, provided you have a way to acquire permanent residence.

29. What is the Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP)?

Separate from the Two-Parent Consent requirement for U.S. passport issuance for minors under the age of 14, parents may also request that their children’s names be entered in the U.S. passport name-check system. The Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program provides:

Notification to parents of passport applications made on behalf of minor children, and denial of passport issuance if appropriate court orders are on file with CPIAP. For more information, contact the Office of Children’s Issues at 202-736-7000, or, by fax at 202-312-9743. Go to more information on the Office of Children’s Issues.

30. What should I do if my baby is born abroad?

As U.S. citizen parent(s), you should report your child’s birth abroad as soon as possible to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to establish an official record of the child’s claim to U.S. Citizenship at birth. The official record will be the Form FS-240, Consular Report of Birth Abroad. The Consular Report of Birth Abroad, is a basic U.S. Citizenship document. An original Form FS-240 document will be given to you at the time the registration is approved.

31. For how long is a US passport valid?

If you were:

  1. 16 years or older when the passport was issued, then your passport is valid for 10 years
  2. 15 years or younger when the passport was issued, then your passport is valid for five years

32. How can I change my name on my U.S. passport?

You will need to complete Form DS-19, Passport Amendment/Validation Application, and submit it along with the following:

  1. Certified documentation of your name change (e.g. marriage certificate, divorce decree with your new name)
  2. Your current, valid passport

33. How do I get a U.S. passport for my child under 18?

If your child is under 14, then:

  1. Both parents or legal guardians, can apply for your child
  2. Your child need not appear in person
  3. New legislation requires both parents’ or legal guardians’ consent for applications for minors under age 14
  4. Both parents or legal guardians must show current, valid ID
  5. If you do not have acceptable ID, someone with current, valid ID must vouch for you

If your child is under 17, then:

  1. Your parental consent may be requested
  2. Your child must appear in person

34. How do I sign my child's U.S. passport if my child is too young to sign?

In the space provided for the signature, the mother or father must print the child’s name and sign their own name. Then, in parenthesis by the parent’s name, write the word (mother) or (father).

35. Who should maintain a valid U.S. passport?

Passport Services recommends that the following U.S. citizens maintain valid U.S. passports. Those:

  1. With family living or traveling abroad
  2. Thinking about a vacation abroad
  3. With a job that could require international travel