Can you fast track Naturalisation application?

Citizenship Processing TimeHow long does it take to become a U.S. citizen?The national average processing time for naturalization (citizenship) applications is 14.5months. But that

Can you fast track Naturalisation application?

Citizenship Processing Time


How long does it take to become a U.S. citizen?

The national average processing time for naturalization (citizenship) applications is 14.5months. But thats just the application processing wait time (see Understanding USCIS Processing Times below). The overall naturalization process involves more steps and a longer citizenship timeline. Not sure if you qualify for citizenship? Start by checking your eligibility.

Heres a brief summary of how long the naturalization process takes  from application filing to the swearing-in ceremony (with helpful details on what to expect in each step further below):

  • Step 1. Processing your Application for Naturalization (Form N-400 processing time): 14.5 months (average)
  • Step 2. Attending your biometrics appointment: 0 months additional
  • Step 3. Attending your citizenship interview and exam: 4 months additional (average)
  • Step 4. Receiving a decision on your application: 04 months additional
  • Step 5. Taking the Oath of Allegiance and receiving your Certificate of Naturalization: 01.5 months
  • Total time to naturalize: 18.5 months to 24 months

Its important to note that the wait and processing times in this guide are official averages and estimates only and do not reflect possible delays (discussed in more detail below). In practice, the naturalization process may be shorter (one year, for example), depending on where the applicant lives. This is because some U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) field offices handle applications much faster than others (see Understanding USCIS Processing Times below).

Completing your application right the first time  and getting started on the process as early as possible  is also crucial to a successful naturalization process. A recent USCIS policy change (effective September 11, 2018) now leaves little room for error in a U.S. citizenship application, among other types of immigration forms. (For more details, please see this immigration policy alert from Boundless.)

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Step 1


Filing your Application for Naturalization (Form N-400)

The first step of the process takes slightly more than 14 months, on average, but can be faster or slower depending on your location. Note that the processing time for an N-400 application is from receipt through the oath ceremony, not approval of the application.

Sending your U.S. citizenship application and supporting documents to USCIS kicks off the process. The faster you can collect supporting documentation  for example, a photocopy of your green card (Form I-551, officially called the Permanent Resident Card)  the sooner you can send these to USCIS, which can then begin to review your application.

Its important to make sure that your application is complete, your answers are correct, and your supporting documents are in the format and order the U.S. government prefers. If any of your documents is written in a language other than English, you must obtain a certified English translation of that document, as well  so be mindful of these extra steps, which can take additional time to complete. Any missing information or documentation will likely slow down the process.

IMPORTANT: Make sure to notify USCIS any time you move or change your mailing address to avoid missing official notices.


Step 2


Attending your biometrics appointment

Biometrics is just a technical term for your fingerprints, plus photos and/or signature. USCIS typically schedules the required biometrics appointment about one month after it receives your U.S. citizenship application. Youll receive an appointment letter (Form I-797C, officially called the Notice of Action) from USCIS specifying when and where your fingerprints, photos, and signature will be collected. These will be used to verify your identity. USCIS will also forward your fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to conduct a background check.

In order to avoid needing to return for a second biometrics appointment, its important to bring all required documentation with you the first time. These documents include your appointment letter, Permanent Resident Card (your green card), and second form of ID with your photo (drivers license, passport, or state ID).

Sometimes, however, a second biometrics appointment is necessary for other reasons. In the relatively unlikely event that the FBI rejects your fingerprints, for instance, USCIS will send you a new appointment letter to take a second set of fingerprints. If the FBI rejects the second set, youll need to obtain a police clearance certificate from the police department at each of the places where youve lived in the past five years and send these to the FBI. If necessary, its best to start gathering these certificates quickly after receiving instructions from the FBI, as police departments handle such requests at different speeds.

During this stage of the process, its also possible to receive a notice from USCIS requesting additional information or materials, which will be specified in a letter (officially called a Request for Evidence, or RFE). These documents could be court or police records (if USCIS discovers information during the background check that needs clarification or substantiation, for instance). There could also be other required documents listed in this checklist from USCIS. Make sure to send these to USCIS as soon as possible to minimize the delay.

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Step 3


Attending your citizenship interview and exam

INTERVIEW

The citizenship interview usually takes place about 14.5 months, on average, after USCIS receives your naturalization application (sooner or later for some applicants). USCIS will send you a letter  only once  with the date and location of your interview, as well as a list of any documents that you must bring.

For a successful interview, make sure that you:

  • Update your mailing address (if its changed since you filed your application) to avoid missing your appointment.
  • Dont leave behind any of the requested paperwork (specified in an RFE you received earlier, if any) on the day of your interview.
  • Prepare adequately for the interview.

If you cant attend on the date that USCIS has scheduled, you can request to reschedule the appointment by writing to the office where your interview is to take place. You will then receive a new letter with a revised date and time, but this could be several months in the future, which underscores the importance of showing up on the original date.

EXAM

In most cases, the citizenship exam is scheduled on the same day as your interview. Its a good idea to adequately prepare for both components of the exam (English language skills and civics) to avoid needing to retake the test.

If you do not pass, youll need to retake the appropriate portion of the exam in order to move on to the next step of the process. You will be asked to return to the appointment location about 60 to 90 days following the initial date of your exam.

IMPORTANT: You must notify USCIS before your appointment date if you anticipate not being able to attend. Otherwise, USCIS will pause (administratively close) the naturalization process. If you let a year go by without contacting USCIS after they pause your application, you will be denied. If this happens, you will need to start the process all over again and pay the fees a second time.

Weve joined forces with RapidVisa. Together we can help you complete your citizenship application and guide you all the way to the finish line. Well help you stay on top of interview preparation, follow-on forms, and every other important milestone along the way.


Step 4


Receiving a decision on your application

If all goes well and youve provided all the paperwork that USCIS needs to make a decision, your naturalization application may be approved on the same day as your citizenship interview and exam. Otherwise, USCIS will have 120 days (four months) from the date of your citizenship interview and exam to send you its decision in writing. More specifically, youll receive Form N-652 (officially called the Notice of Examination Results).

You can expect one of three outcomes:

1. Your application is approved, in which case you can move on to Step 5 below.

2. Your application is continued, meaning USCIS will place it on hold for one of these reasons:

  • You did not pass your citizenship exam (or a portion of it): In this case, you must return for a second interview and retake the necessary portion of the exam. If you do not pass the exam a second time, your application will be denied.
  • You did not provide the appropriate documentation or information: In this case, you must wait to receive a Form N-14, explaining what, where, and how to send the required information/documentation to USCIS. You will have 30 days to respond. If you do not fulfill this request within the deadline, your application may be denied.

3. Your application is denied, in which case you will receive a letter from USCIS stating this decision and your options. If you believe you deserved to be approved for U.S. citizenship, you may file an appeal (request a hearing with a USCIS officer) within 30 days of receiving the denial letter. USCIS will then schedule a hearing within 180 days. If the USCIS officer denies your application after the hearing and you still believe you deserve approval, you can request to have a U.S. district court review your case.

To prevent this process from dragging on (and your application from being denied), its important to adequately prepare for the citizenship interview and exam. Its also critical to provide all of the information that USCIS needs in a timely fashion.

Filing your application package is only the first step of the naturalization process. It could be several months or more until you obtain U.S. citizenship. Weve joined forces withRapidVisa to guide you through to the end, helping you stay on top of interview preparation, follow-on forms, and every other important milestone along the way.


Step 5


Taking the Oath of Allegiance and receiving your Certificate of Naturalization

In many cases, your Oath of Allegiance ceremony will also take place on the same day as your interview and exam, assuming your application is approved. Otherwise, USCIS will schedule it about two to six weeks later. Youll receive a letter (Form N-445, officially called the Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony) with the date, time, and location of the next available ceremony. Youll receive your Certificate of Naturalization  and in some cases be able to register to vote  at the same location after taking the Oath.

If you cant make it to your Oath of Allegiance ceremony, you must return the notice to your local USCIS office, along with a letter requesting a new date and explaining why you cannot make it on the original date. Failing to appear more than once for your naturalization ceremony may lead to a denial of your application.

Remember: You are not yet a U.S. citizen until youve taken the Oath of Allegiance, so its important that you show up for the ceremony on the dates that youre scheduled or rescheduled to appear.

If all of this sounds complicated and intimidating, dont worry! Weve joined forces withRapidVisa to help you complete your citizenship application and guide you all the way to the finish line. Together well help you stay on top of interview preparation, follow-on forms, and every other important milestone along the way.


What's Next?


If youve made it this far, congratulations! You can begin enjoying your life as a U.S. citizen.

Although you will officially be an American upon taking the Oath of Allegiance, there are important steps to take as soon as possible after naturalizing:

  • Updating your Social Security record: 10 days
  • Applying for a U.S. passport: 26 weeks

These are not part of the official process but are necessary as a new U.S. citizen.


Understanding USCIS Processing Times


USCIS is the government agency responsible for processing naturalization applications (and other immigration forms). In order to handle the enormous volume of applications it receives, USCIS is supported by field offices across the United States.

Each applicant is assigned a field office based on their ZIP code, and therefore each field office also receives a different number of applications that directly affects its processing speed compared with other offices. USCIS publishes the processing wait times at each field office and updates the figures once per month.

The processing times are presented as a range between two numbers. For example, the processing time range for naturalization applications (Form N-400) at the Seattle, WA field office may be 15 to 16.5 months. The first number reflects the time it takes to complete 50% of cases (the median), while the second number refers to the completion time for 93% of cases.

The national average processing time referenced at the beginning of this guide actually reflects the first number in the range (the median) averaged across all USCIS field offices in the United States (as of April 2022), according to USCIS. This calculation of the national average resets every September.

Its important to be aware that the backlog of pending U.S. citizenship applications has also grown in recent years, while wait times have been steadily rising. This underscores the importance of applying sooner than later if youre eligible now.


How to Become a US Citizen

Naturalization Requirements

What Is Form N-400?

What Documents Are Required for Citizenship?

What Are the Advantages of Naturalization?

The Cost of Applying for U.S. Citizenship

What Should I Expect in My Citizenship Interview?

What Questions Will Be Asked in the Citizenship Interview?

What Should I Expect from the U.S. Citizenship Exam?

What Is the U.S. Citizenship Oath of Allegiance?

Getting Dual Citizenship in the United States

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