There are two ways to acquire the U.S. Citizenship:
- By operation of law, such as for children born in the United States.
- By filing an application and upon satisfaction of statutory eligibility requirements. U.S. citizens have certain rights and benefits not available to green card holders.
The conditions to be met with to become the U.S. citizen are the following:
- Applicant must be at least 18 years old. There are two exceptions to the general rule. Persons who honorably served in the military during designated periods may naturalize regardless of age. Also minors with at least one citizen parent may be naturalized upon the application of the parent.
- You must show that you are a person of good moral character.
- You should have been permanent resident for five (5) years. However, if you acquired your permanent residency through a marriage to U.S. citizen, you may apply after three (3) years. By law a person can file a naturalization application three months early. However, five or three year's requirement must be fulfilled before the grant of citizenship.
- You were physically present in the United States for 2 ½ years of the five years, 1 ½ years of the three years.
- You must reside within the state or within the USCIS district where the application will be filed at least three months immediately preceding the filing of the application.
- Continuous residence exemption: If you are engaged in certain kinds of overseas employment you may be eligible for an exception to the continuous residence requirement. More details are available at the link below.
- While not specifically stated in the regulation, failure to comply with the Selective Service registration requirement can be a ground for denying an application for naturalization based on lack of good moral character or other basis, if the person knowingly and willfully failed to register.
- A person must take the full oath or affirmation of allegiance to the United States, without any mental reservation.
During your naturalization interview, a USCIS officer will ask you questions about your application and background. You will also take an English and civics test unless you qualify for an exemption or waiver.
English and Civics TestThe English language test has three components: reading, writing, and speaking. Under certain circumstances, you may be exempt from the English language test. However you still need to take the civic tests. Exemptions for the English Language test are as follows:
- “The 50/20 Exemption”: Age 50 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident (green card holder) in the United States for 20 years.
- “The 55/15 Exemption”: Age 55 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident in the United States for 15 years.
Exemptions for English and Civic Test:
- You may be eligible for an exception to English and civics naturalization requirements if you are unable to comply with these requirements because of a physical or developmental disability or mental impairment.
- On the naturalization test, some answers may change because of elections or appointments. As you study for the test, make sure that you know the most current answers to these questions. If you are 65 years or older and have been a legal permanent resident of the United States for 20 or more years, you may study just the questions that have been marked with an asterisk.
- Usually at the time of biometric test, you will be given a CD which has all the current questions. Study these questions and answers prior to your interview date.
FAQs for Naturalization
Who is born a U.S. Citizen?
- If you were born in the United States, including, in most cases the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the territories of Guam and U.S. Virgin Islands, and after November 4, 1986, the commonwealth of Northern Marina Islands.
- If you were born abroad to two U.S. Citizens, and at least one of your parents lived in the United States at some point in his or her life.
- If you were born abroad to a U.S. Citizen and all of the following are true:
- One of your parents was a U.S. Citizen when you were born.
- Your parent lived at least five years in the United States before you were born.
- At least two of those 5 years in the United States were after your citizen parent’s 14th birthday.
When does my time as a permanent resident begin?
What form do I use to file for naturalization?
Where do I file my naturalization application?
If I have been convicted of crime but my record has been expunged, do I need to write that on my application or tell a USCIS’s officer?
- Arrests (even if you were not charged or convicted)
- Convictions (even if your record was cleared or expunged)
- Crimes you have committed for which you were not arrested or convicted, and
- Any countervailing evidence, or evidence in you favor concerning the circumstances of your arrests, and/or convictions or offenses that you would like USCIS to consider.
Where is my local USCIS office?
What is the fee for processing an N-400 Application for Naturalization?
How can I pay my application fee?
How long will it take to become naturalized?
Where can I get fingerprinted?
What if I cannot go to my scheduled interview?
What do I do if my address has changed?
Every time you move, you are required by law to inform USCIS of your new address. To meet this requirement, you must file an “Alien’s Change of Address Card” (Form AR-11), in addition to calling Customer Service. You must file the Form AR-11 within 10 days of your move. There is no fee to file this form. You should also notify the U.S. Postal Service of your new address to help ensure that any mail already on its way may be forwarded to you.
Can I change my name when I naturalize?
- If you present proof that you have already changed your name according to the legal requirements that apply to persons living in your state, USCIS can issue the Certificate of Naturalization with new name. You must submit one of the following showing that you have changed your name: i) a marriage certificate, ii) a divorce certificate, or iii) state court order.
- If you take your Oath of Allegiance at a Naturalization Ceremony that is held in Court, you may ask this Court to change your name. If the Court grants this request that your new name will appear on your Certificate of Naturalization.
If USCIS grants me naturalization, when will I become a citizen?
What should I do if I cannot go to my oath ceremony?
What can I do if USCIS denies my application?
If, after an appeal hearing with USCIS, you still believe you have been wrongly denied naturalization, you may file a petition for a new review of your application in U.S. District Court, with the help of your attorney.
Can I reapply for naturalization if USCIS denies my application?
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 both tests.
What do I do if I lose my Naturalization Certificate? How can I prove my U.S. Citizenship in this instance?
If you have one, you may use your U.S. passport as evidence of citizenship while you wait for a replacement certificate. It is strongly recommended that you apply for a passport as soon as you become a citizen.
If my Permanent Resident Card expires while I am applying for naturalization, do I still need to apply for a new card?
If you apply for naturalization less than 6 months before the expiration date on your Permanent Resident Card, or do not apply for naturalization until your card has already expired, you must renew your card.
The 100 civic questions and answers provided by USCIS are as follows:
Principles of American Democracy
1. What is the supreme law of the land?
▪ the Constitution
2. What does the Constitution do?
▪ sets up the government
▪ defines the government
▪ protects basic rights of Citizens
3. The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution. What are these words?
▪ We the People
4. What is an amendment?
▪ a change (to the Constitution)
▪ an addition (to the Constitution)
5. What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?
▪ the Bill of Rights
6. What is one right or freedom from the First Amendment?*
▪ petition the government
7. How many amendments does the Constitution have?
▪ twenty-seven (27)
8. What did the Declaration of Independence do?
▪ announced our independence (from Great Britain)
▪ declared our independence (from Great Britain)
▪ said that the United States is free (from Great Britain)
9. What are two rights in the Declaration of Independence?
▪ pursuit of happiness
10. What is freedom of religion?
▪ You can practice any religion, or not practice a religion.
11. What is the economic system in the United States?*
▪ capitalist economy
▪ market economy
12. What is the “rule of law”?
▪ Everyone must follow the law.
▪ Leaders must obey the law.
▪ Government must obey the law.
▪ No one is above the law.
B: System of Government
13. Name one branch or part of the government.*
▪ the courts
14. What stops one branch of government from becoming too powerful?
▪ checks and balances
▪ separation of powers
15. Who is in charge of the executive branch?
▪ the President
16. Who makes federal laws?
▪ Senate and House (of Representatives)
▪ (U.S. or national) legislature
17. What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress?*
▪ the Senate and House (of Representatives)
18. How many U.S. Senators are there?
▪ one hundred (100)
19. For how many years a U.S. Senator is elected?
▪ six (6)
20. Name one of your state's U.S. Senators now?*
▪ Answers will vary. [District of Columbia residents and residents of U.S. territories should answer that D.C.
(or the territory where the applicant lives) has no U.S. Senators.]As of 02/11/2014), the U.S. Senators in the DMV area are as follows:
U.S. Senators for Maryland: Benjamin L Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski
U.S. Senators for Virginia: Tim Kaine and Mark R. Warner U.S. Senators for District of Columbia: No Senators
Please remember that these answers after each election results.
21. How many voting members will be there in the House of Representatives ?
▪ four hundred thirty-five (435)
22. For how many years a U.S. Representative is elected?
▪ two (2)
23. Name your U.S. Representative.
▪ Answers will vary. [Residents of territories with nonvoting Delegates or Resident Commissioners may
provide the name of that Delegate or Commissioner. Also acceptable is any statement that the territory has
no (voting) Representatives in Congress.]
A directory for U.S. Representatives can be found at:
24. Whom does a U.S. Senator represent?
▪ all people of the state
25. Why do some states have more Representatives than other states?
▪ (because of) the state's population and some States have more population
26. We elect a President for how many years?
▪ four (4)
27. In what month do we vote for President?*
28. What is the name of the President of the United States now?*
▪ Barack Obama
29. What is the name of the Vice President of the United States now?
▪ Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
▪ Joe Biden
30. If the President can no longer serve, who becomes President?
▪ the Vice President
31. If both the President and the Vice President can no longer serve, who becomes President?
▪ the Speaker of the House
32. Who is the Commander in Chief of the military?
▪ the President
33. Who signs bills to become laws?
▪ the President
34. Who vetoes bills?
▪ the President
35. What does the President's Cabinet do?
▪ advises the President
36. What are two Cabinet-level positions?
▪ Secretary of Agriculture
▪ Secretary of Commerce
▪ Secretary of Defense
▪ Secretary of Education
▪ Secretary of Energy
▪ Secretary of Health and Human Services
▪ Secretary of Homeland Security
▪ Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
▪ Secretary of the Interior
▪ Secretary of Labor
▪ Secretary of State
▪ Secretary of Transportation
▪ Secretary of the Treasury
▪ Secretary of Veterans Affairs
▪ Attorney General
▪ Vice President
37. What does the judicial branch do?
▪ reviews laws
▪ explains laws
▪ resolves disputes (disagreements)
▪ decides if a law goes against the Constitution
38. What is the highest court in the United States?
▪ the Supreme Court
39. How many judges are there in the Supreme Court?
▪ nine (9)
40. Who is the Chief Justice of the United States now?
▪ John Roberts (John G. Roberts, Jr.) (as of 02/11/2014)
41. Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the federal government. Mention some powers of the federal government?
▪ to print money
▪ to declare war
▪ to create an army
▪ to make treaties
42. Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the states. Mention some powers of the states?
▪ provide schooling and education
▪ provide protection (police)
▪ provide safety (fire departments)
▪ give a driver's license
▪ approve zoning and land use
43. Who is the Governor of your state now?
▪ Answers will vary. [District of Columbia residents should answer that D.C. does not have a Governor.]
As of 02/11/2014
Governor for Maryland: Martin O’Malley
Governor for Virginia: Terry McAuliffe
44. What is the capital of your state?*
▪ Answers will vary. [District of Columbia residents should answer that D.C. is not a state and does not have a capital. Residents of U.S. territories should name the capital of the territory.]
Capital of Maryland: Annapolis
Capital of Virginia: Richmond
45. What are the two major political parties in the United States?*
▪ Democratic and Republican
46. What is the political party of the President now?
▪ Democratic (Party) as of 02/11/2014
47. Who is the Speaker of the House of Representatives now?
▪ The Speaker of the House of Representatives, as of 02/11/2014 is John Boehner
C: Rights and Responsibilities
48. There are four amendments to the Constitution about who can vote. Describe one of them.
▪ Citizens eighteen (18) and older (can vote).
▪ You don't have to pay (a poll tax) to vote.
▪ Any citizen can vote. (Women and men can vote.)
▪ A male citizen of any race (can vote).
49. What is the responsibility that is exclusive for United States citizens?*
▪ serve on a jury
▪ vote in a federal election
50. What are the rights that are exclusive for United States citizens.
▪ vote in a federal election
▪ run for federal office
51. What are the rights that are available to all residents of the United States?
▪ freedom of expression
▪ freedom of speech
▪ freedom of assembly
▪ freedom to petition the government
▪ freedom of worship
▪ the right to bear arms
52. Whom should we show loyalty when we say the Pledge of Allegiance?
▪ the United States
▪ the flag
53. What promise you should make when you become a United States citizen?
▪ give up loyalty to other countries
▪ defend the Constitution and laws of the United States
▪ obey the laws of the United States
▪ serve in the U.S. military (if needed)
▪ serve (do important work for) the nation (if needed)
▪ be loyal to the United States
54. What is the voting age to vote for President?*
▪ eighteen (18) and older
55. What are the ways that Americans can participate in their democracy?
▪ join a political party
▪ help with a campaign
▪ join a civic group
▪ join a community group
▪ give an elected official your opinion on an issue
▪ call Senators and Representatives
▪ publicly support or oppose an issue or policy
▪ run for office
▪ write to a newspaper
56. When is the last day you can send in federal income tax forms?*
▪ April 15
57. When must all men register for the Selective Service?
▪ If you are a man ages 18 through 25 and living in the U.S., then you must register with Selective Service. It’s the law. According to law, a man must register with Selective Service within 30 days of his 18th birthday. Selective Service will accept late registrations but not after a man has reached age 26.
A: Colonial Period and Independence
58. What for colonists came to America?
▪ political liberty
▪ religious freedom
▪ economic opportunity
▪ practice their religion
▪ escape persecution
59. Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?
▪ American Indians
▪ Native Americans
60. Which group of people was taken to America and sold as slaves?
▪ people from Africa
61. Why did the colonists fight the British?
▪ because of high taxes (taxation without representation)
▪ because the British army occupied their houses (boarding, quartering)
▪ because they didn't have self-government
62. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?
▪ (Thomas) Jefferson
63. When was the Declaration of Independence adopted?
▪ July 4, 1776
64. There were 13 original states. Name three.
▪ New Hampshire
▪ Rhode Island
▪ New York
▪ New Jersey
▪ North Carolina
▪ South Carolina
65. What happened at the Constitutional Convention?
▪ The Constitution was written.
▪ The Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution.
66. When was the Constitution written?
67. The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name the writers.
▪ (James) Madison
▪ (Alexander) Hamilton
▪ (John) Jay
68. What is one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for?
▪ U.S. diplomat
▪ oldest member of the Constitutional Convention
▪ first Postmaster General of the United States
▪ writer of “Poor Richard's Almanac”
▪ started the first free libraries
69. Who is the “Father of Our Country”?
▪ (George) Washington
70. Who was the first President?*
▪ (George) Washington
71. What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803?
▪ the Louisiana Territory
72. Name the wars fought by the United States in the 1800s.
▪ War of 1812
▪ Mexican-American War
▪ Civil War
▪ Spanish-American War
73. Name the U.S. war between the North and the South.
▪ the Civil War
▪ the War between the States
74. Name the problems that led to the Civil War.
▪ economic reasons
▪ states' rights
75. What were the important things that Abraham Lincoln did?*
▪ freed the slaves (Emancipation Proclamation)
▪ saved (or preserved) the Union
▪ led the United States during the Civil War
76. What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?
▪ freed the slaves
▪ freed slaves in the Confederacy
▪ freed slaves in the Confederate states
▪ freed slaves in most Southern states
77. What did Susan B. Anthony do?
▪ fought for women's rights
▪ fought for civil rights
C: Recent American History and Other Important Historical Information
78. Name the wars fought by the United States in the 1900s.*
▪ World War I
▪ World War II
▪ Korean War
▪ Vietnam War
▪ (Persian) Gulf War
79. Who was President during World War I?
▪ (Woodrow) Wilson
80. Who was President during the Great Depression and World War II?
▪ (Franklin) Roosevelt
81. Who did the United States fight in World War II?
▪ Japan, Germany, and Italy
82. Before he was President, Eisenhower was a general. What war was he in?
▪ World War II
83. During the Cold War, what was the main concern of the United States?
84. What movement tried to end racial discrimination?
▪ civil rights (movement)
85. What did Martin Luther King, Jr. do?*
▪ fought for civil rights
▪ worked for equality for all Americans
86. What major event happened on September 11, 2001, in the United States?
▪ Terrorists attacked the United States.
87. Name some American Indian tribes in the United States.
[USCIS Officers will be supplied with a list of federally recognized American Indian tribes.]
88. Name the two longest rivers in the United States.
▪ Missouri (River)
▪ Mississippi (River)
89. What ocean is on the West Coast of the United States?
▪ Pacific (Ocean)
90. What ocean is on the East Coast of the United States?
▪ Atlantic (Ocean)
91. Name some U.S. territories.
▪ Puerto Rico
▪ U.S. Virgin Islands
▪ American Samoa
▪ Northern Mariana Islands
92. Name the States that border Canada.
▪ New Hampshire
▪ New York
▪ North Dakota
93. Name State that border Mexico.
▪ New Mexico
94. What is the capital of the United States?*
▪ Washington, D.C.
95. Where is the Statue of Liberty?*
▪ New York (Harbor)
▪ Liberty Island
[Also acceptable are New Jersey, near New York City, and on the Hudson (River).]
96. Why does the flag have 13 stripes?
▪ because there were 13 original colonies and the stripes represent the original colonies
97. Why does the flag have 50 stars?*
There are 50 States and each star represents each State
98. What is the name of the national anthem?
▪ The Star-Spangled Banner
99. When do we celebrate Independence Day?*
▪ July 4
100. Name the U.S. national holidays.
▪ New Year's Day
▪ Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
▪ Presidents' Day
▪ Memorial Day
▪ Independence Day
▪ Labor Day
▪ Columbus Day
▪ Veterans Day