5 Steps to U.S. Citizenship

Are you thinking about applying for U.S. citizenship but don’t know where to start? Or, maybe you have already applied and now waiting to take your test. Are you curious about what happens at the interview? Start now by picking up a free copy of the N-400 form at any of the Santa Clara County Libraries. Or you can apply online with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at USCIS – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services – Apply for Citizenship.

Determine if You Are You Eligible

You need to be at least 18 years old, be a permanent resident with a green card for a least 5 years, 3 years if you are married to a U.S citizen. You must maintain continuous residence in the U.S., at least 3 months in California, and not have any trips outside the U.S. for 6 months or longer.  And, you need to be able to read, write and speak Basic English, and have a basic understanding of U.S. history and government.

There are English language exemptions for applicants who are over 50 and have lived in the U.S. as a permanent resident for 15 years or longer. Visit the USCIS website for other exemptions and accommodations.

Get Help

If you have legal questions about your green card or immigration status, you will need to contact an immigration agency that is qualified to give you legal advice. There are several non-profit agencies in the San Jose area that provide free or low-cost legal services to immigrants

Prepare and Send Your N-400

Complete and mail your N-400. Filing online is an easier option, and you can pay your filing fees:  https://www.uscis.gov/file-online. Be sure to make copies of your completed N-400 application, you will need it to study for your interview. 

Fees: N-400 ($640.00), plus Biometrics/Fingerprinting ($65.00). Low income applicants can apply for a reduced fee with Form I-942

Study for the Interview

There are 2 parts to the naturalization test, U.S Civics and English. Your English will be assessed by your ability to speak, read and write Basic English during the interview. Speaking is tested by how well you respond to the N-400 questions and your conversation you have with the USCIS officer.

You will need to study the 100 U.S. Civics questions, and the USCIS Reading and Writing vocabulary if you are a beginner English speaker.

Our reference librarians can refer you to citizenship study materials and books from our Citizenship Corners in the library, or to other libraries and local agencies that offer citizenship classes or mock interviews. And there are several online study options and classes. YouTube can be a quick way to watch mock interviews videos and to study the 100 Civics test questions.

Complete the Interview

What happens during the interview? The USCIS officer will begin by asking you simple questions when they first greet you, to make sure your English is strong enough to continue with the interview: How did you get here today? Are you nervous? Then they ask for your documents and you are put under oath to promise to tell the truth. The officer will ask you to answer most of the questions from the N-400 form to confirm that your information is correct. The interview will continue with the U.S. History and Civics questions, followed with the reading and writing tests. If you owe the IRS for back taxes, be sure to have documents to prove that you are paying your debt. And it's okay to ask the USCIS officer to explain or repeat something if you don't fully understand. 

To pass the U.S History and Civics part of the test, you must answer 6 out of 10 questions correctly. And you must read and write 1 out of 3 sentences correctly to pass these tests. You will be asked to read a written sentence created from the vocabulary list. And the UCSIS will dictate a sentence to you, using the writing vocabulary list: George Washington is the father of our country. And remember to study all of the N-400 questions, including the Yes/No questions, because the USCIS officer just might ask you for the meaning of a word. Example: Do you have any title of nobility in any country. 

Why do you want to become a U.S. citizen? Yes, you will have to answer this question! There is no wrong answer but be prepared to say something.  

Good Luck!