Obtaining U.S. citizenship is the culmination of a long journey for many people. There are only two ways to become a U.S citizen: either by birth, or by naturalization. There are different pathways through which you can arrive at the point where you file your N-400 form to naturalize. All things being equal, once you reach that point, the naturalization application filing fee is $640. The biometric services fee is $85. This brings the total US citizenship cost to $725.
Obtaining Citizenship at Birth
Needless to say, the most common way of gaining U.S. citizenship is through birth. Generally, the following situations allow you to become a U.S. citizen at birth:
- You were born in the United States and, by virtue of that, are a bona fide citizen.
- You were born abroad to two U.S. citizens of which at least one parent has lived in the United States at some point in his or her life. In this scenario, you are most likely a United States citizen.
- You were born abroad to one U.S. citizen.
In most cases, you would be considered a U.S citizen if all of the following hold true:
- One of your parents was a U.S citizen when you were born.
- Your citizen parent lived for at least 5 years in the United States before you were born.
- At least 2 of those 5 years were after your citizen parent’s 14th birthday.
In this case, your citizenship is granted automatically and no form, test, or process is
required. Therefore, no citizenship fee is associated with it.
Your overseas birth will be proof of your citizenship if registered with a U.S. consulate or
embassy. You may want to apply for a passport to have your citizenship recognized. If further proof of your citizenship is needed, then you may file for Form N-600, also known as the “Application for Certificate of Citizenship.”
Eligibility Requirements for Naturalization
For those that were not born in the U.S. or to citizen parents, you must go through a process known as naturalization. If you are applying to become a U.S citizen by naturalization and you are a green card holder, then you must meet the following
- Be 18 or older at the time of filing.
- Be a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
- Have lived within the state or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing the application. Students may apply for naturalization either where they go to school or where their family lives (if they are still financially dependent on their parents).
- Have continuous residence in the United States as a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application.
- Be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application.
- Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization up to the time of naturalization.
- Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).
- Be a person of good moral character.
- You must be attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States.
- You must be and well-disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States.
If you are married to a U.S. citizen and reside within the United States, then the requirement to hold a green card under the continuous residence clause is for 3 years instead of 5. Make sure not to travel outside the United States for durations greater than 6 months. This can adversely affect the continuous residence condition.
For citizenship purposes, “continuous residence” means you have not left the United States for a long period of time. Any travel which puts you outside the United States for more than 6 months will likely be deemed to have disrupted your “continuous residence” requirement.
Exceptions & Accommodations
The naturalization process caters to those who genuinely qualify to have certain requirements waived. These could include a host of situations, some of which may be:
- Waived from the English test requirement if aged 50 or 55 and have lived as a permanent resident for 20 or 15 years respectively.
- You may take the civics test in your native language if you fit the above scenario. You may also bring an interpreter to your test. Special consideration will be given if you are 65 years old or older and have been a permanent resident for at least 20 years.
- English and civics test requirements may be waived if you have a developmental, mental, or physical disability. To request this exception, you must file Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions.
- Exception for continuous residence requirements may be possible for certain types of overseas jobs.
- For various scenarios such as being 75 years or older, application and biometrics services fees can be waived.
You can read more on the exceptions & accommodations page on the USCIS website.
Documents Required for the Citizenship Application
Depending on your unique situation, you may need to submit more documents and evidence for various aspects of your N-400 application filing. Some common requirements for filing for naturalization under Form N-400 include:
- Photocopies of both sides of your permanent resident card.
- A check or money order for the application and biometrics service fee.
- If you reside outside the United States, 2 identical color photographs with your name and alien registration number written in pencil on the back.
- If applying on the basis of marriage then:
- Evidence your spouse has been a citizen for the last 3 years.
- Current marriage certificate.
- Proof of termination of all prior marriages of your spouse.
- Documents referring to you and your spouse, such as tax returns, mortgages, leases, and children’s birth certificates.
You have to be particularly meticulous with your N-400 application. You will need to inform the USCIS about any arrests, even if no charges were filed. If you have ever failed to file an income tax return, then evidence of correspondence with the IRS should also be filed.
Please check the comprehensive Document Checklist at the end of A Guide to Naturalization (M-476) published by the USCIS website for further details.
Application Fee for Filing Form N-400
As mentioned above, the naturalization application filing fee is $640. The biometric services fee is $85. This brings the total application for naturalization to $725.
While, on its face, the citizenship cost may seem more than the cost to renew a green card, you must take into consideration the fact that naturalization is truly permanent–no need to consistently renew. If your plan is to stay in the U.S. for many decades, then becoming a citizen is the least expensive option.
How VisaNation Law Group Immigration Attorneys Can Help
The road to citizenship is complicated and filled with opportunities to make costly mistakes. Filing the wrong fee, filing to the wrong place, or even filing at the wrong time could result in losing your fee and having to start over. This is why you want to make sure your fees are filed right the first time, and the best way to do that is with the help of an immigration attorney.
VisaNation Law Group’s dedicated team of citizenship attorneys have helped countless people like yourself obtain their citizenship with little hassle. We take care of everything so that all you have to worry about is the citizenship test, and we coach you through that phase as well.
To get in touch with our office and to schedule a consultation, you can fill out this contact form and get started on your journey to citizenship today! However, there is more to getting your citizenship than just knowing how much it costs. Read on below for important filing and process details.