How do I become a U.S. citizen?

A step-by-step look at the naturalization process with links to the resources you will need to make your American dream an American Reality

If you are interested in becoming a United States citizen, and want to learn more about the process? You are in the right place! Here is a step-by-step look at the journey from legal permanent resident to naturalized U.S. citizen.

You may become a United States citizen by birth or through naturalization. This article will cover the eligibility requirements, provide information about resources to help you get ready for the English and Citizenship examination, the citizenship application process including the documents that you will need to send, biometrics information, what to expect during your interview, and what to do if your application is denied.  

Step 1: Make sure you are eligible

  • You must be at least 18 years of age
  • You have been a permanent resident in the United States for a minimum of 5 years. Permanent Residents are given permanent resident cards (sometimes called green cards. Your time as a permanent resident begins on the date that you were granted permanent residency. The date is on your green card.
  • You have been married to a United States Citizen for at least 3 years, and your spouse has been a United States Citizen for at least 3 years. If this is the case, you are eligible to apply for United States citizenship.
  • You have been in continuous residency during the 5-year or 3-year time period. If you have left the United States for over 6 months, this may disrupt the continuous residency requirement
  • You have lived in the same U.S. state for 3 years.
  • You can read, speak or write basic English and understand the basics of United States history and government. You will need to take an English and Citizenship test during your naturalization interview. You are exempt from the English requirement if you meet these three conditions:
      1. If you are over 50 years of age and have lived in the United States for 20 years, you do not have to take the English portion of the naturalization test. You will take the civics portion of the test in your own language.
      2. If you are over 55 years of age and have lived in the United States for 15 years, you will not have to take the English portion of the naturalization test. You will take the civics portion of the test in your own language.
      3. If you are over 65 years of age and have lived in the United States for 20 years, you do not have to take the English test. You will take the civics portion in your own language. The United States Immigration Office has chosen questions for you to study, and have identified them within the 100 civics questions. Civics Questions for the 65/20 Exemption

If you have a physical or mental disability that prevents you from acquiring or demonstrating the required knowledge of English and Civics, you may be eligible for a disability exemption. Your disability must be one year old, and not the result of illegal drug use. If you believe that you qualify for a disability exemption, you will need to file a medical certification for the disability exception which is Form N-648. A licensed medical, osteopathic doctor or clinical psychologist will need to sign your form.

Step 2: Get Ready

To become a naturalized U.S. citizen, you must take a test to show your knowledge of U.S. history and government, and that you speak, read and write English. HCPL can help with both! Many Harris County Public Library offer English language learning (ESL) and Citizenship Classes. All of our classes are completely free of charge.

Find ESL and Citizenship Classes at a Library Near You

Additional learning resources at USCIS.GOV   (including 100 questions and answers about United States history and government and reading and writing vocabulary lists that you will need to study for the English portion of the test).

Step 3: Fill out Naturalization Application: N-400

You're determined your eligibility,and study for the Civics and English exams, now it's time to complete the naturalization application. The application is called the N-400 Form

3 Way to get an N-400 Form
  1. Download N-400 Form | Instructions for the N-400 Form
  2. Call to request an N-400 Form: 1-800-870-3676
  3. Fill out the N-400 Form online
Get Help

The N-400 application can be a little intimidating. It's long and it comes with a application fee of several hundred dollars. Luckily HCPL has teamed with some really wonderful community partners who can help you with the application, provide legal representation for the naturalization interview and even help with the application fee. Call the Citizenship Helpline or visit for more information.

Documents you will need to provide

When you complete your application, these are the documents that you will need to send along with your application.

  1. A check or money order for filing fees. See: Paying the Application Fees below
  2. A photocopy of both sides of your permanent resident card.
  3. If you reside outside of the United States, you will need to send 2 identical color photographs with your name and alien registration number written lightly with pencil on the back of each photograph.
  4. If you apply for naturalization based on marriage to a United States Citizen, you will need to bring evidence of your spouse’s citizenship, such as a birth certification or certificate of naturalization, your current marriage certificate, proof of termination of all prior marriages, and documents referring to you and your spouse such as tax returns.
Pay the Application fees

Filing fees vary. There are reductions based on income, military service, and other factors. Note that fees are reduced if you file your N-400 online. 

Once you have completed your N-400 form and any other necessary forms. Use the USCIS fee calculator. Fees without reductions for filing N-400 are currently $760.00 for the N-400 and the $85.00 Biometrics Fee for a total of $845.00

Pay by check or money order drawn on a U.S. bank, made payable to the Department of Homeland Security. REMEMBER to write your A number on the back of your check or money order. This number is located on your permanent resident card. (What is my A number?) Do not use the initials DHS or USDHS on your check or money order. Do not send cash.

You can also pay by credit card using the form G-1450. You will not be charged an additional fee to pay by credit card. Download Form G-1450

NOTE: The USCIS may require that you appear for an interview or require fingerprints, photographs or signatures at any time to verify your identity, obtain additional information, and conduct background and security checks, including a check of criminal records maintained by the federal bureau of investigation. If you are at least 75 years of age, you are exempt from the biometrics interview.

Need help with the application fee? Call the Citizenship Helpline.

Send your completed application and necessary documents to this address.

USCIS Lockbox Facility
P.O Box 660060
Dallas Texas 75266

Step 4: Biometrics

Biometrics are required for some applicants. Biometrics sounds scary, but it really is just providing further proof of your identity. Biometrics that may be required are fingerprints, photos, and/or signatures. Once you have completed and submitted your application, USCIS will send you a letter telling you where and when to have your biometrics taken if you are required to do so. Biometrics are taken at an Application Support Center (ASC).

Find the nearest Application Support Center

When you go to your biometrics appointment, remember to take

  • ASC appointment notice
  • Form I-797C 
  • Your green card
  • A second form of ID such as a driver’s license.

Step 5: The Naturalization Interview

Be patient. You may have to wait up to six months before hearing from USCIS. You may check the status of your application or by phone. 

Check your application status: Online | Phone

Your Appointment
: If you are not required to take a biometrics test, USCIS will send you a notice telling you when and where you must appear for your naturalization interview. You will not receive a second notice.

Naturalization interviews are held in person at an USCIS Field Office.

Houston USCIS Field Office
810 Gears Road, #100
Houston, Texas 77067.

When you receive an appointment in your mail for your interview you need to go to the local USCIS field office at the specified time.

What to bring to your Naturalization interview:

  • A state issued identification card
  • Green Card 
  • Any additional documents special to your case.

During your interview you will answer questions about your application and background, take the English and Civics test, and learn if the immigration office grants you naturalization.

You will take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States in a formal naturalization ceremony if the United States Immigration office grants you naturalization. Some places permit you to take the oath on the same day as your interview. If you do not have this option, USCIS will contact you regarding the ceremony date with a Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony (Form N-445)

If your application is denied and you disagree with the decision, you may request a hearing with an immigration officer. Your denial letter will explain how you can request a hearing and will include the form that you need. The form is “The Request for a Hearing on the Decision in Naturalization Proceedings which is form N 336.

In most cases, you can reapply for naturalization, but you have to submit a new N 400 form and pay the naturalization fees again. The denial letter will let you know the date on which you can reapply for citizenship. If you are denied because you failed the English and Citizenship test, you can reapply for naturalization. 

The information in this article is also covered on the website, where you can find the various forms that you will need for naturalization. If you have any questions not covered in this article, you can call the USCIS customer service number. 1-800-375-5283

Good luck!

Check out these resources available at Harris County Public Library to help you with the naturalization process and citizenship and civics test.

Civics and Citizenship Toolkit


U. S. Citizenship

Civics and Citizenship Toolkit

Understanding the Path to Citizenship

Study Guide for the US Citizenship Test in English and Spanish

US Citizenship Test Study Guide 2023U.S. Immigration Made Easy