The Essentials of Form N-400: Processing Times, Expenses, and Criteria for Citizenship Application


Understanding Form N-400

Form N-400, also known as the "Application for Naturalization," is the form required for permanent residents (green card holders) seeking to become U.S. citizens, provided they meet specific eligibility criteria. Unsure about your eligibility for citizenship? The first move is to assess your qualifications. Submitting Form N-400 to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) — a branch of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) — initiates the naturalization process, marking your first step towards American citizenship.

Form N-400 Processing Duration

As of the latest update, the typical processing time for Form N-400 ranges between 7 to 11 months, with monthly revisions provided by Boundless for accuracy. The timeframe for processing can vary significantly based on the specific USCIS field office managing the application. Certain applicants may have the opportunity to expedite their application process (refer to the "Filing Early" section for more information). For a comprehensive understanding of the timeline and what each stage of the naturalization process entails, our extensive guide to the U.S. citizenship journey offers detailed insights.

Form N-400 Application Fee

As of now, the total fee to submit an N-400, Application for Naturalization, stands at $725. This sum encompasses a $640 processing charge and an $85 biometrics fee, with both amounts being non-refundable regardless of the application's outcome.

Eligibility Criteria for Filing Form N-400

Eligibility to submit Form N-400 hinges on certain criteria. Generally, applicants should be 18 years or older and possess a green card for at least five years. This requirement is reduced to three years for individuals married to U.S. citizens. There are also special provisions for applicants with qualifying military service. To explore all the essential qualifications for U.S. citizenship in depth, our detailed naturalization guide provides extensive information.

Who Is Excluded from Filing Form N-400?

If you're considering applying for U.S. citizenship through naturalization using Form N-400, it's crucial to understand who is ineligible to file. Individuals who do not meet the specific eligibility criteria set for naturalization cannot proceed with the application. Furthermore, you are not required to file Form N-400 if you are a child of a U.S. citizen currently residing overseas or if you already hold U.S. citizenship through your parents—that is, if you "acquired" or "derived" citizenship from at least one U.S.-citizen parent. This distinction ensures that the process is reserved for those who are actively seeking citizenship based on their residency status and not for those who have already been granted citizenship through familial relationships.

Documentation for N-400 Naturalization Application

When applying for naturalization, it's essential to accompany your Form N-400 with the required supporting documents. For those opting to submit their application electronically, digital versions of these documents (either scanned copies or photographs) must be uploaded to your USCIS online account. If you find yourself without some of these documents readily available, there's no need for concern. You can initiate your application process now and continue to collect the necessary supporting documents along the way. Starting your application doesn't require having all documents at once!

Checklist for N-400 Application Documents

When submitting your N-400 Application for Naturalization, the following documents are mandatory for all candidates:

  1. A photocopy of both the front and back of your Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551).
  2. Your application fee, which can be paid via check or money order (ensure your A-Number is noted on the back) or through credit card by including Form G-1450.

Depending on specific circumstances, some applicants will need to provide additional documentation with their N-400 application, such as:

  1. Documentation verifying your marital status. This includes marriage certificates, divorce decrees, annulment certificates, and/or death certificates of previous spouses if you're married or have been married.
  2. Two passport-style photographs measuring 2 inches by 2 inches if you are applying from outside the United States.
  3. Form N-426, the Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service, for those applying based on military service.
  4. Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions, for applicants seeking an exemption from the citizenship test due to medical conditions.

Is online filing an option for the N-400 application?

Indeed, the majority of applicants can submit their N-400 form online. Exceptions exist for those applying from outside the United States or those who are eligible for a fee reduction or waiver; these applicants need to submit the paper version of the N-400 form through mail. For online applications, it's necessary to create an account with USCIS and electronically sign your application by typing your full name at its conclusion.

Submitting Your N-400 Application: Mailing and Online Instructions

The destination for your N-400 application varies based on your chosen filing method. For online submissions, the process is straightforward: complete and submit your application directly through the USCIS online portal. When mailing your application, the correct USCIS mailing address varies depending on your state of residence and the courier service you select (e.g., U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, UPS, or DHL). Applicants filing under military service grounds are directed to a specific address, which also changes based on the delivery method selected. USCIS offers a detailed list of addresses for mailing the N-400 form. It's crucial to keep a copy of your completed N-400 form for your records, as the content of your application will be a central focus during your citizenship interview. Familiarizing yourself with your responses before the interview is advisable for a smooth application process.

Understanding the 90-Day Early Filing Rule for Naturalization

You're allowed to submit your application for naturalization to USCIS up to 90 days before completing your mandatory three- or five-year residency period as a green card holder, provided all other eligibility requirements are met. For a comprehensive overview of these requirements, Boundless offers an in-depth guide. To calculate your early filing date, take the date listed on your Permanent Resident Card, add the relevant three or five years to this date, and then subtract 90 days. USCIS offers an online calculator to assist in determining this 90-day early filing window. For example, if you're under the standard five-year residency requirement with a green card dated January 1, 2013, your eligibility for naturalization opens on January 1, 2018. Thus, the earliest you can file would be October 3, 2017. It's important to remember that early filing doesn't mean you can become a citizen before completing the full residency requirement; it simply allows you to initiate the process sooner.

Guidance for a Successful N-400 Application Submission (For Mail-In Filings)

To ensure your N-400 application proceeds without hitches, especially when submitting via mail, consider these key recommendations:

What to Do:

  • a) Opt for Black Ink: The USCIS has strict requirements regarding ink color for handwritten applications. While electronic completion followed by printing is preferable (and services like Boundless can help organize and print your forms exactly as USCIS likes them), if you're filling out the form by hand, black ink is a must to avoid any processing delays.
  • b) Thoroughly Review Your Application: Before sending off your N-400, double-check that all information is accurate and complete, and that you've included all necessary supporting documents. Incomplete submissions can lead to delays, and inaccuracies might result in application denial under USCIS's stringent policies, necessitating a reapplication and another filing fee.
  • c) Include Necessary Translations: Ensure that any document not originally in English is accompanied by a certified English translation. This is crucial for your N-400 application to be processed smoothly, as it allows USCIS to verify all provided information without language barriers.

What Not to Do:

  • a) Avoid Altering the Form's Layout: Keep your form clean - avoid using highlighters, striking through errors, or writing outside the provided spaces. For corrections, it’s advisable to start with a new N-400 form. USCIS’s scanning technology might misread corrections made with fluid or tape, potentially causing errors and delays in your application process.
  • b) Do Not Include Extra Documents: Follow the N-400 instructions carefully to discern which documents should be submitted as photocopies and which, if any, as originals. Submitting unnecessary original documents is risky; USCIS may not return these, and they could be destroyed upon receipt.
  • c) Ensure Your Application is Signed: An unsigned application is likely to be rejected outright by USCIS. With recent policy updates, the importance of adhering to all instructions has never been greater. Mistakes or omissions can lead to application denial, forcing you to restart the process and incur another filing fee of $725 (unless eligible for a fee concession).
Last Updated 04/03/24 04:29:29AM

Was this page helpful?

Thank you for your feedback!

Answer a random question about the US When do we celebrate Independence Day? (question 99 of 100)

Rate this post



When I had to apply for a work visa in the United States, I knew it would be a challenging process. Finding was a stroke of luck. The site provided detailed instructions and all necessary forms, making the whole process smoother. I highly recommend it to anyone going through a similar process.


My partner and I needed to file for a spousal visa, and we were overwhelmed by the paperwork. was an invaluable resource, offering clear guidance and all the forms we needed. The information was easy to understand, which made the process less stressful. Thank you!


Applying for a green card for my parents seemed daunting at first. However, had all the necessary information and step-by-step guides, which made everything much easier. The site's resources saved us a lot of time and hassle. Great service!


I needed to renew my green card, and I was unsure where to start. A colleague recommended, and it was a game changer. The site had all the forms and detailed instructions on how to fill them out correctly. It was incredibly helpful and user-friendly.

5 was a lifesaver when I was preparing documents to move to the USA for permanent residency. The website provided comprehensive information and easy access to all the required forms. It made the complex process much more manageable. Highly recommend!


My experience with has been overwhelmingly positive. I was able to gather all the necessary documents for my visa application without any issues. The step-by-step guides were particularly helpful. Kudos to the team for creating such a user-friendly platform.

Choose a messenger for communication: