Becoming a U.S. citizen is many immigrants’ dream. If you filed an N-400, you will want to stay on top of your N-400 case status. Find out how to check the status of your citizenship application and other important information on the naturalization process.
Checking the Status of Your N-400 Citizenship Application
After you have filed your application for naturalization, you will receive a receipt notice. At the top of the notice, it should say I-797 Notice of Action. On the upper portion of N-400 receipt notice, you will find a box that is labeled “Receipt Number.” It will typically begin with three letters followed by a series of 10 numbers.
Once you have located your receipt number, can check your N-400 case status by going to the USCIS case status page. On the page, you will enter your receipt number and press the button “Check Status.”
On the status page, you can learn a number of things about your case, depending on where you are in the process. Possible statuses include:
- Your case has been received
- You have been sent a letter requesting additional information
- Your case has been forwarded to the local field office
- Your application has been approved
- You have been scheduled for an oath ceremony
If you are curious about your N-400 case status, you may also want to know a few other things, like where your application is being processed, the interview, and how to handle USCIS delays and denials.
Where is my citizenship application being processed?
If you’re concerned about your N-400 case status, you may also want to know who is deciding whether you’ll become a citizen.
When you apply for naturalization (a process for residents to become citizens), you start by mailing your N-400 to a USCIS service center for processing. The service center will do an initial review of you naturalization application and send you an appointment to do your fingerprints. This appointment letter is sometimes called a “biometrics notice.”
After the initial processing, the service center will send your file to your local USCIS field office. This office is usually located in a big city within your state of residence.
After a few months, the local USCIS field office will schedule a date for your naturalization, or citizenship, interview.
The citizenship interview
At some point in the N-400 application process, you’ll get an interview. Here’s some important information about your citizenship interview.
What do I take to my naturalization interview?
At your citizenship interview, you should you the interview notice, your lawful permanent resident card (i.e. green card), driver’s license or identification, passport if you have one, a certified copy or your original of birth certificate and taxes for the last five years. If applicable, you should also take your marriage certificate and any divorce decrees. Finally, if you haven’t already submitted it, you should certified copies of all arrest reports (from the police department) and disposition documents (from the court).
What questions will I be asked at the appointment?
Usually, there is just one USCIS officer assigned to do your interview. He or she often starts by reviewing your identification documents and taking your fingerprints, to confirm that you’re the same person that filed the application.
After that, the officer often begins by doing the English and civics exams.
After the examination, the interviewer will verify all the information contained in your naturalization application. The officer will go through the entire N-400, and make sure your answers are accurate and up-to-date. Sometimes immigration officials will ask about your past, especially when you have negative criminal or immigration history. This includes the time before you became a resident and time after you became a resident. Each case is different, you may receive many questions about your past or none at all.
What if I have not received my citizenship interview?
It depends. Some USCIS offices take a very long time to schedule you for an interview, depending on how many cases they are processing. You should start by checking whether your N-400 application is within normal processing times. If you are still within processing times, then you should wait. If you are outside the processing times then you should contact USCIS by phone and put in a service request.
My citizenship interview was scheduled. How do I prepare?
First, review your naturalization application for errors such as misspellings of names, or incorrect dates. If you have moved to a new address, or begun work with a new employer, have that information ready to provide at the interview.
Next, study for the civics exam.
Finally, gather the documents listed on the interview notice. If you have any criminal history, you will want to get a headstart on gathering certified copies of any arrest reports and court documents.
I already got my citizenship interview. When will USCIS make a final decision?
By law, USCIS must give you their decision within 120 days.
What happens after the citizenship interview?
Usually you won’t get a decision on your case the day of the interview. In fact, if you have criminal history, then your case must be reviewed by a supervisor prior to approval.
After the interview, expect wait for a notice from USCIS, where either of three things can happen:
- USCIS approves your case
- USCIS denies your case;
- USCIS requests more documents
What if I had my citizenship interview and I'm still waiting for a decision?
If over 120 days have passed since your interview, then first call the USCIS hotline at 1 (800) 375-5283 and ask to speak to a supervisor.
Tell the supervisor over the phone that you had an interview and over 120 days have passed. Politely ask if the supervisor will schedule you for an in-person appointment to talk to the local office where you had the appointment. For example, if you had the interview in Houston, Texas then you would call the number, ask to speak to a supervisor, and respectfully request that supervisor make an appointment for you in Houston, Texas.
If the supervisor does not want to help you, you can contact an officer of the USCIS Ombudsman. The Ombudsman’s office is there to help individuals in situation like these, where a case is severely delayed and so far USCIS has not helped. To get help from the Office of the Ombudsman, you will have to file a Form DHS-7001 online, by going here.
Another option is to contact an experienced immigration attorney, and to ask him about the possibility of filing something called a petition for writ of mandamus.
Finally, if you have had your interview fewer than 120 days ago, the best thing is to be patient. USCIS may simply be very busy, or possibly your case was switched over to a new USCIS officer, or USCIS may be experiencing technical difficulties. No matter the reason for the delay, USCIS has 120 days, so it is best to wait until then before escalating your case.
What should I do if my citizenship case is denied?
If you are denied, but you want to continue fighting for citizenship, you can file an appeal to USCIS. You can do this by filing a Form N-336, will be mailed to USCIS. After sending this form, you will receive a new interview, where you get a chance to explain to an immigration officer why USCIS made a mistake denying your citizenship. It takes a few weeks to a few months for USCIS to process the request. At your interview, a supervising officer will ask you again about your application to become a U.S. citizen and reconsider the reasons for denial.
Sometimes, even after you file an N-336, USCIS will decide that it will not grant you citizenship. You have another option, which is to file a lawsuit in federal district court, which is different from an immigration court. Filing a lawsuit can be a long and expensive process, but sometimes it is the only option. If you are interested, you should consult with an experienced immigration attorney.
What happens if my citizenship case is approved?
At the citizenship interview, sometimes the USCIS officer will let you know if he or she plans to recommend approval of your citizenship application. It is important to remember that this is only the officer’s recommendation and that your case has not yet been approved.
If your application is approved, USCIS will mail you an Oath Ceremony letter. It is called an Oath Ceremony letter because it instructs you to attend a ceremony where you will take an oath to uphold the laws of the United States, and where you will officially become a U.S. citizen. It is a very special event, and people normally invite their friends and family to attend.
On the back of the Oath Ceremony letter are a series of questions. These questions are asking for answers during the time after your interview with USCIS until the day of the ceremony. They ask things such as “Have you traveled?” and “Have you been arrested?” Remember, USCIS is only asking about what has happened after your interview. So, for example, if you get arrested after your citizenship interview, but before the ceremony, then you must answer that question “Yes.” However, if nothing has changed since the time of your interview then the answer to the questions would be “No.”
At the oath ceremony you can also have your name officially changed, if you previously requested a name change. For example, if you got married and would like to legally change your last name, then you can have your name changed on the day of the ceremony. But for this to happen that day, you have to have requested a name change on your naturalization application.