Citizenship FAQ

The following are answers to the most frequently asked questions about citizenship and naturalization. For more information, see The Basics of Naturalization and Naturalization Requirements.

Q: How do I become a United States citizen?

A: A person may become a U.S. citizen two different ways:

  1. by birth or
  2. through an administrative process called naturalization

Q: Who is born a United States citizen?

A: If you were born in the United States and in most cases the U.S. territories, you are an American citizen at birth. An exception to this rule applies if you were born to a foreign diplomat. Your birth certificate serves as proof of your citizenship status. If you were born to U.S. citizens, you will also generally be considered a U.S. citizen.

If you were born abroad and both of your parents are U.S. citizens, you will generally be considered a U.S. citizen if BOTH of the following factors apply:

  1. both of your parents were U.S. citizens at your birth AND
  2. at least one of your parents lived in the United States at some point in their life

If you were born abroad, and one of your parents is a U.S. citizen, you will generally be considered a U.S. citizen if ALL of the following factors apply:

  1. one of your parents was a U.S. citizen when your were born
  2. the parent who is a U.S. citizen lived for at least 5 years in the United States before you were born; AND
  3. at least 2 of the 5 years the U.S. citizen parent lived in the United States were after that parent’s 14th birthday

Q: How do I become a naturalized citizen?

A: If you are not a U.S. citizen by birth, you can still become a citizen through the general naturalization process. If you are 18 years old or older, you should use the “Application for Naturalization” (Form N-400) to file for naturalization.

If you acquired citizenship from your parent(s) while under the age of 18, you should use the “Application for Certificate of Citizenship” (Form N-600) to document your naturalization. In the case of an adoption of a child under the age of 18, who acquired citizenship from their parent(s) the U.S citizen parent or legal guardian should file the “Application for Certificate of Citizenship” (Form N-600).

Q: If I have been convicted of a crime but my record has been expunged, do I need to indicate that on my application or tell an Immigration officer?

A: Yes. It is important to always be honest with Immigration regarding all: arrests (including those by police, immigration officers, and other federal agents); convictions (even if they have been expunged); and crimes you have committed (regardless of whether you were arrested or convicted). Even if you have committed a minor crime, USCIS may deny your application if you do not tell the Immigration officer about the incident and they somehow find out about it.

Q: Where do I file my naturalization application?

A: You should send your completed "Application for Naturalization" (Form N-400) to the appropriate USCIS Service Center. Different USCIS Service Centers are designated for different states. Remember to make a copy of your application. DO NOT send original documents with your application unless the checklist states that an original is required.

Q: What can I do if USCIS denies my application?

A: There is an administrative review process for those who are denied naturalization. If you feel as though you have been wrongly denied naturalization, you may request a hearing with an immigration officer. Your denial letter will explain how to request a hearing and will include the form you need.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you with the citizenship process.