Filling Out USCIS Form N-400 Application for Naturalization

Line-by-line instructions for Form N-400, used in applying for U.S. citizenship.

By , J.D. University of Washington School of Law
Updated 4/02/2024

Everyone applying for citizenship through the process known as naturalization must fill out Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, prepared by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The form collects basic biographical information about applicants and asks questions to find out whether you meet all the citizenship eligibility requirements (discussed in Who Can Apply for U.S. Citizenship).

Form N-400 is available for free by calling 800-870-3676, or you can download it from the N-400 page of the USCIS website (though most applicants will need to pay a fee to actually submit it). You can submit it either in paper form (by mail) or online. If you choose to mail it in, make sure you go to the USCIS website and check that you have the latest version before sending it in.

The instructions below refer to the printed version of the form that was issued on 04/01/24.

Should I Prepare a Paper N-400 or Submit Online?

There are advantages and disadvantages to both paper and online filing.

Online N-400 Filing Is Cheaper But Not Always Easier, and Not Available to All

First, if you choose to file your N-400 online, you'll pay a discounted fee to USCIS. If, however, your income is low enough that you qualify to pay a reduced application fee or receive a complete fee waiver, submitting to USCIS by mail is your only option.

And, the discounted fee might not be worth it to you if you don't have reliable Internet access, or aren't comfortable using computers (in particular, you'll need to be able to scan and upload documents or images). You will also need an email address and to create an online account with USCIS.

Online N-400 Filing Gets You an Instant USCIS Receipt Notice and Green Card Extension

If your green card is going to expire soon (as they do every ten years), online filing might be best for you. The N-400 receipt notice that USCIS will provide after you've filed online will automatically extend your green card's validity for two years. If you file by mail, on the other hand, it could take USCIS several weeks to send your receipt notice.

Tips on Filling Out This and Other USCIS Forms

How clearly and carefully you prepare your paperwork can affect how your application is judged. It's important to:

  • Deal appropriately with inapplicable questions. If you know that a question on Form N-400 doesn't fit your situation, write "N/A" (not applicable) rather than leaving the space blank. If you don't feel certain how to answer a question, consult an attorney.
  • If you fill out the form on the computer and then print it, check later for glitches. Sometimes USCIS's program for filling in answers doesn't capture everything someone enters. Review the whole N-400 after you print it out. Be alert for spaces that were left blank, or where you couldn't fit in the whole answer. It's okay to add information by hand after you've printed out the N-400.
  • If filing online or filling out a form by computer, here's how to deal with estimated dates. Although the systems might insist that you enter a month, day, and year, USCIS recommends (for dates you can't remember) entering the first day of the closest month (such as 7/1/2023 for July 1, 2023) and then explaining the estimate you've made in Part 14, later on the form.
  • Be honest. Lying to USCIS can get you in bigger trouble than the problem you are lying about. Even if no one discovers the lie now, it can result in your citizenship being revoked later—even many years later. Again, if you are unsure how to deal with an issue, contact a lawyer.
  • Be consistent with your previous immigration applications. Check your files for other applications or paperwork that you have submitted to U.S. immigration authorities and double check that the information you are entering now matches what's there; unless, of course, the previous applications contained typos or minor errors. Enter the correct information on your N-400, but be ready to explain the previous error and provide evidence of the true situation.
  • Don't staple or otherwise puncture the barcode. This can interfere with USCIS's ability to process your application.

Line-by-Line Instructions for Form N-400

Now, let's go through the form, question by question (but skipping instances where the questions are self-explanatory). Note that at the top of every page of the form, you must remember to fill in your A-number.

Part 1. Information About Your Eligibility

Enter your A-number (found on your green card) then check the box matching your citizenship eligibility basis. Most people check Box A (five years of permanent residence).

However, spouses of U.S. citizens can check Box B or C (if they have been married and living together for three years) and people in military service can check Box D, stating that they qualify for an exception to the five-year rule. (Remember that you will need to provide proof that you fit in the stated category.)

Refugees and asylees should check Box A. Although they are permitted to credit some of their years as refugees or asylees toward the five-year requirement, they are not exempt from the five-year requirement itself.

Part 2. Information About You

Question 1. Your current legal name. Enter your full name, ideally as it appears on your birth certificate or most recent civil document, such as a marriage certificate. This might not match your permanent resident card (green card). If your name has ever changed; perhaps due to adoption, marriage, or a court-ordered name change; include legal documentation of the change.

Question 2. Provide alternate versions of your name (such as from past marriages) as well as names by which you have been commonly known or misspellings that have appeared on official documents. For example, if your legal name is Juozas but everyone calls you Joe and it appears on some of your personal records and documents, and possibly even on your green card, mention Joe on this part of the application. If, however, only your wife or a few friends call you Joe, then you don't need to write it here. If unsure, simply enter the nickname, to be on the safe side.

Question 3. Name change (optional). If you have been wanting to legally change your name, this could be your opportunity. You can legally change it without any extra court procedures by filling in your chosen new name on Form N-400; on one condition: Your swearing-in ceremony must be held in a U.S. courtroom, presided over by a judge, not by a USCIS officer. In some USCIS districts, these "judicial ceremonies" are held only a few times per year if at all, so asking for a name change will either be impossible or will result in you waiting longer than other people to receive U.S. citizenship. Contact your local USCIS office for details. Also, you won't have access to a judicial ceremony if you're a member of the U.S. military or a military spouse and are overseas when applying to naturalize. If you are able to request a name change, the USCIS officer will have you fill out a form called a Petition for Name Change during your interview. Realize also that the law places limits on what you can change your name to; see Name Change FAQ for more information.

Question 4. USCIS Online Account Number. If you don't have one, don't worry about it. Only people who have filed certain types of application with USCIS receive such a number. If you don't have one, write "N/A" in this blank.

Question 5. Your gender. You can choose "male," "female," or "another gender identity." If you choose "another gender identity" your naturalization certificate will show your gender as "X."

Question 6. Your date of birth.

Question 7. You can find the date you became a permanent resident on your green card (on the back for older green cards, on the front for newer ones). Be sure to enter the month first, then the day, then the year.

Question 8. Enter your country of birth (using whatever country name was official at that time)

Question . Enter your country of citizenship or nationality. This might not be the same country as you were born in. Use its current name, if it has changed

Question 10: If you happen to have parents who are U.S. citizens, there is a chance they transmitted their citizenship to you, automatically. Whether this occurred depends on various factors, such as your date of birth, how long your parents lived in the U.S., and whether one or both of them were citizens. If they did pass on citizenship to you, you need not fill out Form N-400, and technically speaking, you are not eligible to naturalize. But you can claim your citizenship in other ways. See Acquiring or Deriving Citizenship Through Parents for details.

In Question 11, you have the opportunity to advise USCIS whether you have any physical or mental disabilities, and whether you are requesting a waiver or reduction of the English language and/or U.S. history and government exam requirements. If so, you will need to have a doctor back up your request, by examining you and preparing USCIS Form N-648. See Waivers for Age or Disability When Applying for Citizenship for more on this topic.

Social Security Update

Question 12 gives you an opportunity to have a U.S. Social Security Number issued or to receive a replacement card or make sure the Social Security Administration (SSA) has the latest information on you. It's a good idea to consent to this information sharing, for convenience. But don't be surprised if you have to follow up with the SSA because the message wasn't transferred as it should have been.

Part 3. Biographic Information

USCIS mostly asks these question to figure out whether you have a criminal record. It will run the information through FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) databases. If you are caught lying, this will raise serious questions about your credibility and what you are hiding, which could impact your ability to prove the required good moral character.

If you have a criminal history, it is likely to come to light in any case—USCIS will separately take and check your fingerprints. If you are have reason to believe that USCIS will turn up negative information in its check of your records, by all means consult an immigration lawyer.

If you do not believe you fit into any of the categories provided, choose the one that is closest. Under "Race," for example, people of Latin American or Hispanic background often end up choosing "White" or "Black."

Don't forget to enter your weight in pounds rather than kilograms. The USCIS instructions say that if you do not know your weight, or your weight is either under 30 pounds or over 699 pounds, simply enter "000."

Part 4. Information About Your Residence

First, enter your current home address (not a P.O. Box) in Question 1.

There, you will also need to enter all your previous addresses for the past five years, from most recent to longest ago. One of the main purposes of this section is to make sure that you are not disqualified from applying for citizenship right now because you have spent too much time abroad. If you can't remember exact dates, enter the month and year.

In Questions 2 and 3 you can advise USCIS of a different mailing address, if your home address is an insecure place at which to receive mail. If you are staying at a shelter or safe house to escape abuse or domestic violence, you need not enter the street name or number, nor the zip code; city and state is sufficient.

Part 5. Information About Your Marital History

This section raises questions for many applicants.

For Question 3, regarding how many times you have been married, you're expected to include customary and religious marriages, even if they were never officially registered with a government office and thus might not have been legally valid.

For Question 4.b, if your spouse doesn't live at the same address as you, and you got your green card on the basis of this marriage, be ready for questions about why you aren't living together. (Again, USCIS is always on the lookout for marriage fraud.)

Question 5 seems to assume the spouse is a U.S. citizen, while Question 6 seems to assume they're a permanent resident. If neither is true, leave both blank, particularly if your spouse is living in the U.S. after an illegal entry or a visa overstay. Of course, if you are claiming the right to apply to naturalize early based on your spouse being a U.S. citizen, you will need to enter the relevant information here, including all the questions under Your Current Marriage. Don't check "separated" unless it's a legal separation; particularly because the latter will mean you aren't eligible to naturalize early.

For Question 5.b (which you need answer only if they weren't born in the U.S.), the date your spouse became a U.S. citizen can be found on either the naturalization certificate or citizenship certificate.

Question 7 is also a source of confusion. It asks, "How many times has your current spouse been married?" The key is to understand that your current marriage counts. So, for instance, if your spouse had been married twice before, you would answer "three" here.

Divorces are a source of worry for some naturalization applicants. See Can I Apply for Citizenship if I've Divorced the Person Who Got Me My Green Card? for details on that issue.

Why does USCIS need to know about your and your spouse's previous marriages? One reason is to double check that you haven't committed marriage fraud in the past, for example by entering into a marriage with a U.S. citizen, obtaining a green card, and then divorcing shortly thereafter.

Another is to make sure you aren't married to more than one person (bigamy), which would make your current marriage invalid or be a sign that you're intentionally engaging in polygamy, which USCIS considers to demonstrate bad moral character. Also see Seeking Green Card Based on Second Marriage? Expect Extra USCIS Scrutiny. Even if a double, bigamous marriage was an accident, it can create a problem if you got your green card as a result of your latest marriage. After discovering this, USCIS could take steps to not only deny your citizenship, but remove your status as a green card holder.

If you find yourself in such a situation, see an immigration lawyer.

Part 6. Information About Your Children

Most of this section is self-explanatory. As stated in the N-400 instructions, however, you must list every one of your minor children, regardless of whether they are:

  • born in the United States or in other countries
  • living with you or elsewhere
  • current stepchildren
  • legally adopted
  • missing
  • born when you were not married, were in a civil marriage (whether or not the child's other parent was your spouse), or when you were in a customary or religious marriage (whether or not the child's other parent was your spouse).

Legal issues can arise based on some of your answers, such as whether you refused to pay court-ordered child support or helped smuggle a now-undocumented child across the U.S. border. (If so, consult an attorney.)

If you neglect to mention a child on your citizenship application, and then come back later with a petition to immigrate that child, USCIS could suspect that you are committing a fraud to help someone else's child get a green card.

Part 7. Information About Your Employment and Schools You Attended

Here, you must give details about where you went to school or worked for the last five years. If you cannot remember something from years past, put in as much information as you can remember.

If you have gone through periods of unemployment, unpaid work, self-employment, disability, retirement, or taking care of your home or children, list these too, with the appropriate dates. (You can use simple words for your "occupation," like "homemaker," "job hunting," "unemployed," "self-employed," "retired," or "student.")

Include any time you spent working in the United States. illegally before you got your green card (but make sure that it matches the information on your green card application forms).

What if you spent all of the past five years not working, but had a job before that? It's a good idea to list that job in Part 14, where you can add information that didn't fit elsewhere.

Part 8. Time Outside the United States

You will need to prove that you spent the required minimum amount of time in the U.S. in the years leading up to filing your N-400 and that your visits outside the United States (including to Canada and Mexico as well as any other countries) did not last too long.

If you cannot determine the information, enter as much as you can. For example, some people might write in the space (or on an attachment page) something like, "I crossed the border into Canada to spend time with my father approximately once a month for the last six years. Most of my visits were two days long, except for visits at Chinese New Year, when I usually stayed for five days."

Or (if filling the form out by hand) you can put "APPROX" in front of the date, to indicate that it's an approximation, or your best estimate of the date.

Part 9. Additional Information About You

These questions have to do with your basic eligibility for citizenship, in particular your moral character and the amount of time you have lived in the United States with a green card. If your answer to any of the questions is "yes" (with a few exceptions discussed below), you are at risk for your application being denied. Hiding criminal history is not only a bad idea but likely impossible, however, since USCIS will run your fingerprints (during your biometrics appointment) and do background checks. See a lawyer with questions or concerns.

If you belong to a group that advocates world communism, anarchism, violence, terrorism, or something similar, absolutely consult with an immigration lawyer before going further. You might be ineligible to naturalize (or might need to wait until ten years have passed since your involvement), and might also be deportable. In fact, if you became a permanent resident through a claim for asylum or refugee status, and you say "yes" to any of these questions in this section, it's possible you could undermine your underlying claim to asylum or refugee status, being ineligible as a persecutor of others. Nevertheless, some exceptions can be made, if you can demonstrate that your association with a particular group or activities were involuntary, required by law, or necessary in order for you to obtain work, food, or other essentials for survival.

For Question 15.a, which asks whether you've committed any crimes for which you weren't arrested, your answer is expected to be "yes" if you have used, manufactured, or sold marijuana, even in a state where such actions were legal. See Crimes That Will Prevent You From Receiving U.S. Citizenship.

Notice that the questions about criminal history are quite broad. In fact, you will need to mention any arrests by immigration authorities such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as well as any traffic tickets that you have received. You will also need to supply documentary evidence showing the outcome of your criminal case. That doesn't mean that any or every crime will result in being denied U.S. citizenship.

Traffic stops or tickets ordinarily will not disqualify someone from naturalizing. And USCIS does not (unlike with other crimes) require you to submit documentary evidence showing the outcome if you received only a traffic fine or if you were not arrested and the only penalty was a fine less than $500 and/or points on your driver's license. (Also, don't worry about listing parking tickets here; just the incidents that happened while you were behind the wheel of a vehicle.) But you should consult an immigration attorney for anything more serious on your criminal record. Also see the Crimes and U.S. Immigration section of Nolo's website.

Question 16 asks whether you are on probation or parole. If you are, it's okay to submit the N-400, but be aware that if you haven't completed your obligations before your USCIS interview, you will not be approved for U.S. citizenship.

Question 17.b is another one that trips up applicants who have been involved in the marijuana industry in states where it's legal. This is still considered a federal offense and a bar to U.S. citizenship.

On Question 17.e, be aware that even helping a family member to enter (or try to enter) the U.S. illegally must be answered with "yes," and is a crime.

On Question 17.g, you should mainly be concerned about failure to pay alimony or child support if your action was willful. Extenuating circumstances might excuse the failure, but consult an attorney for help with such a situation.

On Question 18, remember that the "U.S. Government" includes its immigration authorities. If, therefore, you have provided false information on a green card, visa, or other such application, you need to answer "yes" here.

Questions 20 - 21 ask whether you have been in removal, exclusion. or deportation proceedings. If you have been recently summoned for immigration court proceedings, applying for naturalization will not protect you. Your citizenship application will most likely be denied, unless you are able to have the court proceedings put on hold until USCIS makes a decision on your naturalization application. See a lawyer for a full analysis of your situation or if you answer "yes" to any of the other questions in this section about removal, exclusion, or deportation.

Question 22 asks about Selective Service Registration. If you are a male who was living in the U.S. or got your green card before or between the ages of 18 and 26, you were probably required to register for Selective Service, a list kept in preparation for a U.S. military draft. If you have not done so, you must either register with the Selective Service now (which you can do only if you are still younger than age 26) or attach a statement explaining why you did not comply with your duty to register.

In Questions 23 - 25, you must demonstrate that you are loyal to the United States and will fight for it if necessary.

Questions 26 - 29 are for members of the U.S. Armed Forces. They might qualify for exceptions or special handling of their naturalization application. (See U.S. Citizenship Rights for U.S. Military Personnel and Veterans.)

For Questions 30.a. and 30.b, you must state whether you have any foreign title or are a member of the nobility. In other words, if you're traditionally allowed to go by "Princess," "Duke," and so forth, you might have to give this up in order to become a U.S. citizen.

With regard to Question 33, applicants whose medical conditions are particularly severe might, even after being approved for citizenship, be unable to understand or repeat the Oath of Allegiance that makes someone a U.S. citizen. The applicant will not automatically be allowed to skip this oath, but someone must first request a separate waiver of the oath requirement on the person's behalf (assuming that the applicant cannot speak on their own behalf). USCIS's instructions to Form N-400 contain details for that guardian or surrogate.

If you are part of a religion that prohibits taking any sort of oath (for example, the Quakers and the Jehovah's Witnesses), answer "no" to Question 34, but submit a letter from your church or other religious body confirming your membership. (Include this when you send in your N-400.)

If you are a conscientious objector, meaning that for religious or moral reasons you refuse to take up weapons or join in a war, you can answer "no" to Question 35, which asks whether you will bear arms for the United States. If your beliefs would prohibit you from providing any support to a war effort, answer "no" to Question 36, which asks whether you would be willing to provide noncombatant services. You will have to attach proof of your conscientious objector status and request taking a modified Oath of Allegiance.)

Part 10: Request for a Fee Reduction

If your household income is low (less than 400% of the U.S. Poverty Guidelines) you might qualify to pay a reduced N-400 filing fee. For details on eligibility and more, see Can You Request Fee Waiver or Reduction When Applying for Naturalized Citizenship on Form N-400?. Keep in mind that you will need to file your N-400 by mail, not online, if you opt for this.

If you plan to seek a complete fee waiver (based on having a household income below 400% of the federal Poverty Guidelines), not merely a reduction, how to fill in Part 10 is an open question, which USCIS has not yet clarified. Experts recommend answering "Yes" to question 1, but leaving the rest of the Part 10 questions blank, and simply handwriting in: "I am not applying for reduced fee. I am eligible for a full fee waiver and am filing an I-912, Request for Fee Waiver." Repeat this note in Part 14, Additional Information.

Part 11: Contact Information, Certification, and Signature

Questions 1-5. These ask for your phone numbers and email address. Where it's appropriate, you can answer "none." Or, you could use a friend or neighbor's phone number; USCIS is unlikely to actually call you. Be sure you provide some sort of workable contact information, just in case.

You must also promise to have understood the Form N-400 and to have provided accurate responses.

If you are disabled and not able to sign your own name (for example, because your hands don't work, or because of cognitive difficulties), you have two choices. You can either mark an "X" in place of your signature, or your legal guardian can sign for you. (After the signature, guardians should write, in parentheses "signed by [guardian's name], designated representative.")

Part 12. Interpreter's Contact Information, Certification, and Signature

If you will be requesting an age- or disability-related waiver of the English requirement, this is where you and your interpreter must sign. (If not, having an interpreter's help with this form will be seen by USCIS as an indication that you do not speak English. You might need to wait until you have a firmer grasp of the English language to apply for naturalization.)

Part 13. Contact Information, Declaration, and Signature of the Person Who Prepared This Application, If Other Than the Applicant

If a lawyer, paralegal, or other document preparer (including the designated representative of a disabled person) completes Form N-400 for you, that's fine, but that person must sign this section.

If you completed Form N-400 on your own, or if you merely received some advice from a friend, neither of you needs to complete this section.

Part 14: Additional Information

If you couldn't fit your answers into previous sections of the form, here is the place to do so.

Part 15. Signature at Interview

DO NOT fill this out until your interview at a USCIS office.

Part 16. Oath of Allegiance.

You must also leave this blank until your interview with a USCIS officer.

Form N-400 No Longer Has Space to Request Disability Accommodations

In previous versions of Form N-400, you could advise USCIS that you want to take an age-related, easier version of the English language test that is part of the naturalization exam; and ask to take an easier version of the civics exam, if you are 65 or older.

In addition, one can ask USCIS to make accommodations (something to make the interview less difficult for you) based on disability. Examples include requesting a sign-language interpreter, wheelchair access (legally required regardless, but it's still best to warn USCIS that you'll be coming), or whatever else will help you get through the exam (accompaniment by a nursing aide, perhaps, or a shortened waiting time, or even an in-house or in-hospital visit from USCIS, though it grants these only rarely).

Now, however, instead of making these requests on Form N-400, you'll need to contact USCIS directly, per its online instructions.

Getting Legal Help

If you have questions about how to fill in Form N-400, or worry about your eligibility or other issues concerning your quest for naturalized U.S. citizenship, hiring an experienced immigration attorney can be well worth the expense.

Talk to a Lawyer

Need a lawyer? Start here.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you

Talk to an Immigration attorney.

We've helped 85 clients find attorneys today.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you