How to Become a US Citizen

You can become a US citizen if you are18 years old or older. You must legally come into the United States for permanent residence and have what is now called the Permanent Resident Card. (It was called the Alien Registration or Green Card.)

You must live in the United States for five years before you can apply for citizenship. In addition, you must:

  • live within a state or district for at least three months

  • not commit any crimes

  • believe in the ideas of the United States Constitution

  • know United States government and history

  • read, write, speak, and understand basic English

Getting started

You need to fill out an application for naturalization or citizenship and send it to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). This application is called N-400 "Application for Naturalization." The INS office closest to Harrisonburg and Rockingham County is in Arlington, VA. The address is 4420 N. Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA 22203. They are open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The toll-free phone number is 1-800-375-5283.

You can get Form N-400 "Application for Naturalization" and other forms by calling the INS Forms Line at 1-800-870-3676.

The completed application must be sent with two recent color photographs, a check or money order for the application fee, and a photocopy of the front and back of your Permanent Resident Card (Green Card). For the current application fee, go to the INS website at

When the INS has your application they will send you a letter. They will ask you to come in for a naturalization initial interview. When you go for the interview, you should bring the following information with you:

  • the INS letter

  • your Permanent Registration Card

  • any evidence of Selective Service Registration

  • your passport or other documents used for entry into the United States

The interview will take about two hours. You will be tested on your knowledge of US government and history. You will also be tested on reading, writing, and speaking English. Many people have trouble with that part of the interview and have to repeat it. Taking English classes might help.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has a very useful web site for people with computer and Internet access. Their address is

Students at Dayton Learning Center in Dayton, Virginia, researched, wrote, and contributed this story.

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Last Updated On Wednesday February 19, 2003 7:55 PM