U.S. Citizen & Overseas Citizen of India: Citizenship Checklist

There are many benefits for those who can claim U.S. Citizenship. The same is true for OCI Cardholders. Read on to see if you qualify for either.

U.S. Citizenship Application Checklist

Although it is not required of U.S. Green Card holders, becoming a citizen of the United States has many advantages. Perhaps the most powerful benefit of citizenship is that it allows you to petition for other family members. As a U.S. citizen, you can also apply for your U.S. passport- a highly coveted travel document- without necessarily relinquishing citizenship in your country of origin.

Video — Fresh Application for OCI

Many people think that the application process for becoming a U.S. citizen is expensive, time-consuming, or complicated. While it may seem that way at the onset, it certainly doesn’t have to be. The process may seem overwhelming, but when it is broken down into checklist form, it becomes possible to complete all the steps without missing anything or making mistakes.

#1 Determine if you are already a United States citizen:

  • Were you born on U.S. soil, are your birth parents U.S. citizens, did you file an application a take a test to become a naturalized citizen, or did you derive citizenship when one of your parents became a naturalized citizen? If so, you could be eligible to apply for a certificate of citizenship. If none of these scenarios applies to you, proceed to the next step.

#2 Determine eligibility. To be allowed to apply for U.S. citizenship, you must:

  • Have been a lawful permanent resident for a minimum of 5 years, unless you are a refugee or are the spouse of a member of the U.S. military or U.S. citizen;
  • Have lived in the United States for 5 uninterrupted years preceding your application without leaving the U.S. for more than 1 continuous year;
  • Have been physically present in the U. S. for a minimum of half of those 5 years prior to filing your application;
  • Have been a resident in the state or district where you will be filing your application for a minimum of 3 months;
  • Be at least 18-years old;
  • Be of good moral character;
  • Speak, read, and write English unless you meet the requirements for certain long-term residents of a certain age or qualify for certain medical disability exemptions;
  • Pass a U.S. history and civics test unless you qualify for a medical disability exemption;
  • Pledge allegiance to the United States and to uphold the principles of the U.S. constitution (certain exceptions are permitted); and
  • Be prepared to answer questions about your immigration history, your travel outside the U.S. during the past 5 years, and your family and ex-spouses. Take care to answer all questions completely and accurately or risk denial of your application. Your entire immigration history will be scrutinized by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and if it is discovered that you have done anything wrong, such as lying to obtain your green card or making your home outside the U.S., you could have your green card revoked and be deported.

#3 Obtain Form N-400:

  • You can download your Form N-400 at the “Forms, Fees, and Filing Locations Chart” on the USCIS website; or
  • You can order by mail from the website, or by calling USCIS at 1-800-870-3676. When requesting forms, be ready to give the form number and quantity you need, along with your full name and mailing address, including apartment number, city, state and zip code.

#4 Prepare your Form N-400, Application for Naturalization:

  • Gather all the necessary documents before you begin filling out the form. This information may include your passport, all previous addresses where you have lived, employment information (including addresses and phone numbers), and exact dates and locations of travel outside the U.S.
  • Print out the instructions for completing the N-400 offered by USCIS and read the instructions carefully, pay attention to what the questions are asking of you and always answer truthfully.
  • When you have completed and signed the form, have a family member check to make sure you have answered all the questions, as any omissions could delay your naturalization process.

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#5 Submit your completed Form N-400, Application for Naturalization:

  • The following 3 items must accompany ALL N-400 applications:
    1. A copy of both sides of your Green Card- a copy of the receipt for your Form I-90 will be sufficient if you have lost your Green Card.
    2. Two (2) passport-style photographs. These must be in color, identical, and have your name and Alien Registration number lightly written on the back in pencil. More specifications about the photos can be found in Part 5 of Form M-476 and the Form N-400.
    3. Payment for the application fee and biometrics (fingerprinting) fee. This can be paid by credit card using the G-1450, or by certified check or money order drawn on a U.S. bank and made out to the “Department of Homeland Security.” Be sure to write your Alien Registration Number on the back of your check or money order. Don’t send cash. Consult the M-479, Current Naturalization Fees enclosure for the most current fee amount. If you can’t afford to pay the Form-400 filing fee, you can ask the USCIS for a fee waiver.
  • Other documentation may be necessary on a case-by-case basis. Photocopies of this documentation should be sent with the N-400 unless originals are specifically requested. This documentation may include:
    1. A completed original Form G-28 if you plan on having an attorney or other accredited representative acting on your behalf;
    2. Copies of document(s), including a marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court document, proving your legal name change, if your current legal name differs from that on your Green Card;
    3. Proof that your spouse has been a United States citizen for the past 3 years, if your application for naturalization is marriage-based:
      1. Birth certificate, or Certificate of Naturalization, or Certificate of Citizenship, or copies of the inside of the front cover and signature page of your spouse’s current United States passport, or Form FS-240, and
      2. A copy of your marriage certificate, and
      3. Evidence that all previous marriages have been terminated, such as annulment(s), divorce decree(s), or death certificate(s), and
      4. Documents that give reference to both you and your spouse, including birth certificates of children, a mortgage, a lease, tax returns, or an IRS tax return transcript for the previous 3 years.
    4. If you are seeking citizenship based on your current service in the United States military, you must submit a completed original Form N-426.
    5. If you were previously married, you must provide evidence that all former marriages have ended. This evidence should be copies of annulment(s), divorce decree(s), or death certificate(s).
    6. If you have traveled abroad for 6 months or longer since you became a Lawful Permanent Resident, you must provide evidence that you (and your family) maintained employment and a residence in the United States, including:
      1. Pay stubs and rent or mortgage payments;
      2. A tax return certified by the IRS or an IRS tax return “transcript” showing tax information for the previous 5 years (or the past 3 years if you are applying through marriage to a U.S. citizen);
    7. If a dependent spouse or child(ren) are not living with you, you must provide:
      1. Government or court order mandating financial support, and
      2. Proof of your financial support and your compliance with said government or court order, including:
        1. Receipts;
        2. Canceled checks;
        3. Agency or court printout of child support payments;
        4. Proof of wage garnishment;
        5. Letter from the parent or guardian caring for your child(ren);
    8. If you have been arrested or detained for any reason without having any charges filed against you, you must submit the original of the official statement by the arresting officer or applicant court as confirmation.
    9. If you have been arrested or detained for any reason and charges were filed, you must submit the original or a court-certified copy of the entire arrest record and disposition for each incident, including a conviction record, dismissal order or acquittal record.
    10. If you have been convicted of a crime or allocated to an alternative sentencing or rehabilitative program, including a community service or drug treatment program, you must submit:
      1. The original or a court-certified copy of the sentencing record for each Incident, and
      2. Proof that your sentence has been completed, such as:
        1. The original or a court-certified copy of your probation or parole record, or
        2. Proof that you completed the rehabilitative or alternative sentence program.
    11. If an arrest or conviction has ever been set aside, vacated, sealed, expunged, or removed from your record in any manner, you must submit the original or a court-certified copy of the court document that ordered the removal, or you may submit an original statement issued by the court that says there is no existing record of your arrest or conviction.
    12. If you have neglected to file an income tax return any year since you received your green card, you must submit every piece of correspondence with the IRS discussing your failure to file.
    13. If any of your Federal, state, or local taxes are overdue, you must submit:
      1. A copy of the signed agreement documenting that you have since filed a return and the arrangement between you and the IRS to repay the taxes you owe, and
      2. A copy of the document showing the current state of your status in the repayment process.
    14. If you wish to apply for the disability exemption for the testing requirement, you must submit an original Form N-648 completed by a licensed clinical psychologist or a licensed medical or osteopathic doctor within the past 6 months.
    15. If you failed to register with the Selective Service and are a male who is at least 26 years-old and while you were 18 to 26 years-old, lived in the U.S. in any status other than lawful nonimmigrant, you must submit a “Status Information Letter” issued by the Selective Service.
  • Mail your completed application. Where you send it will depend on where you live. There are two filing locations for civilians and each filing center has 2 different addresses depending on if you are using a courier service or the USPS. Extra postage is required if you’re sending your application via USPS. U.S. military service members have a separate filing center.

#6 Attend the biometrics appointment, if necessary:

  • You will receive a notice with all the details of your biometrics appointment, including the date, time, and location. You should be on time for your appointment. Sometime after your biometrics appointment, you will get a notification about the time and location for your naturalization interview. Save this notification for later use.

#7 Prepare for your interview:

  • Prior to your interview study the U.S. government and civics material provided to you at this website or the USCIS website.
  • Practice your English skills with English-speaking friends.
  • Place all your evidence and important documents in a brief case or folder and plan to wear business attire on the day of your interview.

#8 Attend your interview:

  • You should arrive on time, or a little early, for your interview and make sure to take your interview notification with you. At your interview, you will meet a USCIS officer who will ask you questions about your Form N-400. He or she will also administer the civics and English test unless you are exempt.
  • If you are asking for a medical exemption to the testing requirements, you should submit a completed Form N-648 to the officer if you didn’t file it with your application.

#9 Receive a decision from USCIS regarding your N-400:

  • Typically, the USCIS officer will be able to decide your case immediately following your interview and you will be given a written notification.
    1. If your application is approved, congratulations. Proceed to step 10.
    2. If your application was denied, you will be given a letter explaining why. It is your right to appeal the USCIS decision if you feel it was reached by mistake. Consult instructions for filing Form N-336.
    3. Sometimes the USCIS officer cannot reach any decision after your interview. The most common reasons for this include failure of the civics or English test, an incomplete application, or missing documents. In this case, the USCIS officer will order your case to be continued.

#10 Attend your citizenship ceremony:

  • Sometimes, it is possible to participate in an oath ceremony the same day as your interview. If not, you will receive a notification from USCIS about the date, time, and location for your scheduled ceremony. If you are unable to attend, return the notice to USCIS along with a letter explaining why and requesting a rescheduled time.

Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) Application Checklist

  • Certain categories of Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) who migrated from India and became citizens of foreign countries other than Bangladesh and Pakistan, can be granted an OCI, or Overseas Citizen of India, provided their country of origin allows dual citizenship under local law. Benefits include:
    • Multi-purpose life-long and multiple entry visas to visit India;
    • Not having to report to the police in India for any length of stay there;
    • Equal treatment as Non-resident Indians in regards to economic, financial, and educational fields except when purchasing agricultural or plantation properties.

#1 Determine eligibility. The following individuals may qualify:

  • Any citizen of another country who was a citizen of India on the date of, or any date following the commencement of the Constitution, or
  • Any citizen of another country who was entitled to become a citizen of India on the date of the commencement of the Constitution, or
  • Any citizen of another country living in a territory that became part of India subsequent to August 15, 1947, or
  • A child, grandchild, or great grandchild of such citizens, or
  • Any individual who is a minor child of any of the above listed persons, or
  • Any individual who is both a minor child and has one parent who is a citizen of India, or
  • Any individual of foreign origin who is a spouse of a citizen of India and whose marriage has existed and been registered for an uninterrupted period of at least 2 years immediately prior to making this application, or
  • Any individual of foreign origin who is a spouse of an OCI cardholder documented under section 7A and whose marriage has existed and been registered for an uninterrupted minimum period of 2 years immediately prior to making this application.

#2 How to Apply

  • You must apply online at passport.gov.in
  • You must submit the application fee of US$275, if you are applying from anywhere outside of India. The fee is US$220 if you are applying in India.
  • With your application and fee, you must also submit:
    1. Proof of your current citizenship in the form of a photocopy of your current passport that is valid for a minimum of the next 6 months, and
    2. Proof that your parents or grandparents meet the above specified eligibility requirements. This can be in the form of a:
      1. photocopy of an Indian passport, or
      2. photocopy of an authorized Domicile Certificate, or
      3. photocopy of an authorized Nativity Certificate, or
      4. an OCI Card/PIO Card of parents or spouse accompanied by the base papers or documents through which the OCI/PIO Card was issued, and.
    3. Any additional evidence to support your claim. This could be a certificate of residence or your place of birth, or that of your parents or grandparents issued by the First-Class Magistrate/District Magistrate of the concerned locale.
    4. If you file your application within Indian jurisdiction, you must submit a photocopy of any kind of Indian visa (excluding missionary or mountaineering visa), or a residential permit valid for a minimum of 3 months.
    5. If you are citing your Indian origin as grounds for registration as OCI Cardholder, you must show proof of your relationship with the person you named as your parent, grandparent, or great grandparent. This could be an authorized birth certificate that lists both parents’ names. If the birth certificate is foreign-issued, it must be endorsed by the concerned Indian diplomatic mission overseas.In the case of a minor child who has at least one parent with Indian citizenship, proof can be:
      1. a photocopy of the child’s birth certificate, or
      2. a photocopy of one or both parents’ Indian passports, or
      3. a photocopy of the authorized Domicile Certificate or Nativity certificate for one or both parents, or
      4. any other proof that substantiates the parent(s’) claim of Indian citizenship.

      If the parents are divorced, a court order indicating the dissolution of the marriage and specific mention that the parent applying for the OCI has custody of the child must be submitted.

    6. If you are making your application as a spouse of foreign origin of a citizen of India or as a spouse of foreign origin of an OCI Cardholder, proof of your relationship can be a registered certificate of marriage.In the case of spouse of foreign origin of an Indian citizen, you must also provide:
      1. a photocopy of the spouse’s Indian passport, or
      2. photocopy of the authorized Domicile Certificate or Nativity Certificate in respect of the Indian spouse, or
      3. any other proof substantiating the spouse’s Indian citizenship.

      In the case of spouse of foreign origin of an OCI Cardholder, proof could be a:

      1. photocopy of the spouse’s current valid passport, and
      2. a photocopy of the spouse’s OCI Card, and
      3. photocopies of the documents upon which the spouse’s OCI Card was granted.

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