Why Does the Naturalization Application Process Take So Long?

Why Does the Naturalization Application Process Take So Long?



Why Does the Naturalization Application Process Take So Long?

Many people who are permanent residents in the United States have as their goal becoming U.S. citizens. At Robert D. Ahlgren and Associates, we have experienced immigration lawyers who assist our clients in the Chicago area in navigating the complex immigration system to obtain citizenship. The process of obtaining citizenship is known as “naturalization.” When that moment arrives when one is eligible to apply for naturalization, they do so in great anticipation that they will soon become the U.S. citizens they have dreamed of becoming one day.

Unfortunately, however, this is never the case because completing the naturalization process takes a very long time. When you submit your application, you sooner or later realize there is nothing that happens to the application for months and months. 

What we tell our clients is there are many reasons why an application can take so long, but contrary to common belief, USCIS, the agency that processes all immigration applications and petitions, might not be the one to blame for this extremely long processing time. According to the agency, they cannot process anyone’s application for naturalization without first obtaining and reviewing the applicant’s complete immigration file, known as the “A-File.” These hard paper files are kept in storage at the Federal Records Centers (FRCs) in Kansas City, Missouri. These FRCs are miles-long man-made caves built underneath the Kansas City metropolitan area. 

These FRCs were closed during much of the COVID-19 pandemic, and therefore no USCIS requests for immigration A-Files were being processed during that time. Without these files, USCIS could not do anything to adjudicate the naturalization applications that were piling up. This has created a serious disparity in case processing times because applicants whose A-files were not in these FRCs were fortunate enough not to experience these extremely long delays. 

Because of this, some cases are being adjudicated very quickly, while others remain pending, with nothing being done about them.

The FRCs have reopened, which has dramatically improved processing times, but it will still take many more months to clear the backlog, initially at the FRCs and then at the USCIS regional processing centers.

Here is a summary of generally how long it is taking to process a naturalization application:

Step 1. Processing of Application for Naturalization (Form N-400): This first step of the naturalization process takes just over 14.5 months, on average, and this time includes having biometrics done.

Step 2. Citizenship interview, which includes exam: 4 additional months on average

Step 3. Oath of Allegiance and Certificate of Naturalization takes about 0–1.5 months

Total time to naturalize from application to taking oath: 18.5 months to 24 months

All these times are estimates, but even those estimates will vary depending on your individual location, as some regional immigration centers where these cases are processed are slower or faster than others in the country.

Speak with a Chicago Citizenship Attorney

If you are in the Chicago area and are seeking naturalization, contact Robert D. Ahlgren and Associates today and schedule a consultation to discuss your situation. There are things we can do for you to make sure you go through the naturalization process as quickly as possible. Do not risk unnecessary delay going through the process alone.


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