Applying for US citizenship?
Applying for US Citizenship, a process also known as Naturalization, is an exciting prospect. However, although the process can be straightforward, immigration laws are complex and the consequences of making a mistake on an application can be grave. Here are some tips on how to avoid the most common errors when applying for US citizenship.
- answer every question on the application
- study for the English and Civics portion of the interview
- consult with attorney if you answer “yes” in section 10
- bring your documents to the interview
- mail your application using a tracking method
- lie or change facts on your application
- apply if you are not sure you are eligible
- send original documents with your application
- forget to include all of your travel information
- travel for more than six months
Do answer every question on the application
You must answer every question and be sure to review the application before submitting to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Make sure you answer every question with as much detail as possible. If you leave fields in your application blank, USCIS may issue a “Request for Evidence” to obtain information they believe is missing. This will cause delays in your case. If you do not know the answer to a question, type in “Unknown,” if the question does not apply to you, type in “N/A”. This also applies to documents – make sure you provide all required evidence, as listed in the instructions to Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
Do study for the English and Civics portion of the interview
Unless you qualify for an exemption, you must pass an English language and civics test to become a US citizen. The English portion will require you to not only have your interview in English, but also write out a sentence that is dictated to you. If you are unsure of your level of spoken or written English, do a search for citizenship preparation help in your area. Many organizations offer free or low-cost English classes for those applying for US Citizenship.
For the civics portion of the test, the interviewing officer will choose ten from a possible 100 questions. You will need to answer six correctly. All 100 possible questions are available on the USCIS website, so that you can study them there. In addition, the USCIS website offers a variety of study tools, including flash cards and exercises, and has recently partnered with the Smithsonian to create a study website that is entirely free. Finally, USCIS often posts the questions and answers to the civics questions on its Twitter Feed (@USCIS).
Do consult with attorney if you answer “yes” in section 10
If your answer is Yes to any question in Section 10 of the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization you should consult with, and consider hiring, an attorney before submitting your application to verify that you are in fact eligible to naturalize. If you apply for citizenship and are in fact not eligible, you risk losing not only the filing fee, but also your green card.
Do bring your documents to the interview
You should bring original and updated documents to your interview, including evidence of recently filed tax returns, recent trips abroad, or recent criminal problems. In addition, if you are filing for citizenship based on your marriage to a US citizen, the interviewing officer will want to see evidence that you still live together at the time of your interview, so bring recent leases, insurance policies, joint bank account statements, bills, or any other evidence you have that you continue to live in a marital relationship.
You should bring the originals of all copied documents that you submitted with your initial application, as well as one original and one copy of any updated documents.
Do mail your application using a tracking method
Make sure that you mail your application using a method that can be tracked, such as US Postal Service Certified Mail, Federal Express, or UPS. That way, you will have proof not only that USCIS received your application, but also of the date on which they received it. If your application takes longer to decide than posted processing times (available at www.uscis.gov), you can use this information to show that your application should have been adjudicated and request USCIS to start an inquiry as to the cause of the delay.
Do not lie or change facts on your application
When you sign an immigration application, you are also signing a statement that the contents of the application are accurate and truthful. In addition, before your interview you will be placed under oath before answering any questions. If USCIS does not believe that an answer is accurate or, worse, if they have proof that an answer is inaccurate, USCIS will most likely believe that you have intentionally lied no matter how innocently the mistake was made. The best way to avoid inconsistencies is to state the truth at all times. Finally, know that USCIS will compare the information in this application with the information provided in all of your previous applications, so be prepared to explain any discrepancies.
Do not apply if you are not sure you are eligible
The requirements for naturalization are fairly straightforward unless you have a criminal background. There is no room for flexibility. If you do not qualify, your application will be denied. In the best-case scenario, you will lose the filing fee (currently close to $700). The worst-case scenario, however, is losing your green card and getting deported. If you do not meet the requirements, either because you have not established your continuous residence, physical presence, knowledge of English or civics, or because you have a past criminal history, do not apply.
Do not send original documents with your application
You should never send original documents to immigration unless specifically required by the instructions. Mail can get lost on the way to USCIS, and USCIS can lose documents as your file is transferred from one office to another. Instead, you should mail copies with your application, and bring the originals to the interview so that both can be compared. USCIS is allowed to disregard any document if they do not have the opportunity to examine the original.
Do not forget to include all of your travel information
Your entries and exits from the United States, and the time you spent abroad, is a crucial part of your application for citizenship. Travel information can be checked against US databases. If you do not remember specific dates, and cannot find evidence in your passport or travel documents, at least write the month and year of your travel. Do not, however, try to lie or hide any travel that might disqualify you from applying for citizenship.
Do not travel for more than six months
Do not travel for more than six months, or for any length of time that would make you ineligible for citizenship on the day of your oath ceremony. A naturalization application is considered an ongoing application, meaning that you must remain eligible for citizenship throughout the entire process, up until you attend your oath ceremony and receive your certificate. Do not risk losing your eligibility by traveling for a period of time that would put you out of the United States for more than six months, which would disrupt your continuous residence, or more than 18 months total if you are married to a US citizen or 30 months total if you are not. This applies even if there are delays in the processing of your application.
The most important thing to remember is that you should always be truthful, straightforward, and complete in your answers to immigration questions. You should also always keep copies and/or originals of everything you mail, and using a tracking method when submitting to USCIS. If your in doubt or have any questions regarding your application or the process, be sure to consult with, and if necessary, hire an experienced immigration attorney.