NaturalizationWe help clients apply for naturalization, prepare for their naturalization interview, and successfully pass the naturalization test to become United States citizens. We also help clients understand when they might not be eligible for naturalization or when applying might do more harm than good because of past criminal issues or current legal issues that need to be resolved first.
Before you can apply to naturalize, you must know you are eligible. This is the most important step, because certain bases for ineligibility (like certain criminal convictions or past fraud) can also lead the government to try to deport you. Other bases for ineligibility won’t get your deported but will cost you money and time if not caught before you file. We work with clients to examine their entire immigration history and their current life story to understand if they are eligible before filing their application.
Length of Time as a Permanent Resident
This is the most important question typically when we think about naturalization. Different bases for naturalization may require different amounts of time as a permanent resident. Normally a person needs five years, but depending on how you got your permanent residence you may need 3 years or 4 years or might not have to wait at all.
Amount of Time in the United States
It’s not enough to have enough time as a permanent resident. You also have to have been present in the United States for at least half of the required time, and certain lengths of absences will disrupt the continuous residence and require you to wait even longer. Further, certain absences from the United States might be seen as an “abandonment” of your permanent residence. We work with clients to determine that they have enough time in the United States before filing.
Good Moral Character
Naturalization requires good moral character for a certain period of time. Criminal convictions aren’t the only thing to look for here. It may surprise you to know that USCIS also looks at paying child support, paying taxes, paying alimony, cheating on a spouse, and other actions that might not be “criminal” but could still prevent you from naturalizing. Not all of these questions are on the naturalization form, either, but they will come up at the interview. So we have to ask more questions in a normal naturalization intake to make sure a person is really eligible.
Crimes and Past Fraud
There are a number of discretionary reasons that the government can deny naturalization although they don’t have to. Some crimes don’t make you ineligible but could lead the DHS to refer you to immigration court if they render you deportable. Before filing, we need to know the extent of all criminal history, including crimes committed but which haven’t been charged yet. We also need to know if you have ever previously lied or omitted details on immigration forms. All of these questions help determine if you’re really eligible to naturalize.
Preparing and Filing the Application
The N-400 used to be a fairly simple form. In recent years it has ballooned to 21 pages and asks a number of questions that are not intuitive and require some understanding of what is required and what the USCIS is looking for. We prepare the application for our clients to make sure it’s done correctly.
Finding the Right Form
Most people who are seeking citizenship will naturalize using form N-400. But not always. Some people learn during this process that they may have already derived citizenship through the actions of their parents or based on when and where they were born. In those cases, an N-400 is inappropriate. Other people need a medical waiver for certain requirements (like the English examination) which requires a Form N-648 to be prepared correctly by their doctor. We’ll work with you to figure out which forms are correct.
Preparing the Forms Thoroughly
The N-400 is long and includes questions that are confusing. The N-648 needs to be prepared by a doctor but is often done incorrectly. We work with clients to make sure their forms are correct and complete before filing, which saves time and money.
Filing the Forms Correctly
It’s not enough to fill them out. The forms also have to be submitted to the right place, with the right fee, and with passport-style photos of the applicant. We have filed hundreds of naturalization applications and can help you ensure that the application is filed in the right place, with the right fees, and prepare your pictures for filing based on the requirements.
The Naturalization Interview
The naturalization interview is your opportunity to prove to an adjudicator that you meet the requirements and can pass the naturalization test. Both are critical.
If you can’t prove that you meet the requirements or if you fail the naturalization test, you typically can’t be granted naturalization. By the time we attend the interview with our clients, we’ve already determined eligibility and submitted the documents necessary to prove it. If the adjudicator has questions about the documents submitted (e.g. about a tax payment plan with the IRS or past convictions), we’re there in the interview with you to help answer them. And if the interview goes badly, we’re there to observe and make a record of it in case you have to file an appeal.
Passing the Test
The naturalization exam is easy if you are prepared, because they give you the questions in advance. But not everyone learns the same way. We work with clients early in the process to make sure they’re ready and to help them study if they need extra help. Some clients show up at my office already ready to pass the test. If you need extra help we can do mock interviews, share test preparation materials in multiple languages, and work with you to make sure by the day of your interview that you are confident and prepared. We also attend the interview with most of our clients and keep a record of the questions asked and how you answered.
The Oath Ceremony
You must take an oath before becoming a citizen.
Before the Oath Ceremony
Clients often have questions about things that happen between the interview and the oath ceremony (examples include whether they can get divorced, whether they can get married, what to do about a recent speeding ticket, etc.). We are glad to answer as many of these questions as necessary.
Attending the Oath Ceremony
Every person who naturalizes must take the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America. Friends and family can come and take pictures. I don’t usually attend the oath ceremony unless a client specifically asks me to, because I’ve found that it is a very private, personal experience they’d rather share with their family. But we do help with scheduling the oath ceremony and making sure our clients are aware of what to expect as well as when and where to go.
Issues With Oaths
Rarely, a client will have an issue with taking an oath and may need a waiver because of their genuine religious or political views. For example, some clients cannot take an oath to bear arms on behalf of the United States because they have a genuine religious objection to doing so. Others have a religious objection to take any “oath” at all or have a medical problem that prevents them from doing so. For these clients, we can help to seek and obtain a waiver to the oath requirement.