Tag Archives: N-400

Reminder: New Citizenship Test as of Oct. 1

USCIS reminded the public that beginning Oct. 1, all citizenship applicants must take the new naturalization test, regardless of when they filed their Application for Naturalization (Form N-400).

To learn more about U.S. citizenship and the naturalization test, go to www.uscis.gov/citizenship.

USCIS Implements New Naturalization/Citizenship Test

Following about 2 years of testing, USCIS has revised and implemented a new Test, as part of the Naturalization process.

The revised test, with an emphasis on the fundamental concepts of American democracy and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, will help encourage citizenship applicants to learn and identify with the basic values we all share as Americans.

According to USCIS, the redesign process was to ensure that naturalization applicants have uniform, consistent testing experiences nationwide, and that the civics test can effectively assess whether applicants have a meaningful understanding of U.S. government and history. Following a basic U.S. history and civics curriculum, the new test now serves as an important instrument to encourage civic learning and patriotism among prospective citizens.

Which Test Do I Take?

An applicant who:

* Files the Application for Naturalization, Form N-400, BEFORE October 1, 2008, and is scheduled for his or her naturalization interview ON or AFTER October 1, 2008 up until October 1, 2009, can choose to take the old test or the new test.
* Files the Application for Naturalization, Form N-400, ON or AFTER October 1, 2008, will take the new test.
* Is scheduled for his or her naturalization interview ON or AFTER October 1, 2009, regardless of when he or she filed the Application for Naturalization, Form N-400, will take the new test.

USCIS considers an application properly “filed” when Form N-400, is received by the appropriate USCIS location with signature, correct fee, and the form is completed according to instructions.

Note: If an applicant fails the English and/or civics test during the first examination, the applicant will be required to take the same version of the test, old or new, when the applicant is retested, even if the retest is scheduled on or after October 1, 2009.

The relevant study materials, etc. can be obtained from the USCIS website directly.

Update and Guidance on Naturalizations for U.S. Service Members

Just earlier this month, USCIS issued some internal guidance on the Naturalization of service members of the U.S. Armed Forces.  The special naturalization provisions are essentially governed by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008.

These amendments provide certain immigration benefits for any qualifying spouse or child of a member of the Armed Forces. Primarily, the amendments loosen the requirements of “continuous residence” and “physical presence” in the United States where a spouse or child of a member of the Armed
Forces is involved, accompanying and residing with the service member.

Under certain conditions, a spouse or child may count time residing abroad with the service member as residence and physical presence in the United States.  This legislation also prescribes that such a spouse or child may be eligible for overseas proceedings relating to naturalization, as previously only permitted for an eligible member of the Armed Forces.

In general, “continuous residence” concerns the maintenance of the applicant’s residence in the United States over a period of time required by a statute, where “residence” is determined by the applicant’s principal actual dwelling place in the United States.

“Physical presence” refers to the number of days the person must physically be in the United States.  Unless specifically exempt, an applicant for naturalization must generally satisfy both “continuous residence” and “physical presence” requirements and must have resided in the State or USCIS district having jurisdiction over his or her place of residence for a minimum of 90 days preceding the filing of the application.

In the context of this Act, the required period of continuous residence within the United States is reduced from five years to three years and accordingly the required period of physical presence is reduced from 30 months to 18 months for any LPR who is the spouse of a U.S.  citizen.

There is no requirement of any prior period of residence or specified period of physical presence within the United States for any LPR spouse of a U.S. citizen who is an employee of the United States Government (including a member of the Armed Forces) or recognized nonprofit organization who is stationed abroad in such employment for at least one year.

Essentially, this Act, extends naturalization benefits available to Service Members to their dependents, including spouses and children.

USCIS announces changes to the Naturalization Interview process

USCIS has announced some changes to the interview process for Naturalization applicants.
The Service hopes that these changes will improve Applicants’ experience with the process and lead to more efficient, better adjudications.

    Pre-examination check-in process

As applicants arrive at the Field Office for their naturalization examination, consideration should be given to tasks that can be done prior to the applicant’s formal examination; (i.e., signing the photo and distribution of any related informational materials).

In this regard, as applicants arrive, offices are encouraged to provide the applicants an opportunity to review the N-400 Interview Preparation Notice. This notice is provided as an advisory to help prepare the applicant to inform the interviewing officer of any events that may have occurred after submitting their N-400 and which may have bearing on the adjudication.

Offices are also encouraged to verify certificate preparation information with the applicant prior to the interview. Offices can utilize the N-400 Interview Preparation Worksheet B for this purpose. A USCIS representative should complete the shaded portion of Worksheet B with the applicant to verify the biographic information that will appear on the naturalization certificate. CLAIMS 4 should be updated at this point with the biographic information.

Effective immediately, applicants are to sign their photos using their normal signature. Normal signature means signature in English unless exempt from the English language requirement. Signatures need not be legible and names may be shortened consistent with the applicant’s normal signature. Applicants who are seeking a change of name at the time of naturalization should not sign their photos until after the name change is granted.

    Naturalization Testing

When required, USCIS will assess the applicant’s ability to read, write, and speak words in ordinary usage in the English language, and assess whether the applicant has a sufficient knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history, principles, and form of government of the United States. USCIS will evaluate the history and civics portion through a naturalization test. USCIS also evaluates English language ability through administration of the naturalization test and the full oral interview.

Once the pre-examination check-in process has been completed, offices are encouraged to consider testing the applicants’ knowledge of American government and history (civics), and their ability to read and write English, separately prior to the interview. This procedure has been successfully utilized in the past. It has provided a means of maintaining the quality of N-400 interviews because the interviewing officer is able to focus on the other eligibility issues. Interviewing officers will continue to determine the applicant’s ability to speak and understand English through the oral interview process.

    Interview

Questioning of an applicant must cover all requirements for naturalization. Questions during the examination should build on the results of the preliminary analysis, such as background check results. If the results of the background checks or other preliminary analysis raise questions of eligibility, or the applicant’s response to questions on the N-400 brings eligibility into question, the officer should focus attention on those issues.

Additionally, officers are required to ask each applicant the questions contained in Part 10 H of the N-400. Supervisors should regularly monitor and observe officers to ensure that officers are asking essential or pertinent questions relating to the benefit sought.

    Post-Examination process

When an officer has concluded the interview, the case file may be returned to designated non-officer personnel for post examination processing. Post examination processing may include any duties previously performed by the examining official following an interview and include: scheduling of a follow-up appointment for English literacy and/or civics testing; photo and/or certificate signing; CLAIMS 4 decisional updating; and oath ceremony scheduling.

USCIS now Naturalizing military-spouses at its overseas offices.

In January, President Bush signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 into law. This new law amended portions of the Immigration and Nationality Act to allow certain spouses of members of the military to naturalize overseas where they are stationed.

Before January 2008, these spouses could only naturalize while physically within the United States.

Naturalization Interviews to be Conducted on Week-ends and After Business Hours on Weekdays

In Fiscal Year 2007, USCIS received a significant increase in naturalization applications (Form N-400). To address the increase, USCIS is expanding work hours and adding staff to complete these filings within our processing time goals.

If you have received a notice from USCIS that your naturalization interview has been scheduled on a Saturday, Sunday, or after traditional business hours, the notice is correct and you should appear at the scheduled time.

Are Applications for U.S. Citizenship becoming harder?

Well, maybe. Since my practice is located within greater Tampa Bay, Florida, the overwhelming majority of my N-400’s get processed at the Tampa District office; and I have little direct exposure to other districts, such as Miami, Orlando or Jacksonville.

In recent weeks, I have become aware of increased scrutiny by adjudicating officers in Tampa. While this in itself is not unusual, since U.S. Immigration undergoes periodic “mood swings”, alternating between lenient and stringent from time to time, it is something that deserves attention. In periods of heightened scrutiny and less flexible application of the regulations, it is even more important (than normal), to make sure that ALL legal requirements and qualifications for Naturalization are met and proven by the Applicant. Pay EXTRA attention to: (1) criminal history, (2) immigration history, (3) travel history, (4) residency status and (5) timing of your application.

It does not serve you to “forget” or knowingly misrepresent any information that you might consider unfavorable, harmful or ‘unimportant’. Chances are that USCIS will find out or already knows. Their information has to materially match that which presented by the Applicant in his/her N-400 form. Neglecting these areas in your application can either jeopardize or substantially delay, or even prevent your becoming a U.S. Citizen.

Application for U.S. Citizenship by Service Members of the U.S. Armed Forces

Members and certain veterans of the U.S. armed forces are eligible to apply for United States citizenship under special provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). In addition, USCIS has streamlined the application and naturalization process for military personnel serving on active-duty or recently discharged. Generally, qualifying service is in one of the following branches: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, certain reserve components of the National Guard and the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve.

Qualifications
A member of the U.S. Armed Forces must meet certain requirements and qualifications to become a citizen of the United States. This includes demonstrating:

• Good moral character;
• Knowledge of the English language;
• Knowledge of U.S. government and history (civics); and
• Attachment to the United States by taking an Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. Constitution.

Qualified members of the U.S. Armed Forces are exempt from other naturalization requirements, including residency and physical presence in the United States. These exceptions are listed in Sections 328 and 329 of the INA.

An individual who obtains U.S. citizenship through his or her military service and separates from the military under “other than honorable conditions” before completing five years of honorable service may have his or her citizenship revoked.

Service in Wartime
All immigrants who have served honorably on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces or as a member of the Selected Ready Reserve on or after September 11, 2001 are eligible to file for immediate citizenship under the special wartime provisions in Section 329 of the INA. This section also covers
veterans of designated past wars and conflicts.

Service in Peacetime
Section 328 of the INA applies to all members of the U.S. Armed Forces or those already discharged from service. An individual may qualify for naturalization if he or she has:

• Served honorably for at least one year.
• Obtained lawful permanent resident status.
• Filed an application while still in the service or within six months of separation.

Posthumous Benefits
Section 329A of the INA provides for grants of posthumous citizenship to certain members of the U.S. Armed Forces. Other provisions of law extend benefits to surviving spouses, children, and parents.

• A member of the U.S. Armed Forces who served honorably during a designated period of hostilities and dies as a result of injury or disease incurred in, or aggravated by, that service (including death in combat) may receive posthumous citizenship.

• The service member’s next of kin, the Secretary of Defense, or the Secretary’s designee in USCIS must make this request for posthumous citizenship within two years of the service member’s death.

• Under section 319(d) of the INA, a spouse, child, or parent of a U.S. citizen who dies while serving honorably in active-duty status in the U.S. Armed Forces, can file for naturalization if the family member meets naturalization requirements other than residency and physical presence.

• For other immigration purposes, a surviving spouse (unless he or she remarries), child, or parent of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces who served honorably on active duty and died as a result of combat, and was a citizen at the time of death (including a posthumous grant of citizenship) is considered an immediate relative for two years after death and may file a petition for classification
as an immediate relative during such period. A surviving parent may file a petition even if the deceased service member had not reached age 21.

How to Apply
All aspects of the naturalization process, including applications, interviews and ceremonies are available overseas to members of the U.S. Armed Forces. Members of the U.S. Armed Forces are not charged a fee to file USCIS Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. Every military installation has a designated point-of-contact to assist with filing the military naturalization application packet.

Once complete, the package is sent to the USCIS Nebraska Service Center for expedited processing. That package will include:

• Application for Naturalization (USCIS Form N-400)
• Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service (USCIS Form N-426)
• Biographic Information (USCIS Form G-325B)

It’s good time to become a U.S. Citizen.

Currently, the USCIS is taking approximately 6-8 months to complete an average application for U.S. citizenship. Depending on how you obtained your Green Card, you may have to wait 3 or 5 years to be eligible to file your N-400. However, in many instances, you can file about 90 days before your “wait time” is up. Many countries also allow for dual citizenship, for those who do not wish to relinquish their old nationality in favor of U.S. citizenship. Schedule an appointment to discuss your individual situation.