Applying for Naturalization
Applying for naturalization requires submitting a comprehensive package to USCIS emphasizing the lawful permanent resident’s eligibility for naturalization. The main form that the lawful permanent resident must file to apply for naturalization is Form N-400 – Application for Naturalization.
The N-400 form inquires about basic biographic information, the applicant’s employment and residential history for the past five years, a log of the applicant’s travel outside the United States for the past five years, information on their spouse and previous spouses, children, and questions to establish the applicant’s good moral character (criminal and immigration history questions, amongst others).
If the applicant is filing under the reduced continuous residence and physical presence requirement under INA §319(a), then they should also include evidence of the continuing legitimate marital relationship.
If the applicant is filing under the waived continuous residence and physical presence requirement under INA §319(b), then they should also include evidence of the continuing legitimate marital relationship, the U.S. citizen spouse’s temporary employment abroad, etc.
After Applying for Naturalization
After the application packet is filed, the lawful permanent resident will receive a Receipt Notice within 2-3 weeks. The Receipt Notice serves as proof that the lawful permanent has a pending application for naturalization. The Receipt Notice is important for following up with USCIS in the future on this matter and checking the case status online.
Approximately 2-3 weeks after the Receipt Notice is generated, USCIS will schedule the lawful permanent resident for a Biometrics Appointment at a local USCIS Field Office or an Application Support Center that has jurisdiction over the applicant’s residence. At that appointment, the lawful permanent resident will have their picture and fingerprints taken so that the necessary security background checks can be completed.
Request for Evidence
If USCIS determines that the information/documentation submitted is inadequate to satisfy the application requirements and further information is needed, they will issue a Request for Evidence (RFE). The Request for Evidence will specifically state the documents/information they are seeking and a timeline under which they need to be submitted (all requested information should be submitted at the same time). Failing to respond to the RFE may result in the denial of the application. An RFE also will result in a longer processing time for the application.
Approximately 2-3 weeks after the Biometrics Appointment, USCIS will schedule an interview on the pending naturalization application. The interview notice will list documents that need to be brought to the interview.
The Naturalization Interview
Purpose of the Interview
The purpose of the naturalization interview is to ensure that the applicant is eligible for naturalization (i.e. meets statutory requirements) and to complete the English language and civics test.
What to Bring to the Interview
The applicant should minimally bring the following documents as applicable to the foreign national’s situation:
- Original Interview Notice
- Passport of Foreign National
- State Issued Identification/Driver’s License of Foreign National Applicant
- Copy of the Naturalization Packet filed with USCIS
- Any prior U.S. immigration documents (green card, reentry permits, etc.)
During the Interview
When the LPR first arrives for the interview, the adjudicating officer is likely to begin by swearing them in. Next, the adjudicating officer will likely review the application with the LPR to ensure that all the information is accurate and current (i.e. residential address, current employment, any travel outside the U.S. from the date of filing to the interview). If they have any concerns about any criminal or good moral character issues, they are likely to ask questions about those at this time also. The adjudicating officer will also administer the English language and Civics Test, unless the LPR meets an exception.
The English language test consists of reading a sentence in English and writing a sentence in English. The Civics Test is an oral examination where the adjudicating officer will ask up to 10 of the 100 questions provided in the USCIS Study Guide for Naturalization. If the LPR answers the first 6 correctly, the adjudicating officer will not ask the remaining questions. The adjudicating officer will inform the LPR if they have passed the English and Civics test.
Possible Outcomes of the Interview
The interview usually concludes with one of three possibilities:
- Ideally, the officer will end the interview by letting the LPR know that they have been approved for naturalization.
- At this time, the adjudicating officer may let the LPR know when the next Oath Ceremony is or tell them to expect the Oath Ceremony Notice in the mail in the upcoming weeks.
- Note: The LPR is not yet a U.S. citizen. The LPR becomes a U.S. citizen after taking the Oath at the Oath Ceremony.
Need Supervisory Review/Background Checks Not Cleared
- In some cases, the adjudicating officer might state that while everything looks good, the file needs supervisory review before approval and/or that they are still awaiting for background checks to clear.
- USCIS is likely to provide an update within 30-60 days after the interview. Ideally, this will be in the form of an Oath Ceremony Notice.
- In some cases, the adjudicating officer might feel that there is an issue with the case. They will not provide a decision at that time and will follow up within 30-60 days.
- This may result in USCIS issuing an Request for Evidence (see above) or could result in an Oath Ceremony Notice in the upcoming weeks.
The Oath Ceremony Notice instructs the LPR to appear, with their green card, at a scheduled time and place for their Oath Ceremony. The Oath Ceremony Notice also comes with a questionnaire to determine the LPR’s continuing eligibility for naturalization (i.e. any criminal issues that may have arisen, or travel abroad after the interview, etc.) An LPR who has travelled outside the U.S. after their interview should carry a detailed log of their travel(s), including their date(s) of departure, corresponding date(s) of arrival and the countries they visited.
At the Oath Ceremony, the LPR, with several other LPR’s who are also being naturalized, will take the Oath swearing their allegiance to the United States, surrender their green card and walk out with their Certificate of Naturalization.
The LPR should then immediately apply for their U.S. passport since they will need it to travel abroad in the future and then re-enter the U.S.
Our Firm’s Experience
Our firm has represented individuals located all over the U.S. with unique and complicated situations relating to applications for naturalization, including providing our clients with a detailed analysis of their eligibility for naturalization prior to applying. If an LPR applicant has any concerns regarding their eligibility, it is critical that the applicant determine, prior to filing the application for naturalization, whether they would trigger further USCIS inquiry or investigation, such as the initiation of deportation proceedings. Since the potential immigration consequences can be significant, a consultation from an experienced Immigration Attorney is highly recommended.
Revised by Nisha V. Fontaine, Esq. on December 26, 2011