If you have been a permanent resident for five years, you can apply for naturalization to become a US citizen. You are eligible after three years if you received your permanent residency under VAWA, or through marriage and you are still married and living with your US citizen spouse.
Having a positive naturalization interview, and as a result, a positive outcome, starts at the beginning of the application process, by submitting the N-400 form along with the required documentation, which varies depending on the eligibility category.
First things first: please make sure that every single question is answered, and that you answer fully, correctly, and truthfully. If you need to verify names, dates, addresses, you should do that now. If you do not know how to answer a question because of the terminology used, do not assume the answer is no. For example, in answering if you have ”ever committed a crime for which you have not been arrested” you should not answer no if you are now in a same-sex marriage that is illegal in your home country because you did commit a crime in your country but you have not been arrested. Likewise, if you traveled to Colorado and bought marijuana, you should seriously consider the answer to this question as possession of marijuana is a federal offense regardless of how legal it may be in certain states.
These are just a couple of examples on a single question. This is when having an attorney ask you all these questions really matters, and this is why you should work with an attorney who has seen many of these applications go wrong. Answering such questions with no when indeed the answer should have been a yes, could lead to denial based on misrepresentation or lack of good moral character even though you did not know you broke the law. The bigger decision if you do not know how to answer any of those questions is if you should even consider applying for naturalization. Let us help you make an educated decision.
Second, you decide to apply. Great! Make sure you know your full travel history during the statutory period. Know if you had to register for selective service and check if you did. Yes, you must know all that information about your ex-spouses and their current spouses. Yes, you will need to prove that you are current on child support payments, even if you do not have a court order to pay child support. You have an agreement with the child’s other parent and you pay as much as you can, or buy the child what he needs when he comes over? In most cases, that may not be good enough. Not having all these questions answered in the beginning (and this is just a sample) may lead to a Request for Evidence before or after the interview, and may lead to denial.
So far so good, you received an interview notice. You will be tested on the civics questions, and on your knowledge of English reading and writing. USCIS is currently working on updating the tests and it is widely expected that it will be more difficult than it is currently. Depending on your age and length of permanent residency, or if you have a disability, you may be eligible to have a naturalization text reduced in complexity.
If you need a medical exemption, you must be careful in having your medical provider accurately fill-out the exemption form. Most physicians take it lightly and as a result most exemptions are denied, even after the provider “fixes it”.
As you can see, becoming a US citizen through naturalization is not a walk in the park; it is not simply about filling-out a form, and there are way too many ways to get a negative result. In most cases, a negative result does not result in you losing permanent residency, but that also happens depending on circumstances. No immigration attorney will help you review a form that you filled out because it requires all this work and much more; hire an immigration attorney to improve your odds and avoid what could indeed happen.
Do it once. Do it right. Become a US citizen.
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