Categories: Citizenship / Naturalization

Can I apply for citizenship if my green card is lost or expired?

In the past, USCIS and some immigration attorneys believed that you could not become a naturalized citizen if you did not have a valid green card (LPR) card to bring with you to your naturalization interview.  This is in error.  USCIS will allow someone with an expired or lost green card to naturalize and become a U.S. citizen.

So save yourself the time and expense associated with filing the I-90 to get a replacement green card.  If you are eligible for naturalization, this issue will not derail your application.

Do children automatically become citizen when their parent naturalizes?

Children do become citizens automatically if the following is also true:

1. Your child is under 18 years old, unmarried;
2. Your child has entered the U.S. and has lawful permanent resident status (“a green card”);
3. Your child is residing in your legal and physical custody.

One key point is that if the parent that has become a citizen is the father, the child must have been born in wedlock or paternity of the child established before the child’s 18th birthday.

These have been the requirements since February 27, 2001. They apply to natural born and adopted children.They do not apply to step-children unless the child is legally adopted by the U.S. citizen. In order for your child to obtain proof of their citizenship status, it is necessary to obtain a Certificate of Naturalization.

**Please note that these requirements are different than the rules that apply to children who are born abroad and acquire citizenship at birth because they have a U.S. citizen parent.

My naturalization application asks whether I ever claimed to be a U.S. citizen. I did – is this a problem?

Federal law has dealt very harshly with non-citizens who claimed to be a a U.S. citizen when that claim wasn’t true.  This includes people who tell an employer that they are a U.S. citizen or who registered to vote or who voted.  The current state of the law basically bars such people from ever applying for U.S. citizenship after having made such a false declaration.

Sometimes, the error was entirely innocent.  We once worked with a man who had been sitting in his apartment one day.  A person out registering voters knocked on his door and said, “its time to register to vote.”  The man said, “I’m not sure if I am supposed to register – I am not a citizen.”  The person said, “well, just fill out the form – if you aren’t a citizen, you won’t get a voter registration card.”  Of course, the card was issued and the person had “falsely” claimed to be a U.S. citizen.  When he came to us, we told him the seriousness of his actions and told him that he could not apply for citizenship.  We were worried that not only would the naturalization application be denied, but that USCIS would try and revoke his green card.

Does USCIS know when you lie during an interview?

One of yesterday’s visitors to our website arrived there after typing in this Google query:

Does USCIS know when you are lying during an interview?

I thought this was a very interesting question.  It sort of makes you wonder about the person asking it.  Were they thinking of lying in an interview?  Had they already lied in an interview?  Did they get caught lying?

The simple answer, of course, is that it is impossible to know whether USCIS knows if an applicant for a green card or for naturalization is lying to them.  The safe assumption is that they DO know everything about you and that, if you lie in the interview, you will be caught.

Truthfulness is an interesting issue at immigration.  Some times, people lie about things that – had they just been truthful – would not have been that big of a deal.  This is true for politicians just as much as its true for people seeking an immigration benefit.  I have had situations at the St. Louis sub-office where the officer asked a question to which they already knew the answer just to see how the applicant would respond.  I’ve had officers chide applicants before they answer and remind them that they are under oath.

The best course of action is to always tell the truth.  Do not ever lie to the immigration service.  Lack of truthfulness can be fatal to your case.  It can also lead to deportation.  If you are going to an interview, you should assume that it is being recorded and that the immigration service knows more about you than you think.  Don’t be foolish as no immigration benefit is worth lying about.

Many times, people lie because they are worried or troubled by a certain aspect of their case.  Talking the issue through with an experienced, qualified immigration attorney ahead of time can dispel those concerns and help the applicant work towards answering the question truthfully and effectively.

How long after I file my citizenship application will USCIS schedule my naturalization ceremony?

 

Typically, six to eight months.  After the application is filed, you will receive a receipt notice with your case number and filing date.  You will also receive a biometrics appointment shortly thereafter.  A biometrics appointment requires a trip by you to the local USCIS immigration field office where you will be fingerprinted and photographed.

You may receive a request for evidence.  Sometimes, USCIS has follow up questions or wants a particular document for your file.  Your case is “halted” while the RFE is pending.  Once you respond to the RFE, your case begins processing again.  Our goal in preparing your paperwork is to avoid RFEs, but sometimes they cannot be avoided.

About four or five months after your initial filing, you will be scheduled for the naturalization interview.  The examining officer will review your application with you, determine if you are a person of good moral character, administer the civics and English exam and review the oath of allegiance.  You will receive written confirmation that you appeared for the interview and you may or may not be notified on the spot that you have been approved.

Once your case is approved, you are put into the queue for the next available naturalization ceremony.  Times change, of course, depending on the workload at the particular USCIS field office.  If you have questions about your naturalization application or about an interview, feel free to give us a call at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page here.

Can a naturalized citizen be deported?

If an alien goes through the process of obtaining lawful permanent resident status and then becomes a US citizen through the naturalization process, the new citizen is protected from deportation.  The only way such a new citizen could be deported is if the government first denaturalized the citizen.

Denaturalization is very rare and the government has to meet a very high burden in order to obtain denaturalization.  Almost always, an attempt by the government to denaturalize someone is based upon the government’s claim that a new fact has been discovered which, if known at the time of naturalization, would have prevented the alien from ever being naturalized.  This usually involves that the person naturalized used a false identity or perpetrated some other kind of fraud on the immigration service.

An attempt to denaturalize someone usually involves litigation brought by the US government in federal court.  The Department of Homeland Security takes the position that they can denaturalize someone in an administrative proceeding, but at least one court has held that the regulations which purport to allow DHS to denaturalize someone lack statutory authorization and are therefore void.

If you have questions about denaturalization or if someone is claiming that you or a loved one committed fraud in the immigration context, you should consult with an experienced immigration attorney.  Please call us at (314) 961-8200 or visit our contact page.

What is the oath of allegiance?

The citizenship (or naturalization) interview typically includes several distinct parts.  Each immigration officer seems to handle the interview in their own way.  But the components of a typical interview include (a) a review of the N-400 application, (b) the English exam, which consists of reading a sentence in English and writing another sentence in English, (c) the civics exam, in which the naturalization applicant is asked a series of civic questions and required to get six correct out of ten, and, (d) finally, a discussion of the oath of allegiance.

We have had more than one person come to our office because they were not prepared to discuss the oath of allegiance at their interview.  Because of that inability to explain what the oath means, they were sent home emptyhanded and told that they would have one more chance to explain to the officer at a later date what the oath means and to state without reservation that they agree to take the oath.

This is important because every naturalization applicant is asked at the ceremony to take the oath.  Here is how we explain the oath to our clients.

We ask our clients to think of the oath as The Past, The Present & The Future.  For The Past, the person is promising to give up their allegiance to their home country.  They have to renounce their devotion to their old country.  For The Present, the applicant states their willingness to take the oath and to become an American, with all of the rights and responsibilities that this promise entails.  Finally, for The Future, the applicant promises that if the country needs them in the future, either in the military or in doing civilian work of national importance, that the applicant will be there for the United States.

Different officers have different expectations regarding the oath.  Some simply ask, “have you read the oath and do you agree to take the oath?”  Others ask, “explain the oath to me in your own words?”  Still others actually have the applicant read the oath out loud and then explain in their own words what the oath actually means.

If you’ve been tripped up by the oath obligation or if you would like us to help explain to you how the oath is discussed at most naturalization interviews, please give us a call or reach out to us on our contact page.

What are the USCIS rules regarding the naturalization test and can I take the citizenship exam in my own language?

If you are looking to become a United States citizen through naturalization, there are several requirements. The requirement that is often biggest hurdle for immigrants is naturalization test. In order to pass the naturalization test, you must show that they have a firm grasp of the English language and must also pass a civics test.

The English portion of the naturalization test examines your ability to read, write and speak in English. The reading section requires you to be able to read one of three sentences correctly. For the writing section, you must be able to write one out of three sentences correctly. The speaking section of the test occurs throughout the interview while you listen and respond to questions from the interviewer.

The civics test consists of up to 10 of 100 possible questions. These questions test your knowledge of US history and basic US legal facts. There are 100 possible questions for the test. USCIS provides the questions here so that you can prepare beforehand. In order to pass this section of the naturalization test, you must get at least six of the ten questions right. If you fail either the English or civics portion of the naturalization test, you will be able to re-take the failed test within 90 days.

There are several exceptions from the naturalization test that are important to note. First, immigrants who are age 50 and older when they file for naturalization and have lived as a legal permanent resident (LPR) for the past twenty years are exempt from the English test. Also, immigrants who are age 55 or older at the time they apply for naturalization who have lived as an LPR for at least 15 years are also exempt from the English language test. Exemptions from both tests are also available for people with physical or developmental disabilities or for people with a mental impairment.

If you have any further questions regarding the naturalization test or the naturalization process in general, contact the immigration law specialists at the Hacking Law Practice today by calling 314-961-8200 or by filling out our online contact info form.

What happens during and after my naturalization interview? Will I be sworn in at USCIS right then and there?

I attended two naturalization interviews yesterday.  At the St. Louis sub-office of USCIS, some weeks the officers work on naturalization cases.  On other weeks, they work on green cards or other visa matters. Yesterday, I started speaking with some of the people there for their naturalization interview and nobody seemed sure about what would happen after the interview.  I thought I would write a little bit about that.

Typically, when you go into the office for your interview, you will be asked to leave your cellphone on a desk out in the hall.  Before you sit down, you will be placed under oath.  The officer will then review your N-400 application with you, asking many of the same questions that were asked on the N-400 form.  Your interview may or may not be videotaped.  The officers typically spend some time reviewing your work and travel history, any criminal matters and your prior immigration history.  They may also ask about family members and their immigration status.

The second portion of the interview will be the naturalization examination.  You will be asked to write a sentence in English and to read a sentence in English.  You will be asked civics questions and you have to score a 60% to pass.  If you get six answers right, the examiner usually stops asking questions.

The final portion of the interview will concern the oath of allegiance.  Some officers will ask you to explain in your own words what the oath means to you.  Others will read you questions about the oath and write down your answers.  We have also seen officers ask the person being interviewed to read the oath out loud and then explain what it means.  The oath is an important part of the interview and we have seen people get their citizenship denied or delayed because they could not explain the oath.

If you pass your civics exam and everything goes smoothly with your interview, you will receive a form that says (1) that you appeared for the interview; and, (2) that your application has been recommended for approval.  Unlike certain other jurisdictions, you will not be sworn in as a U.S. citizen on the day of your exam.  Instead, if your application is approved, you will receive a letter about 3-6 weeks later directing you to your oath ceremony.  Usually, the ceremony is held at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, which is located at 111 S. 10th Street, St. Louis, MO 63102.  The ceremonies also take place at colleges and other landmarks such as the Old Courthouse.

If you end up waiting for more than 120 days from the time of your interview for a ceremony, USCIS may be delaying your case.  If you would like more information on how we may be able to help you with your naturalization delay, click here for more information.

Some naturalization cases are straightforward and may be able to be handled without an attorney.  Other cases require the expertise of an immigration attorney.  If you would like help with your naturalization application, please contact us at  (314) 961-8200 or by completing our online webform here.

What are the tests that I will have to take at my naturalization (citizenship) exam?

USCIS administers several tests during the citizenship interview.  The immigration officer will test your knowledge of the English language.  This will consist of general interview questions and a request that you write a sentence in English.  You will also have to correctly read a sentence in English.

The officer will also ask you ten civics questions.  You have to provide correct answers to six of them. The officer usually stops once you get six right.

USCIS provides resources for the English portion of the exam.  You can review those resources here.

The list of the 100 civics questions, in both English and Spanish, are also available for your review here.  You will also find videos about the interview process and the exams on this site.

If you would like assistance with the naturalization process, the St. Louis Missouri immigration attorneys at the Hacking Law Practice would like to help you.  Feel free to contact us and we will explain to you how the process works, help you prepare for the exam and your interview and to help you gather the documents and evidence that you will need for your application.