Developments in Naturalization

Naturalization applications have a new look. It is now 10 pages and 34 new questions have been added. The new questions address issues that commonly arise when someone is applying for citizenship. This article will cover some, but not all, of those issues.

Two of the new questions concern giving false or misleading information to the U.S. government in order to get an immigration benefit, to prevent deportation or to gain entry or admission into the United States. These are very broad categories and they include such things as lying about marital status in order to get a green card and giving a false name or passport in order to get a visitor’s visa. How these questions are answered is very important.
Giving false information in order to get a green card is a removable offense. However, there is a waiver for having committed the fraud. The waiver is obtained in court. The Immigration Judge compares the positive and negative aspects of the case. If the question about misleading information is answered with a “no”, the Judge will treat that as an additional fraud which will count against the alien. That answer could result in the denial of the waiver.

Some new questions ask whether the applicant has ever claimed to be a U.S. citizen or registered to vote or voted in any Federal, state, or local election in the United States. These are very important issues. Voting or registering to vote before one is actually a citizen can result in a permanent bar to the United States. Depending on when the claim was made, claiming to be a U.S. citizen can also result in a permanent bar. At the very least, it can require a waiver. Filing out an I-9 and claiming U.S. citizenship is considered to be claiming to be a U.S. citizen.
Therefore, any alien who has checked the U.S. citizen box on the I-9 has committed this fraud. Given the serious consequences of this action, no one should claim to be a U.S. citizen before being sworn in and receiving a naturalization certificate. However, anyone who has already made this mistake should consult an attorney who is an immigration law specialist to determine how to deal with this situation.

The new form also asks whether the applicant owes any money in back taxes. INS will not approve a naturalization application until that problem has been taken care of. That may include paying the back taxes or entering into a payment plan with the IRS or other tax agency.

Males between the ages of 18 and 26, living in the U.S. in any status other than as a lawful non-immigrant, are required to register for Selective Service (the draft). This is true even though the U.S. does not currently have a draft. If the applicant is between 18 and 26 and has not registered, he must do so before completing the form. If he is over the age of 26 and should have registered, he must adequately explain why he did not do so and attach that explanation to the application.

Under the new procedures at INS, no applicant for citizenship will be scheduled for an interview until all fingerprint and other background checks are completed and until all of the applicant’s immigration files have been consolidated with the naturalization file. The examiner will have had the opportunity to examine and compare all information given by the applicant to the INS in response to each application ever filed for relief. Obviously, if the information is inconsistent, a problem may arise. Any errors in the naturalization application should be volunteered immediately at the beginning of the interview. That can help prevent a denial based upon lack of good moral character.

Obviously, naturalization is more than just filling out a form. It can be very complex. An alien who files this application can achieve the dream of becoming a United States citizen. However, a complicated case can result in a denial and the issuance of a Notice to Appear in Immigration Court where the alien will have to fight to keep from being deported. With so much at stake, anyone thinking about applying for citizenship should consult an attorney knowledgeable in immigration law.