Remedy for Prematurely Filed Naturalization Applications and Applications Seeking Exemptions for Eng

On June 29, 1999, the INS issued a memo establishing interim procedures to address problems associated with prematurely filed naturalization applications and naturalization applications filed by applicants seeking exemptions from the English and Civics requirements.

Under recent INS policy, field offices were instructed to screen and reject any prematurely filed naturalization applications. In addition, for those prematurely filed applications already pending with the Service, field offices were directed to DENY such applications and applicants would need to file a new application with a new filing fee. Then the process would start over and the applicant would be at the end of the line.

Furthermore, Section 312 and 334 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) require that applicants qualify for age and residence based exemptions at the time of filing, not at the time of examination. The exemptions are for those applicants who were 55 years or older and have been a permanent resident of the United States for at least 15 years, or 50 years or older and have been a permanent resident for at least 20 years. If the applicant met the requirements, he or she would be exempt from the English and Civics (History test) requirements in order to become a United States citizen. This meant that if an applicant were 54 years old and 11 months and a permanent resident for 15 years at the time the applicant filed the naturalization applications, he would NOT qualify for the exemptions. Therefore, the applicant must either pass the English and History tests at the interview, or he would have no other choice but to file a new N-400. Again, the applicant must start the process all over again and wait at least a year and a half in order get an interview.

In both situations, applicants who may have made innocent filing errors or relied on the erroneous N-400 instructions had no relief but to file a new N-400. This has created undue hardship for many applicants and the new interim procedure provides relief from current waiting times.

To be eligible for this interim procedure, the applicant must meet the following criteria:

1. The application was filed on or before the date of this memorandum (June 29, 1999); AND

2. The Service determines that the application was unintentionally filed more than 90 days before the applicant met the continuous resident requirements, or the applicant, in reliance on the form instructions, filed an N-400 seeking an age and residence-based exemption from the English and/or Civics requirement; AND

3. On the date of the naturalization examination, the applicant has met the continuous residence requirement or is eligible for the 55/15 and 50/20 residence based exemptions to Section 312.

What this all means is that if an applicant meets the above criteria, the INS may employ the interim procedures, allowing the applicant to file a new N-400, without fee, at the time of the examination, and have the application processed out of chronological order. Therefore, the applicant will not be subjected to the normal waiting period of one and a half years or more.

Remember, this does not mean that just because an applicant becomes eligible for an exemption of the English language and Civics requirement by the time of the examination, the application will be adjudicated . What will happen is that the applicant will be advised to withdraw the application, file a new N-400 (or even modify the old N-400) without fee. The good thing is that the applicant may do it right there at the scheduled interview. The INS officer will accept the new N-400, examine and adjudicate the new application on its merits, based on the new filing date (which is also the exam date).

It is important to remember that going to the examination prepared by knowing all the rules and procedures is the key to a successful outcome. We, at Reeves & Associates, are committed and dedicated to our clients to ensure the best service we can provide.