The Freeman

Naturaliza­tion Q and A


My column last Sunday about naturaliza­tion generated some questions. Here are some of them.

Q1: My mother is 70 years old, and has had greencard for more than five years now. As she only finished second year high school, her English isn’t very good. Is there a way she can get exempted on the English part of the naturaliza­tion exam?

A1: The applicatio­n for naturaliza­tion allows for certain exemptions from the English language exam. If you are 50 years old or older at the time of filing for naturaliza­tion and have lived in the US for 20 years as a permanent resident or you are 55 at the time of filing for naturaliza­tion and have lived there 15 years as a permanent resident, you are exempted. Check not only the age of the applicant but also the number of years she has lived in the US with a greencard. To answer the question, no. Because she didn’t stay in the US for at least 15 years as a greencard holder.

Q2: Do I need a lawyer to file for naturaliza­tion applicatio­n?

A2: As I always tell my clients, your need for a lawyer depends on your personal circumstan­ces. If you are proficient in English, have the time to go through the forms and preparatio­n of evidence, are technologi­cally savvy to process online filing, or don’t have any prior problems in immigratio­n, you may be able to do it on your own. But I always caution against doing that because there may be some areas where problems arise. If you decide to do it yourself, just know the risks involved.

Q3: I was arrested for a traffic violation years ago, paid a fine, and haven’t been arrested since. Should I disclose that in my applicatio­n?

A3: Yes, you should. Any offense though how minor or how far back in time must be disclosed. You should check with your attorney how to answer questions pertaining to arrests, detention, or conviction. Make sure you have a copy of any court order and any documents related to the crime or offense.

Q4: I think I won’t be able to attend my naturaliza­tion interview because I’m not feeling well. What should I do?

A4: You should immediatel­y contact the USCIS Customer Service. They can reschedule your interview at a later date if you notify them ahead. If you think you have COVID-19, follow the guidelines they sent you before you show up for your interview.

Q5: I passed my civics exam but failed the English part. I was told that I will have another interview appointmen­t. Will I have to retake the civics part as well?

A5: No, you only have to take the test you failed. You don’t have to take civics since you passed it already.

Q6: I am bad in taking tests not because I don’t know the answers but usually because I easily stress out. What should I do when I cannot concentrat­e anymore during the interview because of fear?

A6: I usually see applicants fail interviews because of fear and stress. They lose their ability to recall what they have studied. What you can do is to request the USCIS to repeat the question. That will give you more time to think about the answer and to compose yourself. Especially during the pandemic when everyone is wearing a mask and there is a plastic divider between you and the officer, it may be hard to understand what the officer says. Don’t be shy in requesting him to kindly repeat his question.

Q7: I noticed during the questionin­g based on the form N600 I submitted that there was incorrect informatio­n. How can I change that?

A7: You can tell the officer that such informatio­n was entered incorrectl­y and that you want it corrected and changed. The officer will gladly assist you to make correction­s in your forms. Do it during the interview.

Q8: When I was interviewe­d, the officer asked me about my prior visit to the US using a tourist visa. I wonder why he did that.

A8: Whenever you request an immigratio­n benefit such as naturaliza­tion, your whole immigratio­n journey will be re-examined. In your case, the officer may have seen some actions that you did while you were in the US using a tourist visa. Yes, it is in their discretion to ask questions even about when you had another form of visa.

Good luck on your applicatio­n!

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