US Citizenship Interview & Child Support


by Attorney Robert A. Pascal

Today another potential client has arrived to discuss his application for US citizenship. He is well qualified: no problem with the English language; never arrested for a crime; and meets all the guidelines for eligibility, but one. He hasn’t been current with his child support obligations. Unfortunately, failure to maintain support goes to the standard of GMC or “good moral character”, which is required to become a US citizen.

In completing the N-400 “Application For Naturalization”, you are asked in Part 10 & 11, specific questions regarding marital history and children. This is followed up with a question in Part 12, 30 H as to whether you have “failed to support your dependents or pay alimony.” It will be your burden to provide sufficient documentary evidence to the examiner at the interview that you have complied with your support obligation, especially for your children. It does not matter whether the support has been court ordered or not.

Chapter 5 – Conditional Bars for Acts in the Statutory Period – of the USCIS policy guidelines state the following:

K. Failure to Support Dependents

“An applicant An applicant who willfully failed or refused to support his or her dependents during the statutory period cannot establish GMC unless the applicant establishes extenuating circumstances. The GMC determination for failure to support dependents includes consideration of whether the applicant has complied with his or her child support obligations abroad in cases where it is relevant. Even if there is no court-ordered child support, the courts have concluded that parents have a moral and legal obligation to provide support for their minor children, and a willful failure to provide such support demonstrates that the individual lacks GMC. “

The Policy manual further details that “an applicant who fails to support dependents may lack GMC if he or she:

– Deserts a minor child;
-Fails to pay any support;
-obviously pays an insufficient amount.

This section continues with the requirement the USCIS officer identify the period of non compliance by the applicant and a review of all court records regarding child support.

If the applicant has not stayed current with his support obligations, the officer can consider “extenuating circumstances” for the non-payment. For example, unemployment, financial inability, the cause of unemployment, good faith efforts to pay, mistaken belief the support obligation had been satisfied, or a miscalculation of court ordered arrears.

It is therefore, extremely important to bring copies of all court ordered support obligations, copies of all payments made either cancelled checks, receipts, or money orders. In addition, a certified letter from the spouse acknowledging payment of the support obligations. If you do not have this evidence, the USCIS can deny your application for US Citizenship.

If you have a support issue, please do not hesitate to call us at (954) 522-4058. we represent clients across the US and abroad via telephone, Skype, internet or in office appointments. You can also learn more about Robert Pascal’s qualifications by visiting   his profile at



After preparing and filing my client’s N-400 applications for US citizenship, I am then asked what they should do to prepare for the actual citizenship interview. I actually spend a couple of hours with each of my client’s before the actual interview and conduct an intensive practice session to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Although every client is different, I am going to give you a general set of guidelines to help you prepare. These are as follows:

1. Get to the Service center at least 30 minutes before your scheduled interview. The last thing you need aside from the nervousness you may feel is to be running late to the interview. Take a test drive by the Service center before the day of the interview so you exactly know where it is and the time it will take for you to arrive there.
2. Do not forget to bring any original documents along with a copy for the USCIS Officer. At the minimum this will require bringing your state issued identification, permanent residence card and passport. If you have a criminal record, then bring certified copies of the arrest report and criminal conviction.
3. Dress appropriately. A jacket and tie or a formal gown isn’t necessary, but neither is a t-shirt and blue jeans. Dress as you would for a job interview.
4. Answer the Officer respectfully. A Maam or Sir goes a long way in deferring to the authority the USCIS Officer who has in the ultimate outcome of your application.
5. Go to the USCIS website and download the civics and English test questions about a month before the interview. The civics book has one hundred questions and answers of which you will be asked five from the book. Usually the book gives you a few correct answers for a question, you usually need to know only one, but read each question and answer carefully.
6. The English portion is your ability to understand and respond accordingly to the questions that will be asked of you during the interview. You may be asked to write out a sentence in English and to respond to additional questions by the USCIS Officer. If you a not extremely proficient in the English language, and do not qualify for an exemption from the language requirement, then it is important to hone your English skills from the moment you submit your N-400 application. There are many free ESOL language courses offered across the USA as well as free internet courses available. If you speak your native language in your household, try to only speak English and watch English television shows.
7. Take a deep breath and relax before you go into the interview room. If for any reason you are not proficient with the language, civics or English requirements, you will usually be scheduled for an additional interview within 90 days to try again.
8. If you pass, you will then be given a notification that you passed the interview and that you will be scheduled for the next swearing in ceremony to formally become a US Citizen. This is usually within three weeks from your interview date.
9. If you do have an issue related to a criminal conviction or lengthy overstay over 6 months out of the US, please retain an Immigration Attorney to attend the interview with you.