PREPARING FOR YOUR US CITIZENSHIP INTERVIEW

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.

What is an “immediate relative” for immigration purposes?

For my clients that are US citizens,  I have been asked who are “immediate relatives” for immigration purposes and why that is an important classification.

Sec 201 of the INA states that the following immediate relatives can be applied for by a US citizen, without having to wait for a visa number to become available. These “immediate relatives” can be :

1. Spouses of U.S. Citizens;

2. Children under the age of 21 of U.S. Citizens;

3. Parents of US citizens; and

4. Spouses of deceased US citizens that were married at least two years.

By fitting into this category the immediate relative bypasses the wait times for visa’s that would be required.  Please feel free to contact my office if you are a US citizen and wish to apply for an immediate relative.

“Continuous Residency” for US Citizenship

This morning while I was reviewing a client’s passport as to the length of time he had spent abroad , when the issue of “continuous residency” arose as I saw that he had been out of the US for longer than six months during the last five years. He asked what are the consequences of being out of the US for longer than six months as it relates to my N-400 petition for Naturalization?

One of the requirements of obtaining US citizenship is that you have been a permanent resident in the US for five years. If you obtained permanent residence through marriage,  then the time requirement is reduced to three years.

It is important during your term of permanent residence to not be outside of the US for longer than six months at a time. If you stay outside of the US for longer than six months, you may be not just putting your permanent residency at risk, but you are also re-setting the time period for you to be eligible to apply for citizenship. The USCIS deems absences of 6-12 months to create a presumption that you have broken the continuity of residence and may re-set the five or three year continued residency requirement. Over a year outside the US by law will be deemed as having broken the continuity of residency thereby automatically re-setting the five or three year continued residency requirement.

 

 

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Fiancee and K Visas

I have a number of clients that have met and fallen in love with women they have met over the internet. I always tell them to first check them out with a local private investigator in the country they are residing. The internet dating game needs to be played cautiously as there are a number of scammers that work the internet dating websites and are only interested in taking your money. Also, stay away from marriage brokers as you will also be subjected to heightened security. If your international love interest checks out, then I recommend a trip to their country to meet them in person. The USCIS will want to know that you have both met in person prior to filing for the K or Fiancee visa. Make sure you take plenty of pictures together and save your cards and emails to present you have a bona fide good faith basis to get married within 90 days of your fiance arriving in the USA.

If all goes well upon your return you can file a petition for a fiancee visa. The petition will be processed in the U.S., then if approved, will be forwarded to the embassy in your fiancee’s country of residence. This takes about six months. From there, an approval notice will be sent to your fiancee within ninety days advising of the additional documentation and requirements for the interview. I also advise to also fly in to attend the interview with your fiance. If all goes well a 90 day visa will be approved for entry into the USA. You must get married within 90 days or if things dont go well then have your ex-fiance return to their country of residence.