Applying for U.S. citizenship is the ultimate goal for many permanent residents in the United States. It removes any traveling restrictions and makes you eligible to vote. There are a few pitfalls to avoid if you do decide to apply, however.
Below are some of the most common mistakes made by applicants when filing an N-400 Naturalization application.
1) Reporting incorrect information on your N-400 Application
It sounds basic, but typos do matter – especially on something as important as your application for citizenship. Many hopeful applicants, however, make common oversights by focusing on preparing for their civics exam rather than paying close attention and triple-checking the information they are providing on the forms.
Something as simple as incorrect traveling information, prior living addresses or employment may get your application rejected.
Special focus needs to be paid to the moral character or criminal issues. Misunderstanding how to answer certain questions, what information must be provided, and what is expected of you during the interview may result in the USCIS officer thinking that you are trying to hide information or mislead them about certain elements.
An accusation of “fraud” or “misrepresentation” on your record with USCIS means that your application will be denied, and you will become ineligible to file for citizenship for 5 years. You will also be expected to state on your new application that you have previously committed fraud or made a misrepresentation on your application.
2) Overdue taxes / reporting incorrectly with the IRS
Something like declaring nonimmigrant status on your tax returns or failing to report income to the IRS may also place your Green Card and permanent residency status in jeopardy.
An applicant who fails to file tax returns or fails to pay taxes as required may not meet the good moral character requirement for naturalization. This can be enough to get your application with USCIS rejected. Tax evasion over $10,000 can be considered an “aggravated felony” within the immigration context. Any applicant convicted of an aggravated felony on or after November 29, 1990, is permanently barred from establishing good moral character for the purposes of naturalization.
It is therefore very important to make sure that your tax affairs are in order before applying for your citizenship.
3) Break in your “continuous residence”
Maintaining a “continuous residence” in the United States during the previous five or three years before applying is one of the requirements. USCIS states that: “The concept of continuous residence involves the applicant maintaining a permanent dwelling place in the United States over the period of time required by the statute.”
For many permanent residents, this presents a challenge if they have been outside of the United States for longer than six months at a time as Green Card holders. If you have had an absence of more than six months at a time, you may have to present evidence to demonstrate that you did not have a break in your continuous residence in the United States.
4) Proof of your spouse’s U.S. Citizenship if applying based on marriage
Another very common mistake applicants make is failing to provide proof of their spouse’s U.S. Citizenship. This applies only to those who are applying for citizenship based on their bona fide marriage to a U.S. Citizen.
In this case, applicants must also provide proof that they have maintained a bona fide marriage since acquiring their Green Card, which includes proof of cohabitation, joint funds/ bank accounts, joint ownership, and/or responsibility for assets and liabilities.
5) Failing to respond to Request for Further Evidence
The USCIS may request additional documents to continue the processing of your naturalization application. You must respond to this request in a timely manner within the timeframe listed in the request. Requests for evidence may be issued for a number of reasons including but not limited to requesting further financial documentation, your medical examination, proof of bona fide marriage, etc.
Failing to respond to a request for evidence in a timely manner may result in the denial of your naturalization application. Additionally, failure to provide an adequate explanation to the request for evidence may also result in a denial.
If you are unsure about what documents you must submit in response to your request for evidence, make sure to contact an experienced attorney to guide you through the process.
Regardless of your personal situation, we are happy to help you assess the next steps and the requirements you need to meet.
Please contact us for further information and assistance with your particular matter at immigration [at] tomgallagherlaw.com.