Applying for Citizenship: Tips for Completing Form N-400
Applying for U.S. citizenship through the naturalization process is generally straightforward, especially if the lawful permanent resident (LPR) has not had previous immigration issues. For many LPRs, the process can be successfully completed without delay.
When USCIS adjudicates an application for citizenship (N-400), it does a comprehensive review of the applicant’s entire immigration file. It also runs detailed criminal and security background checks, as well as checking Social Security and IRS records to ensure that the information on the N-400 is accurate. A common and often innocent mistake is not disclosing all dates and locations of residences and of employment. Discrepancies or inaccuracies in employment, if LPR status was based on employment, can not only derail a citizenship application but could subject the applicant to revocation of his or her green card.
Another key area is recording time outside of the United States over the last five years. A common difficulty is accurately reporting all trips over 24 hours taken outside the United States during the immediate five-year period. For those who travel abroad frequently, this can become onerous. It need not be. Look through your old passports for entry stamps. Make a list of travel times. Start with estimates. If you have sufficient time in the U.S., estimates even on the application can be okay.
An area that is critically important and must be accurate is reporting any criminal activity, even, for example, a long-ago arrest that was subsequently expunged. The N-400 requires a “YES” answer and disclosure of any incident where the applicant was “arrested, cited, or detained by any law enforcement officer.” However, some violations don’t disqualify someone from citizenship but they should be listed on the application. Applicants with any doubt whether an incident constitutes a “YES” answer should seek legal advice first before applying for naturalization.