The New Citizenship Test

September 29, 2011 § 2 Comments

Most naturalization applicants are required to demonstrate their proficiency in the English language by reading, writing and speaking. In addition, applicants have to take a civics test. On Oct. 1, 2008, the USCIS re-designed the citizenship questions and switched over to a new set of questions. If you had filed on or after October 1, 2008, you have to take the new test.

Previously, the citizenship test had many questions surrounding basic historical facts of the US. Many of these questions were re-designed and now it just requires more than just a one-word answer for you to prove your knowledge on the subject. Topics in the civics section were expanded and the questions re-designed. The new test was aimed at leading citizenship aspirants to a deeper and better understanding of US history and government.

During the interview, the immigration officer will speak to you in English and will ask you questions related to the citizenship application package you submitted. You have to just prove that you can understand what the interviewer is asking, and answer in simple English. You will be dictated three sentences and you should be able to write at least one sentence correctly and possibly more if the officer is not satisfied with your writing skills. Remember that there are no standard sentences and it is the interviewer’s discretion what to ask and will generally base his/her decision on your level of education and background.

Apart from English, your knowledge in US history and government will be tested. The interviewing officer does not expect you to have in depth knowledge. However, you should demonstrate that you understand the system of the US government, how it works, how and why the United States was founded and about the important events in US history. This test will be oral and the interviewer will ask ten questions from the given bunch of hundred questions. If you can answer at least six out of ten questions correctly, you will be considered to have passed the test.

There are free study materials and public libraries also have the resources/study materials to help you prepare for the test. If you have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment where that impairment is affecting your ability to learn English and Civics, you may be exempted from taking the test. You have to file Form N-648 requesting an exception and this form has to be filed along with the citizenship form, N-400. If you qualify for a waiver of the English proficiency requirement, you should be prepared to bring an interpreter with you for the interview.

Filing Form N-648

September 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

While applying for American citizenship, one of the requirements is that you have to establish an understanding of English language and prove that you can speak, write and read words in normal usage. It is also required that you have basic knowledge and understanding of fundamentals of US history. The citizenship test comprises of these both.

Some applicants, because of their age and other medically determinable physical or mental impairment are exempted from taking these tests. If you fall under this category and want an exception from the English and US civics test because of your physical or age-linked disability or mental deficiency, you have to file Form N-648 with the USCIS. It is mandatory that a licensed medical doctor or licensed clinical psychologist complete and sign this form. This form has to be filed along with the citizenship form, N-400. Finally,it is up to the USCIS to make a decision if you qualify for an exception to the tests.

A few provisions are there in the Rehabilitation act of 1973 and if you fall under those, you need not file Form N-648. Sign language interpreters, time extension for testing and off site testing come under the provisions. But note that illiteracy will not be considered while requesting an exception from the English and Civics tests. You have to fill Part three of the Form N-400 while applying for American Citizenship, indicating your request.

“Medical doctors, doctors of osteopathy, or clinical psychologists licensed to practice in US including territories like Guam, Puerto Rico, territories of CNMI and the Virgin Islands” are the ones authorized to fill the N-648 form. While filling the form, the medical professional takes up the responsibility for the genuineness of the information entered in the form. The medical professional has to certify all parts of the Form N-648 except for the applicant attestation and interpreter’s certification.

In addition, the medical professional should also ensure that the form is complete and accurate as the USCIS will reject incomplete forms. The information in the form has to be in such a manner that it is easily understood even by a lay man. The medical professional filling this form has to submit a lengthy assessment of the applicant’s physical and developmental disability or mental impairment. Medical diagnostic report or records have to be included in the application package.

As mentioned above, the medical professional and the applicant both have to attest the Form N-648, taking full responsibility for the genuineness of the information given in the form. There is no submission fee and it has to be mailed along with the Naturalization application. If there is any false information provided in the form, affidavit or other supporting documents or if the applicant presents any such document, he/she will be fined or imprisoned for not more than 10 years or both.

USCIS and InfoPass

September 13, 2011 § 1 Comment

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the official government agency that is in charge of the immigration process of foreign nationals who come to the US temporarily or wish to permanently settle in the US. It is vested with the authority of granting or denying immigration benefits to such foreign nationals.

The USCIS was established on March 1, 2003 as one branch of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Before the USCIS was established, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was the authority that had control over matters related with immigration, including administrative and investigative functions.

InfoPass :

If you have any issues related to immigration and need clarification from a trained USCIS Immigration Officer, you can do so through InfoPass, a free service. Through InfoPass, you can schedule an appointment with a USCIS Immigration Officer instead of requesting it in person at your local USCIS office.

You can make an appointment directly through the internet (from your laptop at home, or the computer at your local public library) and scheduling an appointment is free. Just click on “Make An Appointment” and you will be required to give your mailing address and ZIP code. Enter all personal details asked and select a date and time for your appointment. The appointment notice will then appear on your computer screen. The notice will have the time, date and location of your appointment. Please remember to print this notice and bring along with you during the InfoPass appointment.

While coming to the InfoPass appointment, you have to bring a printout of the InfoPass appointment notice confirmation, any government-issued identification, Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record Also bring with you immigration forms, receipt notices, approval/denial letters, translations and original documents that are related to your inquiry.

You can cancel or reschedule InfoPass appointments by using the identification numbers that you will find at the bottom of your printed out appointment confirmation notice. There is no penalty for rescheduling/canceling an appointment.

For general information, you can just call the NCSC at 1-800-375-5283, to have your question answered than scheduling an InfoPass appointment.

Filing U.S. Immigration Forms

September 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

You have to file certain immigration forms with the US consulate abroad or with the USCIS (depending on where you currently stay at the time of applying) to get legal immigration status in the US. If you are in the US, all petitions/applications should be filed with the USCIS.

Applications/petitions that are incomplete or erroneous will be denied. Approximately 40% of the applications submitted every year are rejected because of being incomplete or erroneous. So before you send the form to the USCIS, carefully read any notices, warnings, or explanations on the Forms Entry Page (FEP) in the official govt website http://www.uscis.gov. Also verify that you are filing the correct form along with the supporting documents and fee and also verify if you are mailing the form to the appropriate filing location as there are different filing locations across the country.

Detailed instructions will come with all the immigration (“I”) or naturalization (“N”) forms. It will contain information about the necessary supporting documents that you need to submit, the submission fees and the filing location. Instructions are user-specific and will differ with specific circumstances. Always ensure that you follow the instructions carefully as making even a small mistake will result in an application or petition being returned to you. It will also lead to further delay in processing.

Immigration Forms Fee and Fee Waivers:

You have to pay a submission fee for most immigration forms and you have to make a check for the fee and send it along with your application. In case, you do not send the check (submission fee and fingerprinting fee) with your application, your application will be sent back to you. Checks should be made payable to “Department of Homeland Security.” USCIS will inform you about the time and location for your fingerprinting.

If you are unable to pay the fee, you can apply for and be granted a fee waiver while filing certain immigration forms. You have to file Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver. Decision making on such applications is a bit tricky and the USCIS adopts a particular methodology to arrive at a decision on waiver requests. The instructions that come with Form I-912 will have detailed information on the whether you should request for a waiver by filing Form I-912 or through a written statement by the applicant.

The USCIS will come to a decision considering many aspects. They will check if you are receiving a means-tested benefit, or will review your household income level and/or recent financial hardship that will make you eligible for the fee waiver.

Downloading Forms:

Some forms can be filed online. Others can be sent through regular mail. You can fill them out on your computer, print them out, and mail it to the USCIS Application Service Center (ASC) in order to file for a benefit. You can download some forms directly to your local computer, instead of filling them out through your web browser. You need to have the latest version of Adobe Reader. You are most likely required to submit photographs while filing an immigration form. You can find the photo specifications in the form instructions page.

Citizenship For Your Child

September 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

There is an option in the immigration law where one can become a US citizen if born in the US or born to US citizen parent(s) apart from becoming a US voluntarily through the Naturalization process.

The process for children born outside to US citizen parents claiming citizenship through their parents’ status is very much sophisticated as there are certain strict eligibility requirements to be met. The immigration laws that existed at the time the child was born is also taken into consideration while claiming citizenship through the Child Citizenship Act. Children born in the US automatically become US citizens, even if their parents do not have an immigration status in the US.

If your child was born in the US, you can apply for a US passport that would serve as a proof of his/her citizenship status. To document your child’s citizenship, you can file Form N- 600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship with the USCIS (formerly the INS) to get the citizenship certificate.

There are many and a combination of requirements that are to be fulfilled before applying for citizenship for your child. One requirement is is that at least one parent was a US citizen when the child was born AND should have lived in the US or its possessions for a given period of time. In addition, child(ren) born outside the US can also claim citizenship based on their parents’ citizenship.

As mentioned earlier, you can become a US citizen only if you meet certain important requirements.

  • You should below 18 years of age and at least one of your parents should be a US citizen.
  • You should reside in the US in the legal and physical custody of your citizen parent

To qualify as a “child” for the purpose of getting a certificate of citizenship through your parents’ status,the child should not be married. Children born out of wedlock have to be“legitimated” when they were under 16 years old and in the legal custody of the legitimating parent. Stepchildren who were not adopted will not qualify as a “child” for citizenship purposes.

If you meet these requirements before reaching 18 years of age, you establish the eligibility for US citizenship. However,to document your citizenship status, you have to file Form N-600 with the USCIS.

Per the Child Citizenship Act, if you were 18 years old or older as of February 27, 2001, you will not be eligible for citizenship based on your parents’ status. In such a case, you can apply for naturalization (Form N-400) based on your own eligibility. There is also an alternative where persons above the age of 18 as on February 27, 2001, qualify for a citizenship certificate per the law in effect before the enactment of the CCA.

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