I often receive calls from people inquiring as to what happens after their Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, is received by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The following will provide a brief overview of the N-400 application process.
The first thing that happens after a Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, is properly filed with USCIS is that USCIS will send out a notice to the applicant showing that the application and proper filing fee was received. This receipt notice will be followed by a separate letter informing the applicant that they have been scheduled to have their fingerprints and other biometrics taken at an exact date and time. In Michigan, biometrics are generally taken in two locations. One location is near Grand Rapids and the other is in Detroit.
After the biometrics are successfully taken, USCIS will eventually send out the actual interview notice. The waiting period between filing the N-400 and receiving the interview notice will depend on the current processing time for naturalization applications at each district office. In Michigan, all naturalization interviews are conducted at the USCIS district office in Detroit. At the interview, a USCIS officer will usually go through the entire N-400 application to confirm that the answers previously provided are still correct. In addition, they will ask the applicant to read and write a sentence in English, will administer the civics examination, and will review the results from the applicant’s background check. If there are any issues that are out of the ordinary, like a previous arrest or if taxes are owed to the government, then further questions and examination are usually done.
If at the conclusion of the interview the USCIS officer decides that additional information is needed, then the applicant will usually receive a notice asking for whatever else is required to properly adjudicate the application. If an application for naturalization is denied then USCIS will notify the applicant with an official letter by mail.
If the applicant is informed at the interview that they have been preliminarily approved for naturalization, then the next step will be to wait for the notice with the place and time of the oath ceremony. This notice is usually sent out by mail 1 – 4 weeks after the interview and will contain additional questions that must be filled out and returned at the actual oath ceremony. An applicant does not officially become a United States Citizen until after they are sworn in at the oath ceremony.
Some common issues to look out for during the Naturalization process occur when people move while their application is pending and what to do if they have had an arrest and/or conviction. If an applicant moves while an application is pending then they must notify USCIS that they have moved and provide their new address through filing the AR-11 form. Hopefully this change of address will successfully get linked with their application and any future notices will be sent to the correct address. Another common issue applies to those that have had an arrest and/or conviction. Under this scenario, USCIS will request certified copies of the police report and final court disposition so it is always a good idea to have these documents prior to the interview. However, anyone with a past history of being arrested should thoroughly research whether it is a good idea to file for naturalization since, depending on the specific facts, the application could be clearly deniable or it could result in being placed in deportation proceedings.
If you or someone you know needs assistance with an Application for Naturalization or any other immigration matter, please contact our office.