Tips on filing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Posted on April 5, 2012
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A. Mail your naturalization application Certified Mail/Return Receipt Requested. The post office will send back proof USCIS received it.
Q. How much is the filing fee? Can I use a personal check?
A. For most applicants, the filing fee is $680. You can use a personal check or money order. Applicants age 75 or older pay only $595.
Q. What if I can’t afford the filing fee?
A. If you can prove an “inability to pay” the fee, USCIS will waive it. To apply for a fee waiver, file USCIS form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver with your application. You can meet the “inability to pay” test if you are receiving a means-tested benefit from a state or federal agency, you have a household income that is at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or you are suffering financial distress, for instance because of high medical bills. If you are receiving public assistance, provide proof and USCIS should grant the waiver.
If you qualify based on income below 150% of the poverty level, a copy of your last year’s federal tax return should be sufficient. For other claims, submit proof of your income and expenses.
If you apply for a fee waiver, put form I-912 on top of form N-400. That way USCIS won’t think that you forgot to include the filing fee.
Q. Should I include a cover letter with my application?
A. Usually no. However, if you qualify to take the naturalization exam in a language other than English because of your age and length of residence, include a cover sheet with your naturalization application with these words in big red letters: Qualified to be interviewed in (your language). That way USCIS will know to find someone to interview you in your language. You can take the exam in a language other than English if you are at least age 50 and you have been a permanent resident for at least 20 years, or you are at least age 55 and you have been a permanent resident for at least 15 years.
Q. What do I need to know about the swearing-in ceremony?
A. After your interview, if you meet all requirements to naturalize, USCIS will send you form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony, notifying you about when you will be sworn in as a U.S. citizen. Unless you have been arrested or charged with a crime from the day of your interview to the day of your swearing-in ceremony, the ceremony should go smoothly. The swearing-in ceremony is a public event so you can bring relatives and friends.
Form N-445 asks questions about events that may have occurred since your naturalization interview. If you must answer yes” to any of the questions, speaking to an immigration law expert before attending the ceremony is best. If you were arrested since your interview, you can assume that you will not be sworn in on the scheduled date.
To become a U.S. citizen, you take an oath of allegiance to the United States. That standard oath requires that you promise to “bear arms” on behalf of the United States. That is, serve in the military and fight for the country. However, USCIS may excuse you from taking the standard oath if your beliefs prevent you from joining the military. You should resolve that matter at your naturalization interview. If you qualify, you can take a modified oath.
The immigration statute says that an applicant seeking the modified oath must believe in a “Supreme Being.” Nevertheless, the USCIS will excuse an individual from taking the full oath if the person has a “sincere and meaningful belief” similar to a religious belief, against bearing arms. A naturalization applicant, must however pledge allegiance to the United States and at a minimum, agree to perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law.
After you are sworn in, USCIS will give you a certificate of citizenship. Then, go register to vote. It’s your most important right as a new U.S. citizen.
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