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Becoming a US Citizen

No Foreign Prince or Potentate: Becoming a U.S. Citizen!

Attorney and Certified Immigration Specialist Carl Shusterman hosted a  US Citizenship Q&A session in the Born Abroad chat room. If you missed this great event, here is the transcript:

Jennifer Wipf: Hi all. This is Jennifer Wipf, your Guide to Immigration Issues at Born Abroad.

Welcome to our expert chat on American Citizenship. I am on the phone with our host, immigration attorney and certified immigration specialist Carl Shusterman and we are ready to begin.

I will be moderating and transcribing his answers word for word.

Please remember that as always, all information provided here is of a general, educational nature and should not be taken as legal advice.

Question #1:  What is the N-300 Form. Can you explain its purpose?

Carl Shusterman: The N-300 Form is an Application for Declaration of Intention to become a United States Citizen.

In the early part of the century, immigrants who wished to become citizens were required by law to file declarations of intention then referred to as "first papers." Some time before I joined the INS as a citizenship attorney in 1976, this requirement had been done away with.  Now the N-300 form is very seldom used, however, our office recently submitted such a form for a medical resident employed by the Veteran's Administration at the request of that agency. From time to time there are employers or government agencies which require a person to file an N-300, however from an immigration law standpoint, the N-300 process is completely outmoded.

Question #2: I am under I-751 process to remove condition on my residence and, in March, my 3 year residency expires. Can I still file N-400 even though I have no answer yet from the INS about my removal of condition?

Carl Shusterman:  Assuming you are still married to your US citizen spouse and still living together and that your spouse has been a citizen for the past 3 years, you have established the 3 year residency requirement which enables you to apply for naturalization. However, INS will not approve your naturalization until the I-751 is approved. You may file, but there may be a delay.

Jennifer Wipf: That's important to know. Thank you Carl. Here is another question:

Question #3: There is a question on taxes on the citizenship form. Could a debt to government constitute a denial of my citizenship application?

Carl Shusterman:  Disputes between you and the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) over back taxes owed do not generally affect your ability to naturalize. Of course if you are convicted of criminal tax fraud or have been filing your returns as a non resident, you may want to consult with an attorney before applying for naturalization.

Question #4: I am a green card holder and my husband is a US citizen. If our children are born in the UK, is their citizenship automatic for life?

Jennifer Wipf: Another excellent question.

Carl Shusterman: Whether a person born outside the US with one citizen parent "acquires" citizenship at birth depends on a number of factors.

The person's date of birth determines which of a number of laws applies. Normally, the citizen parent must prove that he or she was physically present in the United States for a certain number of years prior to the child's birth and that some of these years occurred after the parent's 14th birthday.

For more information on this complex subject, please see:

http://shusterman.com/acquisit.html

Jennifer Wipf: Very useful link. This next question has been asked--in some form--by five of our visitors tonight.

Question #5: Does the USA allow dual citizenship? How about triple citizenship?

Carl Shusterman: They must, since my son is a dual citizen! Actually, the US considers dual nationals to be US citizens and ignores the citizenship laws of other countries. So if you are a US citizen, the last thing you should do is to try to enter the United States using a foreign passport.

I have represented clients who are citizens of 3, 4 or even 5 different countries. For an interesting write-up by the US Dept. of State on dual nationality, see:

http://shusterman.com/toc-usc.html and scroll down to "Dual Nationality"

Jennifer Wipf:  I have 3 more questions to in the cue, and then we can take more if you have them.

Question #6: I got a green card on 2/17/95 and got my passport stamped 12/20/94. When I sent the N-400, it got returned saying I'm filing too early. Is that correct?

Carl Shusterman:  The date stamped on your passport 12/20/94 is the date you became a permanent resident. Since the general rule is that you must before applying for a green card, be a permanent resident of the United States for 5 years you would be eligible on 12/20/99. However, the law also provides that you may submit your application up to 3 months prior to the eligibility date. Therefore, if you submitted your application on or after September 20th, 1999 and the INS has returned it to you, someone at the agency has made a mistake, which you should bring to their attention... good luck!

Question #7: I cannot find processing times for Connecticut. How can we find out processing times?

Carl Shusterman: My information on the site regarding processing times of citizenship applications, which is posted on my web site, comes from volunteer attorney monitors in various cities across the United States. Presently my site contains processing times in 38 cities, none of which are in the State of Connecticut. This means that there was no response from a volunteer attorney in Connecticut.

However, I have been in constant contact with Gregg Beyer, the INS web master, and he promises to relieve me of my misery by posting all INS waiting times on the INS web site within the next few months! In the meantime, you can look at your INS receipt for an indication of possible waiting times or call an immigration attorney in your state. Fortunately, naturalization is the one area where INS waiting times are currently decreasing.

Jennifer Wipf:  Of course our site and Shusterman's will link right to those INS pages with processing times.

Question #8: What are the restrictions placed on naturalized citizens vs. those who are born here?

Carl Shusterman: There are two restrictions. The US Constitution provides that you may not become President or Vice President of the United States. Seems a real shame that you can't run when everyone from TV commentators to pro wrestlers to sons of ex-presidents have all thrown their hats into the ring! 

However, take heart, Henry Kissinger was a naturalized citizen and he became the Secretary of State.

Question #9: Can citizenship be revoked?

Carl Shusterman:  Absolutely. First, if, within two years of becoming naturalized the INS finds that you have obtained naturalization by misrepresentation, the agency can revoke your citizenship administratively. Whether this is constitutional is an issue which is currently being decided in the federal courts. What is more clear, is that the Justice Department can file a suit in federal court to denaturalize a person.  However, they only do this in extreme cases, for example, to Nazi War criminals and the like.

Jennifer Wipf: Do we have more questions? ... Yes we do.

Question #10:  What is the difference between the FBI check and the CIA check and do you get a background check both when getting a green card and then again for citizenship?

Carl Shusterman: The FBI lets the INS know whether you are a criminal in the CIA informs them whether you are a terrorist.  The INS checks with both agencies when you apply for residence and again when you apply for naturalization.

Question #11: I just had a brush with the law and also just got my notice for the citizenship interview.  Should I go on the interview?

Carl Shusterman: It all depends on how serious your "brush" with the law was, and whether you were convicted of a crime. If your case is pending or you have been convicted of a crime, it is always a wise idea to consult with a knowledgeable immigration attorney prior to applying for naturalization. Under current INS policy even expunged convictions of crimes which occurred many years ago can lead not only to a denial of your application for naturalization, but could also result in you being deported!

Jennifer Wipf:  Yes, please be careful and get an attorney if you are having such legal issues.

Question #12: I am applying for the N-400 and my fingerprints have been rejected twice by the FBI as "cannot be classified" - what happens next? It is delaying my application and I don't know the status.

Carl Shusterman: Certain people cannot be fingerprinted. However, the INS has ultra modern technology which enables it to take fingerprints electronically rather than with ink. There is even a system for fingerprinting by laser. If after the 3rd attempt of fingerprinting you, the INS cannot obtain a usable set of fingerprints, they will rely instead on the check of your name and personal identification information to do the FBI check. If you have a clean record, you will still be naturalized.

Jennifer Wipf:  This visitor has been stuck without an answer on that for quite some time. Very good news! Thank you Carl.

Question #13: If I marry a US citizen when can I apply for US citizenship? How many years?

Carl Shusterman:  We call this the 3 threes rule. If you have been a permanent resident for 3 years, have been married for 3 years, and your spouse has been a US citizen for 3 years, you can apply for naturalization 3 months prior to achieving 3 years of permanent residency.

Question #14: I am having trouble finding information about my field office in Hartford, CT. Can you help?

Carl Shusterman: The INS web site contains an excellent new section entitled "INS field offices" simply click on a map of the United States which you can find at http://shusterman.com/ins.html   and learn the functions of the Hartford office.

Jennifer Wipf:  Or any office for that matter. Thank you.

Question #15:  If I apply for citizenship, is the delay dependent on which state I live in? Is the delay much greater in certain areas?

Carl Shusterman:  Naturalization processing times vary tremendously depending on what part of the country you live in. They range from 30-60 days in Honolulu, HAWAII, up to 3 years in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The INS Commissioner promises that by October 2,000 the average processing time for naturalization will be 6 months.

Only time will tell.

Jennifer Wipf:  O.K. everyone, it is time to say goodnight to Mr. Shusterman. You may stay and chat amongst yourselves when I turn moderation off if you'd like.

Thank you Carl! I'm really pleased! This has been a very informative chat!  I see dozens of "thank you's" on the screen again.

Carl Shusterman:  Thank you for inviting me. I am always happy to hear what subjects people are interested in and to try to answer their questions. I look forward to next week's chat on temporary visas.

You can see a list of my chats at http://Shusterman.com/toc-chat.html

Good night all!

Good night Carl!

Jennifer Wipf:  I hope I got to most of your questions and I'm sorry if I missed some of you! Please note that I could not take questions that were off the topic of citizenship.

Many answers can be found on Shusterman's site.  Peter and I, your editors to Immigration Issues at Born Abroad  will be happy to help you and direct you to the specific information you need.

You can also send us any comments about this chat and how to improve the next one. We will work hard to make these chats valuable for you,  and will share comments with Mr. Shusterman as well.  Write to  immigration.guide@about.com.

And last but not least....

Remember that the size and professional nature of   Shusterman's chats require a moderator.

However, feel free to drop into our Chat Room to chat with each other anytime you'd like. You can page us, or an immigration chat buddy to the room to discuss or lament the process with others going through it.

You can also exchange messages at our Forum Boards. Both these community tools are available to you every day and we encourage you to use them.

All Shusterman chats are listed at http://Shusterman.com/toc-chat.html

From anywhere on our Born Abroad site, you can also check the schedule for Shusterman Chats, as well as our immigration club chats and online support groups, simply by hitting the Events link up by our photos on every page of this site.

Carl Shusterman, Peter and I all wish you much success on the  path to American Citizenship and in all the goals you pursue.  Thank you all for coming and we will see you next week!

Remember to follow-up with these informative pages:

What to Bring to Your Citizenship Interview courtesy of  Carl Shusterman, Esq.

INS on Effect of Failure to Register for Selective Service courtesy of Carl Shusterman, Esq.

Happy Citizenship Day!   from your Born Abroad guides to Immigration Issues.

Reference:

Shusterman's Citizenship Page

About Citizenship Page

INS Citizenship Page

 

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� Peter and Jennifer Wipf 1999-2005.  All rights reserved. No duplication without explicit written permission.

From Jennifer Leavitt-Wipf,
Your Guide to Immigration Issues.
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