N-400 Field Guide
In the PDF pages below, immigration attorney Scott Mossman has identified the most common Form N-400 errors and problem areas. Consider his comments to be a field guide to issues that naturalization applicants should be wary of. Note, however, that other less common issues may also arise. Consult with an experienced immigration attorney if you have any doubt about whether you should apply for naturalization.
N-400 Biographical & Residence Questions
Pages 1 through 5 of the N-400 concern the applicant‘s biographical information, residence history, and parents. The most common mistake is to not list all other names used, including names that appear on criminal records, names from prior marriages, and nicknames that other people know the person by.
Applicants should also be aware that the eligibility questions in Part 1 do not list all of the potential ways of qualifying for naturalization or citizenship. Congress has created more generous criteria for persons who have served honorably in the U.S. military and for other favored groups.
Employment, Travel, Marriages & Children
The questions on pages 6 through 11 of the N-400 may not seem significant, but it is surprising how many applicants end up in trouble because of them. In particular, answers to the marital or employment questions can cast doubt on whether the applicant was honest in the permanent residence application filed years earlier. Common marriage issues include: not disclosing an earlier marriage, bigamy (being married to 2 people at the same time), divorce from a U.S. citizen petitioner shortly after obtaining permanent resident status, and re-marriage of a prior spouse. The parentage of the applicant‘s children may also raise questions about whether a marriage was genuine.
Another serious issue is abandonment of residence. Examples of when this issue might arise include where the applicant has worked outside of the U.S., his or her spouse or minor children live outside the U.S., or the applicant has spent a substantial amount of time abroad. It may be an issue even if the applicant meets the separate requirement of being physically present in the U.S. for more than half of the qualifying time period for naturalization.
Good Moral Character & Attachment to Constitution
Most applicants understand that they need to talk to an attorney if they answer yes to any of the questions on pages 12 through 15 of the N-400. Unfortunately, though, too many applicants skim through these questions quickly and don‘t realize that a question may apply. Or, the applicant feels that what he or she did was not serious, so he or she doesn‘t think a “yes” answer is necessary. That usually is not a safe assumption. Check with an immigration lawyer to be sure.