There are many important things that must be done for every type of immigration process regardless of whether someone is fixing their papers through immigration services or through the court system. This is also true for individuals who qualify for naturalization following their residency requirements as a permanent resident. Just as with all processes, it is important to plan ahead and prepare for the citizenship process because it is not automatic and it is possible to have your request denied. Below are some of the most common problems that clients have with applying for and qualifying for naturalization.
First of all, almost all of my clients have been unaware of the Selective Service requirement. The requirement applies to almost all male U.S. citizens and male immigrants 18 through 25 years old. Ignorance of the requirement is no excuse and failure to comply will make you ineligible for naturalization. So, what is the Selective Service? According to the government, it is a way to keep a list of names of men from which to draw in case of a national emergency requiring rapid expansion of our Armed Forces. It's important to know that this is NOT mandatory military service as required in almost every developed nation on earth. Even though someone is registered, they will not automatically be inducted into the military. In a crisis requiring a draft, men would be called in sequence determined by random lottery number and year of birth and then be examined for mental, physical and moral fitness by the military. Given that the United States is the largest voluntary army in the world, it is unlikely that a draft would ever be needed and this registration is merely a formality.
Another common mistake people make is not taking the testing seriously or even knowing what the requirements are for passing the citizenship test. All requestors of naturalization are required to have the ability to read, write, and speak English and to have basic knowledge of US civics and history. There are many ways of preparing for this part of your citizenship eligibility with a lot of resources available for self-study. For those who are not comfortable with their understanding of English or the ability to study on their own, I recommend finding a free citizenship class at a local organization or enrolling in a formal class that will give you the assistance you need to pass the test the first time around. Although the government gives you a chance to re-take the test, this is limited too. If you fail to pass a second time, your request for citizenship will be denied. Preparation before you file your citizenship application is critical.
Another recommendation for preparing for a successful request for citizenship would be to keep close record of ALL travel outside the United States. International travel is one of the most closely scrutinized parts of the application. The government wants to make very sure that you are following all the restrictions placed on permanent residents for travel and to make sure that an applicant is not a threat to the people of the United States. It is not enough to just provide copies of your passport. You must provide detailed information about the dates leaving and arriving into the US and the places visited while outside the US. I recommend keeping a document where you can track this information so that it will be easier to remember when completing the naturalization paperwork. It is also important in the event that the USCIS agent asks for details about past trips. Remember, they have all the power when it comes to approving and recommending a permanent resident for citizenship. If they do not trust your information, they will probably deny your request.
Obviously there are many benefits to becoming an US Citizen, but probably the most important one for immigrants is the ability to sponsor other family members. Talk to your immigration attorney about the requirements for family petitions and who you can sponsor.