The N-400 Application to become a U.S. Citizen can be a landmine for Permanent Residents who do not understand the critical link between the I-751 Removal of Conditions and Citizenship process. An N-400 Naturalization Application often resembles an audit. Hopefully, with the help of experienced immigration counsel you will file for Naturalization successfully without delay or surprise based on the below pointers.
An I-751 Removal of Conditions application is required for couples who apply for U.S. immigration status while being married less than two years. This application required a second interview traditionally to remove conditions and receive outright Permanent Resident Status in the United States. However, the trend by U.S. Immigration & Citizenship Services ("USCIS") is to not conduct an interview and instead mail the new 'unconditional' Green Card based on the papers only.
For example, a lady came to our law firm exasperated because she had applied for Citizenship by herself, and she could not understand why USCIS issued an RFE for her to provide proof that her and her husband lived together for the relevant period of time up until they divorced. In the client's mind, she had already handled this matter. However, as I pushed her with questioning, she finally confessed, that the couple had filed the I-751 application together despite being separated after only living together a few months of marriage. Instead of filing an I-751 waiver (not the topic of this short post), which would have solved the problem, her and her former spouse decided to file jointly and she received her Permanent Resident Status for her and her minor daughter.
All was well, she thought, so she proceeded to naturalize by filing the N-400 application also by herself without the assistance of an immigration lawyer. Ultimately, her case was denied and she was placed in final removal proceedings along with her daughter who was a derivative beneficiary.
Lessons learned here are the following:
- Sit down with an immigration attorney to review your I-751 conditional removal application before filing.
- Determine if a waiver is needed.
- Be prepared for retroactive questioning on your I-751 application when applying for future benefits such as Naturalization; and
- Only begin the N-400 application process for Citizenship with an immigration attorney who will prepare your case by carefully 'auditing' all your prior immigration history and facts to reduce or eliminate the chance of delay or denial of the application.
ScottVassell Law Firm has been in practice for over 22 years, and offers initial free 20 minute meetings by video or in person. We serve clients throughout the United States & abroad from our offices located in Washington D.C, Fairfax, Virginia and Bethesda, Maryland. Our immigration lawyers are members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association ("AILA").