PROBLEM-SOLVING PRACTICUM ESSAY
Getting United States Citizenship
Getting United States Citizenship
The United States affords citizenship to immigrants who satisfy the requirements
for naturalization as specified by the Immigration and Nationality Act. An immigrant is
eligible to apply for citizenship if he or she is:
At least 18 years of age
A lawful permanent resident of the United States for at least five years
Able to prove continuous residence in the united states for at least five years
and a total physical presence in the United States for a total of at least 30 months in that
five year period
Able to show he or she has inhabited in the state in which he or she is
appealing for at least three months; and
A person of good moral character
If an immigrant satisfies these requirements, then they can apply for citizenship
by naturalization by filing form N-400 with the USCIS and submitting a sum of money
that includes the application fee and the biometric fee, that amounts to approximately
680$ (Schuck, 2018).
After submission of the application, the United States Citizenship and
Immigration Services schedule an appointment to collect the applicant’s details. Working
together with the Federal Bureau of Investigation background check is then done on the
immigrant by the USCIS. After the background check has been completed and the
application reviewed, an in-person interview is scheduled by the USCIS to determine the
applicant’s eligibility. This test is comprised of English and a public examination.
Finally, once approved by the USCIS, the applicant must attend a ceremony and take the
Oath of Allegiance to the United States, to become citizens.
Eligible immigrants face many challenges in the process of obtaining citizenship
by naturalization, which sometimes discourage immigrants from applying. These hurdles
include but are not confined to; high cost of citizenship, unfamiliarity to the requirements
for naturalization and not being familiar with the English language.
Accessing an Application for Naturalization (N-400) is hard, and understanding
the content even harder. This is true, particularly for immigrants whose mastery of the
English language is limited and have no assistance in the process. The N-400 form
contains more than a hundred questions, with the majority of them requiring prose
answers as opposed to ‘yes’ or ‘no’ responses. It may take up to two hours to read and
complete the form and an even longer time to collect and file the information required.
This average length of time is deterrent, without also considering that most immigrants
have language limitations. Up to half of the questions have legal consequences and
answering every question with the full knowledge of its legal ramifications is paramount
yes not many usually understand the context of the issues. The obstacle is even harder to
overcome for elderly immigrants who, due to their advanced age, have a harder time with
the extent of the questions. A research done in Boston by legal service providers found
that 35 percent of the respondents highlighted the lack of information on how to complete
the naturalization application was the top obstacle in the naturalization process
The U.S. Congress requires that all expenses incurred in the immigration process
be fully coved by the immigration fees. The USCIS thus reviews the actual cost of
processing an application for naturalization including the fingerprint and biometric fee
every two years. This puts a significant burden on the applicants as they are required to
pay hefty sums. In 2007, the cost was increased from $330 to $595 and consequently saw
a decrease of the naturalization applications from approximately 1.4 million to about
500,000. This had a profound impact on the number of immigrants applying for
citizenship by naturalization hence clearly showing how the cost of application is a
problem for immigrants wishing to apply for citizenship. Fee waivers are an option for
those who cannot afford the amount but the process of obtaining them is another
challenge. The lengthy documentation of their household incomes and expenses, even
after being eligible for federal benefits is off-putting. Also, rates of rejection of waiver
applications are high, accompanied by delayed processing of the application making it
unviable to apply for waives. Even harder to obtain, for the elderly and disabled is the
disability waiver. It requires service providers to work closely with doctors, disabled
applicants, and their families. Doctors may make mistakes or fail to provide the right
information hence requiring multiple visits to the doctor that is sometimes costly. Further
scrutiny of the applications for waivers and suspicion of fraud may lead to forms being
suspended indefinitely. Doctors who complete several requests for waivers may be
suspected of fraud and blacklisted (Kritz, 2015).
USCIS backlogs on processing naturalization applications are noteworthy,
reaching highs of 2 years in 1999. Even in its most efficient form, a backlog of 5 months
is still huge. Unluckily, some applicants must endure long waits due to delays by the
Federal Bureau of Investigation while processing security clearance checks. Applicants
submit their fingerprints and biometric data to USCIS. This data is forwarded to the FBI
to be searched in its national database to determine if the applicant has any criminal
record that may be a barrier to naturalization. Delays may be realized if the FBI decides
to crosscheck the applicant’s details in the international database. If the name gets a hit,
then it may be several months or even years before the name can be cleared.
Data entry errors may also occur. The USCIS relies on contractual hires to
conduct data entry of over a million applications for all immigration status changes every
year. In such a process, mistakes are bound to happen. Wrong dates, names and other
details may lead to more significant issues later. False names, for instance, may confuse
identification of people hence resulting in delays. Some data entry errors may be
classified as gross errors due to their implications. Data entry clerks may fail to enter a
form G-28 in the database. This is a form that alerts the USCIS that the applicant has
legal counsel hence all correspondences have to be run by both parties failed to do so
may lead to missed meetings and thus delaying the process.
Loss or misplacement of applications is also a possible occurrence. They could
be lost at the service center where they are filed initially or at the district level where the
cases are decided. The USCIS will close a citizenship application if and when an
applicant fails to respond to a notice for an appointment. Cases could be administratively
closed without the applicant’s knowledge if the change of address is not affected.
The introduction of an electronic filing system, much as it may be an
improvement on the efficiency of data recording, is a hindrance to several immigrants.
The applicant would be required to fill a 19-page form, pay $100 fee, and submit
fingerprints for opening an account with the USCIS before filing for status change.
Many low-income immigrants do not have access to computers and barely know how to
operate one therefor this may pose a significant barrier in their pursuit of benefits
accruing to status. In this pursuit, they may end up having to pay off intermediaries to get
the task completed. They may be duped, or information filled be false hence putting the
applicants at risk.
The quality of customer services may also be a hindrance to applicants wishing to
obtain citizenship. The difficulty of getting even the necessary information has led to
widespread criticism of the USCIS. More often than not, applicants usually have no
knowledge of the status of their cases, get no response and cannot reach information line
staff with the experience of their claims. They may receive hostile reactions from clerks
or useless information leaving them frustrated. A customer service line is provided for
tasks such as logging a change of address, correction of data entry errors, requesting the
return of original documents and even to seek the status of pending cases. This line,
unfortunately, is often busy hence rendering it redundant. When occasional problems
occur, in a case, it is often almost impossible to address them let alone resolving them.
Immigrants go to great lengths to access vital information. Visiting the local immigration
office is a long and painful exercise, considering its repetitive and lengthy nature. The
integration of Info Pass was a helpful addition, for those with access to computers. User
reviews also bring to notice its inefficiencies. Reports have it that the website is usually
so busy that it’s inaccessible during working hours (Joppke & Marawska, 2014).
Some obstacles are limited to a particular group of persons. Males aged 18 to 25
are required by law to register for selective services. Taxes owed to the IRS may also
hinder the process of obtaining citizenship. An application will undoubtedly be denied if
the applicant has outstanding charges.
Problems and Solutions
A good number of people applying for United States citizens do not know English
quite well but still, end up getting United States passports. For people who understand
English well, the part of the test that evaluates an applicant’s understanding of English
language is so easy while for non-English speakers, the answers can easily be memorized
and then passed. This challenge makes it possible for any person to get access to the
United States citizenship something that should be highly controlled for the safety of the
Having an evaluation process that is not liable to any form of bridging is quite
essential in ensuring that only qualified applicants become citizens. The issue of English
language is comfortable or easy to cram can be solved by changing the questions being
used ion a yearly basis. Doing this will make everything unpredictable to anybody who
would want to take advantage of the situation.
Another way of removing loopholes in the application process is through the use
of the oral interview. Frequent use of oral interview will enable the officers responsible
for the operation to know those who qualify to be citizens. Those who will not satisfy the
language requirements will be forced to ensure that they meet all the requirements.
Through the oral interview, it will be possible for the immigration department to
understand the naturalization applicants and advise them on the most appropriate steps to
take (Hing, 2012).
The interview process is also subject to copying and memorization in case the
same structure is used now and again. Changing the interview structure every year would
be helpful. Every time one comes for the interview, everything should not be as per their
expectations. This will ensure that only authentic people get the citizenship.
Obtaining a green card through spousal petition requires that the marriage should
not be fixed. The law requires the two couple to have lived together. When someone in
such kind of marriage finally seeks citizenship, they will have to be questioned again
about their marriage. The question usually is whether the person has lived under the same
roof with the United States citizen. The problem is that some people did not live with
their spouses at the time they were applying for naturalization. They managed to get their
green cards and then used to be full United States citizens.
Lying based on citizenship obtained through marriage petition is possible because
the database in the Department of Homeland Security is not enough to verify the
information given by such individuals. The best solution would be to come up with a data
system that keeps such records so that in the future, it can be easy to know those who are
giving genuine information. The databases should contain all issues about marriages and
record them for future use.
For native-born and immigrants, understanding the naturalization requirements
can be challenging and complex. The conditions are never consistent with the case of
every applicant meaning that each person has to have some legalized assistance to help
them determine their eligibility to apply for citizenship. Applying for citizenship usually
is a high risk, and one could lose six hundred and eighty dollars if they deny the
application. During the application process, the applicants could draw attention to
themselves making them at risk of deportation. Deportation mainly results from criminal
All the eligibility requirements can come loaded with complexities set for the age
requirements which are not quite a big issue in most cases. For the residency
requirements, variations could occur based on the situations of a particular applicant.
Depending on the age and the LPR status, the applicant can be exempted from the
English examination; some mental or physical disabilities could prevent a person from
taking the English or civics test; exemption can also be created for the part of the loyalty
oath. Meeting proper moral character requirements could be the most challenging part of
the application process. Criminal law and federal immigration law usually are acting
together, and form the most complex aspects of the American constitution. The
intersection between these two laws exposes an immigrant applying for naturalization to
so many possible risks.
Getting a United States citizenship can be considered as one of the most
significant achievements an immigrant could achieve. Most of the time, it comes after an
extended period of struggle through certain hurdles. In the past three years, more than
two point three million permanent residents of America have naturalized as citizens of
the United States. Over the same period, not less than two hundred and twenty-four
thousand permanent residents of the United States of America had their form N-400,
Application for Naturalization denied. Several reasons can lead to the denial of a Form
N-400 application (Vink, Prokic-Breuer & Dronkers, 2013).
Filling this form usually implies that the applicant has allowed the USCIS to
analyze once again and review the case file of the applicant. Such an event exposes the
applicant to some risks because the USICS can end up revealing some problems that had
been overlooked or ignored before. Some of the reasons that can lead to the continued
denial of Form N-400 application include;
The applicant may have failed the English or civic test during their initial
interview. In case of such failure, another meeting is usually scheduled after sixty to
ninety days of the first interview. In fact, the applicant fails the test for the second time;
the USCIS will deny the form N-400 application. It is notable that most people do pass
To avoid failure of English or civic test, it is essential for an applicant to make
good use of the study tools and flashcards available on How to Prepare for the
Citizenship Test and Interview. There are things that can come up from the N-400
application form. The best thing to do is to review the application form before submission
thoroughly. An applicant can always be asked by the USCIS officer to explain some of
their answers. Having a clear understanding of the solutions, one has written will help
them to solve the same openly. If an applicant’s language skills need some work, it would
be advisable for them to practice with friends or family members so that they can
improve on their areas of weakness.
Being aware of the procedures to be taken towards the exemption of an individual
from taking the English part of the Naturalization test is quite remarkable. The exceptions
usually apply in the following scenarios; for an applicant who is aged fifty years and
above and have been a permanent resident for not less than twenty years; exemptions also
apply for someone who is fifty-five years and above of age and has been a lifelong
resident for at least fifteen years. In case one has some physical or mental disability
which prevents them from learning English, they can get exempted from taking the test.
Claiming an exemption due to impairment occurs through the filing of the USCIS Form
N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions. This form should be submitted
together with the form N-600. For the disability certification to be valid, a qualified and
certified psychologist must append their signature on the form for it to be accurate.
The second issue that might make an applicant have their form N-400 rejected
is the presence of a criminal history. Anytime one is applying for naturalization; it is a
norm for the USCIS to get access to the applicant’s biometrics and run a background
check on any criminal record. The illegal test is not only limited to the crimes committed
by the States, but those crimes committed in other countries are also considered. A
criminal investigation is usually attached to meeting the reasonable moral character
requirement. Depending on the gravity of the crimes, a permanent resident can be
prevented from getting access to the United States citizenship either permanently or
Permanent denial of citizenship can usually occur in a case where one has been
convicted of murder or an aggravated felony. Such cases typically tie the hands of the
USCIS officers. They have entirely no discretion on such matters. The state and
immigration laws usually have different definitions of aggravated felonies. Crimes that
can be classified by other courts as misdemeanors can be defined very gravely by
immigration laws. This can be quite surprising, and one might not understand the reason
why. The immigration laws consider any crimes of burglary or theft which led to a one or
more imprisonment term as an aggravated felony. Permanent denial to the proper moral
character requirements is described by Volume twelve of chapter four of the USCIS
Some crimes usually make an applicant ineligible for United States citizenship for
a given period, usually three to five years. This means that the applicant will have to wait
for all this period before applying again. On the second application, the crime committed
will still be reviewed by the immigration officer. It is up to the officer to make discretion
in case the applicant meets the good moral character requirement.
The best solution for this problem is that in case an applicant has ever been
arrested, they should speak with an attorney who is well experienced in immigration
issues. The attorney should be spoken to before filing the Form N-400 Application for
Naturalization. It is said that it is impossible to run away from a criminal history because
it will finally catch up with the applicant. The best solution for this problem is consulting
with an experienced attorney to help the applicant review their criminal record and help
them with getting relief after conviction.
In addition to the reasons mentioned above, one can also have their Form N-
400 turned down because they did not meet the Continuous Residence and Physical
Presence requirements. At times, a permanent resident may have the feeling of traveling
back to their native countries to visit their friends and families. However, for one to have
a United States Citizenship, they should have stayed in America continuously over a
given period. Understanding the continuous residence and physical presence
requirements are quite significant.
Traveling outside the United States can always interfere with an applicant’s
continuous residence. Any trip abroad that extends up to six months or longer should be
avoided by someone who wishes to apply for naturalization.
The physical presence requirement recommends that the applicant should have
been present physically within the States for over the past five years. Generally, one must
have had thirty months of physical presence in the United States before they can think of
applying for naturalized citizenship. Exceptions, however, exist for specific groups of
applicants. Applicants married to United States Citizens and individuals working for the
US government overseas do not have to meet these requirements.
Understanding the continuous residence and physical presence usually is hard at
times. It is, therefore, essential for one to appreciate their implications. Someone who
would wish to apply for naturalized citizenship should consider planning their traveling
outside America in a way that might not affect their application. Trips that are six months
or longer should be avoided as much as possible. However, any trip that is less than six
months will not affect naturalization of citizenship. A journey that is more than twelve
months would break the continuous residence requirement. During an application for
citizenship, it is a requirement for them to cut the presumption that they did not meet the
continuous residence requirements. Evidence has to be provided that shows that the
applicant maintained continuous ties with the United States up to the time they are
applying for naturalized citizenship. Some of the components of the evidence that are
recommended by the USCIS include; during the absence, the applicant did not in any
way terminate or attempt to end their employment within the United States, or they did
not have any job while they were away. Evidence should also be provided to indicate that
the immediate family of the applicant remained within the United States during their
travel. Evidence that shows that the applicant retained full access to their United States
abode should also be provided. In case of an ambiguous situation in which one has stayed
outside the United States for more than six months but wants to apply for full citizenship,
it is advisable for such a person to seek the help of an immigration lawyer. Such a
professional can analyze the underlying situation and give proper advice on what should
be done in such case.
A one-year absence usually has quite some implications. Continuity of residence
is generally broken in case one is away for one year during the period in which a
continuous residency is required. This kind of absence can affect the applicant even if it...