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Planning for the future: become a U.S. citizen now

During the November 2008 presidential election we saw one of the many reasons why becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen was (and is) so valuable: the ability to…

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During the November 2008 presidential election we saw one of the many reasons why becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen was (and is) so valuable: the ability to vote for those who lead our country, on both a national and local level. Now that the presidential election, the “big one”, is over, is it really worthwhile to file for U.S. citizenship? The answer is a resounding “yes”.  How then do you get started?

Many immigrants turn to USCIS sanctioned non-profit organizations which are trained and authorized to file N-400 forms on behalf of community members. Others turn to immigration attorneys who are also “N-400 savvy” but many choose the harder road—to file on their own. In certain cases such as where an individual has a criminal record, has been outside of the U.S. for too long a period and may have unwittingly lost his/her immigrant status or just plain doesn’t yet qualify for citizenship, filing an application without proper legal counsel is simply not a good idea.  However, for others whose immigration histories are less complex and who meet the statutory guidelines of proficiency in English, sufficient physical presence in the U.S., possess general naturalization eligibility and do not wish to spend money to hire immigration counsel, filing on their own becomes a major option. This is especially so in light of the increased USCIS naturalization filing fees; an application for naturalization now costs $675.

On March 10, 2009, USCIS offered guidance to those who wish to pursue citizenship on its website. This website contains updated naturalization publications and study materials, which include the following:

A Guide to Naturalization, M-476
The Citizen’s Almanac, M-76
__ Includes an updated message from the USCIS Director
__ English available online: www.uscis.gov/files/nativedocuments/M-76.pdf
__ Also available for purchase at the U.S. Government Printing Office at http://bookstore.gpo.gov
__ Revised to reflect the new requirement, effective January 22, 2009, that
applicants must submit Form N-400 to a USCIS Lockbox for processing
__ English available online: www.uscis.gov/natzguide

If you are considering filing a naturalization application, this website is a good place to begin. Read and review it and if you are comfortable filing for naturalization on your own, do so (but please remember to keep a full copy of your application just in case USCIS loses it).  Do also remember, however, that hiring qualified immigration counsel is often well worth the money spent, for a skilled immigration attorney can not only guide you throughout the procedure but also monitor your case to make sure that it is properly filed and remains “on track”!

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