Feel free to send us suggestions or questions about this site. To set up a consultation and pay by credit card, please call 203 239-2299. We’re open Monday-Thursday 8:00 am-6:00 pm, Eastern time.
We charge $300 for a consultation with one of our attorneys.
Call us at 203 239-2299.(M-Th, 8-6 ET) to pay by credit card and set a time for your consultation.
Feel free to send us suggestions or questions about this site. To set up a consultation and pay by credit card, please call 203 239-2299. We’re open Monday-Thursday 8:00 am-6:00 pm, Eastern time.
Attorney Michael Boyle has practiced immigration law since 1993. The Martindale-Hubbell attorney rating service* has assigned him its highest rating, AV. He is listed in The Best Lawyers in America,* the New England, Connecticut and Corporate Counsel editions of SuperLawyers, and is a James Cooper Fellow of the Connecticut Bar Association. He was a member of the Board of Governors of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Chapter Chair of the Association’s Connecticut chapter from 2003-2005. He has provided training presentations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association and its Connecticut chapter, the Connecticut Bar Association, the Federal Bar Association, the Connecticut public defender’s office and other groups.
Attorney Boyle is a graduate of Yale (BA, 1979), the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (MA, 1980), and the University of Connecticut (JD, 1993). He speaks Portuguese and Spanish. He was the Chief Negotiator for Locals 34 and 35, Federation of University Employees, UNITE HERE, at Yale from 1991 to 2005.
Attorney Isabelle Barreira handles a wide range of family, citizenship, domestic violence and employment green card cases. She speaks Portuguese, Spanish and French. Attorney Barreira is a graduate of the Quinnipiac University School of Law and Western Connecticut State University.
*Martindale-Hubbell, Best Lawyers in America and SuperLawyers organize and publish attorney peer review ratings. Ratings reflect the opinions of attorneys and judges.
We charge $300 to have one of our attorneys review your application with you. If you have prepared a pdf (Acrobat) copy of your N-400 citizenship application, call our office at 203 239-2299 (Monday-Thursday 8:00-6:00, Eastern time), pay by credit card, and set a time for your consultation. (Allow 45-90 minutes for the consultation.) We’ll email you so that you can email your N-400 form to us for review. Please only call to set up an appointment. Our assistants can’t give legal advice, and we’ll answer your questions during your appointment.
Then one of our attorneys will call you at the arranged time to review your application and the interview process and hopefully give you the legal advice you need. In most cases that consultation will result in orienting you to what the interview will be like and giving you the green light to file your case with Immigration; in other cases the result will be our suggesting that you seek the help of an attorney in your area because your case has some problems, or advising you not to apply at all.
I think so. Here’s why.
Immigration law is complicated. Citizenship law is complicated. The length of the citizenship form and the questions on it give some hint of this, but they are just the start of the problem. Can paying your taxes late or being behind on alimony or child support affect your naturalization application? How about a having had a shoplifting charge dismissed after you completed a program suggested by a court? What about having extended your visit to your home country from two months to seven months when your father or mother became ill while you were visiting? Any of these situations and dozens of others could be a problem. At least one of these problems could result in your being placed in removal proceedings (deportation). Whether something could cause problems in your case varies on when it occurred, the exact facts of what happened, what the laws of your state are and on how you explain them in your application and at your interview.
Don’t make the mistake of relying on the advice of relatives and friends or copying their old applications. Have an attorney prepare your application.
An Immigration examiner’s job is to enforce the law. The examiner is not a teacher, guidance counselor or therapist. He or she is not here to be “on your side.” While most examiners are businesslike and many are helpful and friendly, it is not their job to get you out of a jam if you are ineligible for citizenship or deportable or to teach you what you should have known before you applied.
Worse still, a significant minority of examiners have negative attitudes. What you might think of as a small problem (carrying an expired driver’s license, forgetting to list a thirty-year old dismissed criminal charge on your application, marital problems, or changing jobs soon after getting your green card) may seem large to a jaundiced examiner.
Hoping that the examiner will like you and help you over any bumpy moments of your interview is not a sound strategy for gaining citizenship. Having a lawyer complete your application and advise you makes more sense.
The citizenship application is a ten-page form that asks for a lot of data. You need to gather that data before you fill out Form N-400. Check off every point before you fill out the form or call us!
These are areas that can trip up an application, leading to a denial or being put in removal proceedings in some cases.
After talking to you, we may suggest that you not apply for naturalization or not apply until after you obtain detailed advice from an attorney in your area. If you do make an appointment and have a consultation with us, we will charge you for the consultation, even if we recommend not going forward.
Does this seem like a lot of information? It is. Trust us when we tell you that you are far better off gathering it in advance so that your application will be complete and correct. Cutting corners and submitting an incomplete application and hoping to “fill in the gaps” later on can lead to problems: minor ones, like rejection of your filing or irritating your examiner; or major ones; like having your application denied and being put in removal proceedings.
Many Immigration examiners apply a tough standard when evaluating “gray area” moral character problems. Similarly, many examiners treat errors, small evasions or misunderstandings that arise during the interview as evidence of bad moral character. Be aware that your examiner – however polite he or she may be – may take a very critical view of your past errors and your answers during the interview. It is also common for naturalization examiners to review how you got your green card and to critically examine changed circumstances like a divorce shortly after gaining a green card through marriage, or a job change shortly after gaining a green card through work.
Minor crimes and many other problems may be considered against you, especially repeat offenses or a negative trend that carries over into the three- or five-year good moral character period. Examples include:
Many examiners will give you the benefit of the doubt if you took action to correct tax, child support or alimony problems shortly after they arose. Gather evidence like payment agreements, receipts, or cancelled checks to show the efforts you made.
Expect close scrutiny of how you got your green card, even if you got it twenty years ago. Some common problems: Did you separate or divorce shortly after getting your final green card through marriage?; Were you sponsored by an employer but never started work in the job or changed jobs very quickly after getting your green card?; Did you get your green card in the 1987-88 amnesty programs using false evidence?; Did you get your green card as an unmarried child but had married before your application was finally approved?. Be prepared to prove that there were no problems with your original application, even if you got your green card many years ago. Do not assume that your having been approved long ago will cover you today.
During your interview be careful to not lie, be evasive or repeat or reinforce errors in your application. Some USCIS examiners treat errors or misunderstandings (like forgetting or downplaying a past arrest or tax problem) as false testimony and deny the application, even if the errors or misunderstandings themselves would not be a basis for denying your application.
You can avoid serious problems by carefully recalling your personal, immigration and criminal history, reviewing it with your attorney prior to applying, and being honest and direct with the examiner during your interview. Avoid being defensive or blaming others for past problems. If you have any doubts about your immigration history, or whether you might have been arrested or filed or paid taxes late, request those records and consult an attorney before you start applying for citizenship.
You must demonstrate good moral character for the full three- or five-year residence period; Immigration may also consider earlier conduct, particularly if it is related to problems in the three- or five-year period. Although the legal definition of good moral character for naturalization purposes is character consistent with “the standards of average citizens” in your community, a surprising number of applicants are rejected for failure to meet the good moral character requirement for citizenship.
Why? Some bars to establishing good moral character are complex, and others fall into “gray areas,” subject to varying interpretation. Many Immigration examiners apply a tougher standard than the basic definition would suggest or treat errors or misunderstandings that arise during the interview as evidence of bad moral character. Be aware that your examiner – however polite he or she may be – may take a very critical view of your past errors and your answers during the interview.
Several problems automatically bar you from proving good moral character even if they occurred long before the three- or five-year good moral character period. Among the most common are:
Others constitute an automatic bar if they occured in the three- or five-year good moral character period. Even after this time has passed and they no longer bar naturalization absolutely, they will likely have a negative impact on your application:
Many of these grounds can also subject you to being placed in removal (deportation) proceedings, even for old offenses. Many people are put into removal proceedings because they unwisely made citizenship applications that brought their past offenses to Immigration’s attention.
Many people think of arrests as dramatic events where bad guys are rounded up, handcuffed, and thrown into a crowded cell at the police station. However, most arrests involve a police offer handing you a citiation that you have to answer in court (or in some cities and states by pleading no contest or guilty through the mail). Think very hard (or better still consult an immigration lawyer) before saying that you have never been arrested.
In addition, many people who are arrested participate in court programs that result in the charges being dropped and a judge telling them that they can answer no when asked if they have been arrested. Immigration does not agree that these arrests “no longer exist.” Immigration requires applicants to list the arrest and how the case was decided on Form N-400. Whether Immigration recognizes the court dismissal of the charges as a dismissal or as a conviction varies depending on state law. It may not seem fair, but some state court dismissals are considered convictions for immigration purposes. This is another reason that it makes sense to get an attorney’s advice before applying for citizenship.
Residence means your principal dwelling place, in other words, where you really live. If you have a second residence outside the country, CIS must consider it to be secondary to your United States residence.
You have to have lived in the state or CIS district where you will be interviewed for three months prior to filing your naturalization application. If you have moved to a new USCIS district in the last ninety days, don’t apply until you have ninety days at your new address.
You must have resided in the US continuously for five years just prior to filing your N-400 application. The time period is reduced to three years if you have been married to and living with your United States citizen spouse for the three years or if you gained residence based on having been battered by your United States citizen spouse (also called a VAWA application.)
The rules on disruption of residence can be tricky. CIS will likely consider your residence to be disrupted if you travel outside of the US for more than 180 days. If at all possible, avoid traveling outside the US for more than 180 days at a time. If you did travel for more than 180 days, preserve evidence that you did not intend to disrupt your residence when you took the trip. Try to show that you kept your job, house or apartment, bank accounts, car, etc. here in the US. If your trip was unexpectedly prolonged by a relative’s sudden illness, get medical records to show this.
CIS will consider your residence to be disrupted if you travel for a year or more, even if you requested a travel permit in advance. Limited exceptions exist for government personnel, missionaries and employees of US companies stationed overseas who file Form N-470 to preserve their residence for citizenship purposes. Again, if gaining citizenship is important to you, plan in advance and divide your travel into shorter trips of under 180 days.
You must have been physically present in the United States for at least half of the five- or three-year pre-filing period: To see if you meet this requirement, just count the days that you spent in and out of the United States in the three- or five-year period. For the purposes of measuring residence and physical presence, the United States includes Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands.
Most applicants will need to understand and answer questions in English and to read and write a short sentence in English. They also need to correctly answer six questions on a ten-question test about US civics and history.
If you are over fifty-five years old and have had a green card for at least fifteen years or are over fifty and have had a green card for at least twenty years, you can be interviewed and answer the civics and history questions in your own language and you do not have to demonstrate your ability to read and write. In addition, applicants whose disability prevents them from being able to show their English proficiency can be exempted from either part of the testing or given a modified procedure based on their disability. Disability waivers are very hard to obtain and require an expert medical opinion. See our disability page for more information.
Everyone except for a limited number of disabled applicants has to pass the civics and history test. As noted above, older applicants with long residence may take this exam in their own language.
You will be asked ten questions randomly selected from a standard list. You to answer at least six questions correctly to pass. Take some time to study the questions on the list you will be tested on. Fortunately, whether in English or in translation, diligent study over of few weeks should be enough for you to take the exam with confidence.
You can find the questions here. Applicants over sixty-five have their questions selected from a twenty-five question list. For the new test, the twenty-five questions are marked with asterisks (the star * sign) on the question list.
If you completed high school in the US or another English-speaking country, you probably have little to worry about in the reading and writing portions of the exam.
However, even if English is not your first language, and you are uncomfortable writing in English, the new testing system gives you a good chance of passing the test. The sentences that you will be asked to read and write write use words that relate to US history and civics, and USCIS has given you complete vocabulary lists to study from. If you take the time to recognize how these words sound and to learn how they are spelled, you should be able to pass the reading and writing exercises.
• American Indians
• Civil War
• Father of Our Country
• freedom of speech
• White House
• New York City
• Washington, D.C.
• United States
• Presidents’ Day
• Memorial Day
• Flag Day
• Independence Day
• Labor Day
• Columbus Day
OTHER WORDS (what USCIS calls function words)
OTHER WORDS (what USCIS calls content words)
• dollar bill
• one hundred/100
Samples sentences to read or write
These samples are similar in difficulty to those used by USCIS
Presidents’ Day is in February.
Congress meets in Washington, D.C.
Alaska is the largest state.
George Washington is the Father of Our Country.
Independence Day is in July.
The White House is in Washington, D.C.
If you do not meet the English or civics requirements on your first try, you get one additional chance at no charge. Your second interview should take place within two to three months.
Are you eligible to apply for citizenship? from Michael Boyle on Vimeo. 2 min.
Do you meet the minimum eligibility requirements for naturalization? Some of the requirements are easy to understand and measure, while others are more complicated and difficult to assess. This page of our site (and the next one, called “Should you apply?”) offer an introduction via written materials, podcasts or videos. More importantly, if you use our service, an attorney will review your application, answer your questions, and help ensure that you meet the requirements to naturalize.
An attorney can be a valuable guide in ensuring that you meet all the requirements to naturalize. While the materials on our site can be of value in educating yourself about the requirements for citizenship, they are not a substitute for a detailed, frank consultation with one of our attorneys.
The advantages of citizenship are significant, and obvious. You can vote. You can sponsor a broader range of relatives to immigrate to the US, and bring them here more quickly and easily than a permanent resident can. Your permanent resident children, under eighteen and in your custody, automatically acquire citizenship when you do. You enjoy more favorable estate tax treatment than permanent residents. You cannot be deported. You may be eligible for government benefits that permanent residents are not. You can travel or live abroad for as long as you want without having to worry about losing your right to live in the United States.
Remember that when you make a naturalization application, you open your whole life to close scrutiny by the government. Tax problems, family problems, legal or criminal problems, and even immigration problems from the distant past are all of interest to the government. In the worst case, a citizenship application can lead to deportation. In our materials we try to point out some of the most common problems. Others can be unearthed as you review and complete your application with one of our attorneys.
Another concern is how becoming a citizen of the United States can effect your status in your country of nationality or birth. Does that country recognize dual nationality, or will you lose your status there? Our written materials provide some guidance, but you may want to speak to your “other” country’s consulate or consult a lawyer from that country.
Finally, the application process is time-consuming, stressful, and not inexpensive. The questionnaire is long, and the real significance of the questions is not always obvious. If everything goes smoothly, you can expect to pay $680 in fees to the government, and to lose at least half a day of work when you go for your interview. If you have not anticipated what Immigration wants or if you encounter other problems, you will likely spend additional time, and perhaps money, responding to a request for evidence, returning for a second interview, or making an appeal or second application. (Or you may give up in frustation and have an abandonment or denial on your record.)
Our service is designed to provide you with guidance in preparing and pursuing (or deciding not to pursue) your naturalization. We want you to have a realistic understanding of the citizenship process and any risks in your case. If you decide to go forward, we want the process to go as smoothly as possible for you.
We are citizenship attorneys. Our site offers a lot of information about citizenship: who is eligible, who should and should not apply, updates on immigration law, etc.
Would you like you have one of our attorneys review your application with you for $300? If you have prepared a pdf (Acrobat) copy of your N-400 citizenship application, call our office at 203 239-2299 (Monday-Thursday 8:00-6:00, Eastern time), pay by credit card, and set a time for your consultation. (Allow 45-90 minutes for the consultation.) Please only call to set up an appointment. Our assistants can’t give legal advice, and we’ll answer your questions during your appointment.
Then one of our attorneys will call you to review your application, talk about the interview process and hopefully give you the legal advice you need. In most cases that consultation will result in orienting you to what the interview will be like and giving you the green light to file your case with Immigration; in other cases the result will be our suggesting that you seek the help of an attorney in your area because your case has some problems, or advising you not to apply at all.
For now, enjoy browsing the site and learning about applying for citizenship. Feel free to send us an email with your suggestions on improving the site.
Some USCIS officers are very interested in your life. If they want to know about you, they have lots of resources to help them find out. Most of these resources are electronic: to send investigators to your home or work normally requires the cooperation of another DHS agency U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). However, without little effort or anyone’s help the officer interviewing you should have access to essentially all of your immigration file, your record in immigration, customs and FBI criminal record databases. With just a little effort, your file can be referred to USCIS’s Office of Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) for much more thorough research. DHS is the biggest subscriber to online services that aggregate the information found in the big 3 credit reporting services and public records (like marriage, divorce, and death records, car registrations, lawsuits, liens and real estate transactions) nationwide. The services contain a vast amount of information about you, and they can be the starting point for even more far-reaching investigations.
And USCIS knows all about Facebook, MySpace, Orkut and other online sites, as this FDNS memo recently released in response to a Freedom of Information request by a privacy right group shows. “Narcissistic tendencies in many people fuels a need to have a large group of “friends” link to their pages and many of these people accept cyber-friends that they don’t even know. This provides an excellent vantage point for FDNS to observe the daily life of beneficiaries and petitioners who are suspected of fraudulent activities.” (You can see the memo here.) So that friend request from someone you don’t quite recognize may be from a USCIS examiner.
Remember what your friends and your mother told you about being careful about what you post online. Hold those narcissistic tendencies to share white lies, exaggerated feelings about disputes with your spouse or partner, wild or unfaithful conduct on vacation, etc. in check.
Don’t underestimate what Immigration knows about you. If you and your spouse separated but worked things out, be ready to prove it, not to hide it. (This advice is even truer if you didn’t work it out. Never hide things like children born out of wedlock, arrests that were thrown out, etc.) If your friends signed you up to a Facebook group for boy-man love or spouse-swapping, don’t be surprised if USCIS knows. Use caution, not just common sense, in your online privacy settings, don’t take friend requests from strangers, and hire a lawyer and tell your lawyer the truth before you make a USCIS application.