This quiz is based on interesting situations that you may face during a citizenship fair.
1. Can Lilah proceed with her application today?
Scenario: Lilah has had her green card since 1996. She wants to apply to become a citizen. She mentions she has had several criminal arrests – but that they are “no big deal.”
- A. Tell her that since her arrests are “no big deal” that she should apply to naturalize.
- B. Tell her how to get certified copies of her criminal record and either return next month to Swap Meet Justice or make an appointment with an immigration attorney, because a lawyer needs to review her records.
Answer: “B” – People often forget the precise details of their criminal record and immigration law is extremely particular when it comes to certain crimes. This area of law is increasingly referred to as “crim-imm” and is a realm of both criminal and immigration law reserved for experts in eitherfield. Do not try to “muddle” your way through this or offer false expectations to the client.
2. What is Maria’s legal name?
Note: This seems like a simple question but US legal documents only have three slots for names (first, middle, and last) while clients from Hispanic America will often have at least four names, which accounts for confusion on US documents.
Many clients will have two given names, plus a paternal surname (primer apellido or apellido paterno)and a maternal surname (segundo apellido or apellido materno). The second given name can act as a first name, a middle name, or be grouped together with the first name. In Mexico, the wife usually drops her second “apellido” and replaces it with her husband’s first “apellido”, sometimes adding a “de” in front of his family name. In Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Puerto Rico, women do not change their two surnames upon marriage, while in Argentina, women may choose to add on their spouse’s name. Couples in Ecuador decide together on the order of the two family names. In accordance with US naming customs, some people register the father’s surname without giving reference to the mother to avoid legal and clerical complications in the future. However, this is not thecase for this next client…
Scenario: You are assisting Maria, a Mexican national, with her naturalization application. You must fill out her name on Part 2, which asks both for her current legal name and her Permanent Resident card name. Looking at her identification, you see a number of name variations. She would like to write down Maria Teresa Jimenez as her current legal name. How do you fill out questions 1 and 2 on page 1 of the form? Here are her ID’s.
- Birth Certificate: Maria Teresa Valdez García
- Driver’s License: Maria Valdez Jimenez (Jimenez is her husband’s name)
- Marriage License: Maria Teresa Valdez Jimenez
- Green Card: Maria Teresa Valdez
- Social Security Card: Maria T. Valdez-Jimenez
- Passport: Maria T. Valdez Jimenez
- Part 2, Question 1: Legal Name – “Maria Teresa Valdez Jimenez.” From the USCIS: “Your current legal name is the name on your birth certificate UNLESS it changed after birth by a legal action such as a marriage or court order. Do not provide a nickname.” If the client doesn’t have a birth certificate, marriage or divorce documents, ask what their birth name was or use the name on their driver’s license.
- Part 2, Question 2: Name on Green Card – “Maria Teresa Valdez” From the USCIS: “print the name exactly as it appears on your Permanent Resident Card even if it is misspelled or has changed through marriage, divorce, or other court order since you received your card.
- Part 2, Question 3: Other names your client has used: Write down all the extra names here, plus any nicknames, aliases and maiden names. For this client, you will need an addendum to encompass all the variants.
- Part 2, Question 4: Change her name? “Maria Teresa Jimenez” Maria can legally change her name here and she wants to simplify it. According to the USCIS, this change will not be final until she is naturalized by the court. If she wants the court to change her name at her naturalization oath ceremony, select “Yes” and complete this section. She does not need to request a name change if her name has changed through marriage, divorce, or other court order.
3. What is José’s legal name?
Scenario: You are assisting José, a Mexican national, and Maria’s husband with his naturalization application. How do you fill out questions 1 and 2 on page 1 of the form? Here are his ID’s.
- Birth Certificate: José Luis Jimenez Díaz (1st name, 2nd name, 1st LN, 2nd LN)
- Driver’s License: José Jimenez
- Marriage License: José Luis Jimenez Díaz
- Green Card: José Luis Jimenez-Díaz
- Social Security Card: José L. Jimenez Díaz
- Passport: José Luis Jimenez
- Part 2, Question 1: Legal Name – “José Luis Jimenez Díaz.” From the USCIS: “Your current legal name is the name on your birth certificate unless it changed after birth by a legal action such as a marriage or court order. Do not provide a nickname.” If the client doesn’t have a birth certificate, use the name on his green card or driver’s license.
- Part 2, Question 2: Name on Green Card – “José Luis Jimenez-Díaz” From the USCIS: “print the name exactly as it appears on your Permanent Resident Card even if it is misspelled or has changed through marriage, divorce, or other court order since you received your card.
- Part 2, Question 3: Other names your client has used: Write down all the extra names here, plus any nicknames, aliases and maiden names. For this client, you will need an addendum to encompass all the variants.
- Part 2, Question 4: Change his name? “José Luis Jimenez.” José can legally change his name here and he also wants to simplify it. According to the USCIS, this change will not be final until he is at his Oath Ceremony. If he wants his name to be anything other than what is currently on the green card, select “YES” and complete this section.
Extra Credit – Place these names in alphabetical order!
- Víctor Emilio Cázares Salazar
- Laura Díaz-Brown
- Carlos Lage Cordoniu
- Carlos Enrique Cordoniu
- Roberto Alvarez Quiñones
- Irene del Río
- María del Carmen Pucci
- Alvarez Quiñones, Roberto
- Cázares Salazar, Victor Emilio
- Cordoniu, Carlos Enrique
- del Río, Irene
- Díaz-Brown, Laura
- Lage Cordoniu, Carlos
- Pucci, María del Carmen
4. What is Erica’s legal name?
Scenario: You are assisting Erica Boza, a Ugandan national, with her naturalization application. Comparing all of her identification documents, including her driver’s license, Social Security Card, and passport, you see two different names – “Bozo”and “Boza.” However, her LPR (Green) Card and her Ugandan birth certificate, issued 10 years after she was born, both list her as “Erica Bozo.” She tells you she has never used Bozo, ever, and that it was a mistake. She says she never had a problem getting her official documents to list her surname as Boza instead of Bozo, and that she prefers “Boza” (for obvious reasons).
- A. Just put Erica Boza, as listed on some of her identification pieces, since clearly the “Bozo” was a mistake, and anyway, Erica has never used that name.
- B. She will need to list both spellings on her N-400 and other application forms, but on Part 2, Question 4, she can state that she seeks to legally change her name to “Erica Boza.”
Answer: “B” – The USCIS most likely used her birth certificate name for her green card. It’s always better to be over-inclusive than under-inclusive in listing names for the Citizenship application because we do not want a client to be surprised at their Citizenship interview (where they will NOT have an attorney at their side). It is best to spear forthright and honest. Further, question Erica to confirm that this name “confusion” is in no way related to any sort of fraud or other criminal conduct. Always worth a double check!
- Part 2, Question 1: Legal Name – “Erica Bozo.” From the USCIS: “Your current legal name is the name on your birth certificate UNLESS it changed after birth by a legal action such as a marriage or court order.
- Part 2, Question 2: Name on Green Card – “Erica Bozo” From the USCIS: “print the name exactly as it appears on your Permanent Resident Card even if it is misspelled or has changed through marriage, divorce, or other court order since you received your card.
- Part 2, Question 3: Other names your client has used: Write down “Erica Boza” here, as well as any extra names, plus any nicknames, aliases and maiden names. For this client, you will not need an addendum.
- Part 2, Question 4: Change her name? “Erica Boza” Erica can legally change her name here to the one she wants. According to the USCIS, this change will not be final until she completes the Oath Ceremony as part of her naturalization application.
5. Must Min-Jun renew his green card in order to apply for naturalization?
Scenario: Min-Jun obtained his green card through his sister in 2005. He has never since traveled outside the United States. His “green card” (aka “legal permanent residence” or “LPR” card) expired in 2015. He never applied to renew it. He is otherwise eligible to apply for naturalization.
- A. No, because he is still a permanent resident even with an expired green card and the expired card is sufficient proof of that.
- B. Yes, because one of the requirements of the Citizenship application is that the person’s green card be still valid for at least 6 months from the date of the application’s submission.
Answer: “B” – Min-Jun has to apply for his new green card within six months from filing N-400. The application is an I-90 form. (citation to INA here)
BONUS: Best solution for Min-Jun: we prepare both the I-90 Green Card renewal application AND the N-400 citizenship application today, asking him to file the I-90 immediately. After he gets the Receipt Notice from the I-90, he can submit that notice along with the copy of the expired card with his N-400 application.
6. Should Roberto apply for naturalization?
Scenario: Roberto obtained his LPR status through his daughter on April 16, 2012. His passport shows he visited his home country (Guatemala) from April 1, 2013 through May 1, 2014. (1 yr. + 1 mo.) Since then he has not taken any trips outside the United States.
- A. Yes. As long as he has been living in the same location for the last 6 months, and otherwise eligible, this long stay outside the country should not be a problem
- B. No, when he left for more than a year he triggered abandonment of his residency in the USA.
Answer: “B” – If today is 2017, no, he is not eligible. If today is 2020, yes, he is.
- Absences of more than 6 months but less than one year lead USCIS to presume the LPR disrupted continuous residence
- An LPR who travels abroad for more than one year (365 days) has broken continuous residence and there is a strong presumption of abandonment of the Residency.
- In Roberto’s case, officials at the border when he returned in 2014 would have been in the right to stop him. They did not stop him, however, and now he can demonstrate that over the past 5 years (2015 to 2020) he has spent more time in the USA than out of it. He is eligible to apply.
7. Can Juan Miguel apply for naturalization if he doesn’t have his passport with him?
Scenario: Juan Miguel does not have his passport with him today. He states he did not take a trip longer than one year, though he cannot give you specific dates; but he knows he spent more than six months out.
- A. Yes, his memory is fine and he will plug in the correct dates when he gets home.
- B. Haha, no! We absolutely need to see everyone’s passport before assisting them.
- C. Trust but verify. Check the I-94 online system to see whether you can settle this matter. If not, and he pursues the application today, he bears the responsibility if the dates are not as he recalls. Worse case scenario: the dates are not in his favor and his application is denied and he will have to file a new application another time. He will be found ineligible for Naturalization at this time if:
- he was out of the USA more than 2 years, 6 months + 1 day over the course of the last 5 years or
- 1 year, six months + 1 day if he has been married to and living with a US Citizen for the past 3 years.
Answer: “C”: Go to tinyurl.com/history-search or https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/history-search
8. Did Jesús abandon his LPR status because he was outside the United States for more than 6 months at one time?
NOTE: IF YOU HAVE A CLIENT WITH A POTENTIAL “ABANDONMENT” CASE, RAISE YOUR HAND FOR A LAWYER. THIS IS BEYOND A VOLUNTEER’S SCOPE.
Scenario: You are helping Jesús complete the trips section of his N-400. You note from the passport stamps that his trip to Costa Rica lasted 7 months. He tells you his planned 4-month trip sadly turned into 7 months because he was hit by a motorcycle and hospitalized.
- A. Yes. Yes, Jesús abandoned his LPR status because he stayed in Costa Rica for more than 6 months at one time.
- B. No. Jesús has a valid reason, and with sufficient evidence, he can prove to USCIS that he did not abandon his residence.
Answer: “B”: Consult with an attorney because it appears that Jesús has to prove a valid reason that he was out of the US for more than 6 consecutive months and he would like the opportunity to prove this.
- If outside the United States for more than 6 consecutive months (but less than one year), USCIS presumes abandonment of LPR Status.
- Applicant then has the burden of providing evidence to overcome the presumption.
- Maintaining job, bank accounts, residence, and other “contacts” in U.S.
- Document special circumstances: hospital & police records (in Jesús’ case)
9. Did Altagracia derive U.S. citizenship?
What does “derive citizenship” mean? Derivative citizenship refers to the citizenship conveyed to children through the naturalization of parents or, under certain circumstances, to foreign-born children adopted by U.S. citizen parents, provided certain conditions are met. There are two general ways to obtain citizenship through U.S. citizen parents: at birth, and after birth but before the age of 18. In case of adoption, the adoption must be full and final.
NOTE: IF YOU HAVE WHAT APPEARS TO BE A “DERIVED CITIZENSHIP” CASE, RAISE YOUR HAND FOR A LAWYER. THIS IS BEYOND A VOLUNTEER’S SCOPE.
Scenario: Altagracia was born in 2003 in the Dominican Republic and is now 17 years old. Her parents were never married to each other. Her father entered the US in 2005 and and became a US citizen in 2012. Her mother entered the U.S. as permanent resident on June 5, 2006 and petitioned Altagracia sometime after. Altagracia became a permanent resident on August 2, 2010 when she came to live in the U.S. with her mother.
- A. Yes. Yes, Altagracia derived U.S. citizenship in 2012 when her father naturalized.
- B. No. She did not derive because she was not a lawful permanent resident living under the care and custody of her father when he naturalized.
- A child born outside the United States may derive U.S. citizenship after birth through her/his parent(s).
- The child automatically becomes a citizen upon the naturalization of the parent when certain conditions are met.
- Derivation of citizenship happens by operation of law.
Under the current law: the child must be ALL of these: Unmarried, under 18, a lawful permanent resident (LPR) and currently residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of a U.S. citizen parent.
10. Should you rely on Gloria’s memory to determine her “Time Outside the U.S.”?
Scenario: You are assisting Gloria with her naturalization application. However, she didn’t expect that her shopping trip for vegetables would bring her to your table, so she didn’t bring her passport to the Swap Meet this fine Sunday morning. She tells you that the only trips she has taken in the past five years are to Mexico to visit her parents every year around Christmas. She says she always leaves on December 23rd and she is pretty sure she came back to the U.S. on the first Saturday after New Years Day each year.
- A. No, it is far too risky based only on the client’s memory to proceed at this time..
- B. Yes. This seems like reliable information and in any event comes no where near the maximum time she might have been outside the country in the last 5 years.
Answer: “B”: The maximum time allowed out of US = aggregate of 2 years, 6 months + 1 day. Run her information through the online I-94 and see what comes up. (tinyurl.com/history-search or https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/history-search) If Maria either recalls a significant amount of time outside the country, or her I-94 record is strikingly different from her recollection, encourage her to return to our associates’ offices with her passports or, at least, her travel itineraries to accurately calculate her time outside the U.S.
11. How many times has Alex been married and is he still married?
Note: Confusion between the legality of civil versus church weddings in some countries can lead to cases of accidental bigamy. The client could also mistakenly believe that their prior spouse was dead, that they were legally divorced, or that just being apart for years in different countries dissolved any marriage bonds. A legal marriage is one that is officially recognized by the government in the country or state where the marriage took place. This usually means that an official record of a marriage was made or can be obtained from some government office.
Scenario: Alex married Maria and they divorced 2 years later. He then married Gina, but they divorced a year later. Then Alex & Maria remarried, but recently entered into a legal separation and he’s now engaged to Gina again.
- A. Alex has married TWICE.
- B. Alex has married THREE times.
Answer: “B”: Alex has said “I do!” (3) times!
- If the participant married the same spouse more than one time, count each time as a separate marriage
- If the participant is now married, provide information about the current spouse.
- Include this information even if they are separated (but, not divorced), or if the spouse lives outside of the United States
- If the participant has never been married, SKIP
- If the participant has been married but is not currently married, SKIP
12. Is Alex currently married?
- A. No, he and Maria are legally separated.
- B. Yes, generally mark the “Married” box and when available mark the “Separated” box.
Answer: “B”: Alex needs to finalize that divorce, until then, he is still married (albeit legally separated).
13. Must Eduardo obtain a Status Information Letter from Selective Service and swear that his failing to register for Selective Service was not willful?
NOTE: IF YOUR CLIENT IS A YOUNG MAN BETWEEN HIS 18TH AND 26TH BIRTHDAYS, ASK HIM IF HE HAS REGISTERED FOR SELECTIVE SERVICE. IF NOT, GIVE HIM AN APPLICATION FROM THE FRONT DESK.
Scenario: Eduardo married and obtained his green card through his USC spouse in 2014 when he was 25. He did not register for Selective Service despite living in the U.S. with his spouse since he got married. Now four years later, he is 29 years old and applying for naturalization. He says he did not know about the Selective Service registration requirement.
- A. No, because he is no longer required to show that his failure to register was knowing and willful.
- B. Yes, males 26 to 31 years of age who “knowingly and willfully failed to register” or simply refused to register for Selective Service when required may be denied naturalization for this failure.
Answer: “B”: The USCIS will consider the failure to register with Selective Service a disqualification for the “good moral character” requirement for Citizenship. The application for Naturalization will be denied on this basis.
- ALL males living in the United States who are between the ages of 18 and 26 must register with the Selective Service System, including undocumented individuals, permanent residents and citizens except for Men here on lawful non-immigrant status (Ex. F-1 student status or H-1B temporary worker status)
- Eduardo needs to wait until he is 3 years away from the last possible date when he might have registered for Selective Service (the day before his 27th birthday), and then nevertheless submit a statement explaining his failure to register.
14. Will Taylor’s juvenile record prevent her from naturalizing?
Scenario: You are assisting Taylor with her application and when you get to Part 12, on page 14, she suddenly goes quiet. She confesses to you that she was arrested and convicted of shoplifting when she was 15 years old. Taylor did not mention this at Screening.
- A. Tell Taylor she does not need to mention this on her form because she was under 18 when she was convicted and keep filling out her form.
- B. Raise your hand to speak with a lawyer to discuss this further with Taylor, as all charges and arrests are a potential risk.
Answer: “B”: ALL arrests, charges, and convictions need thorough evaluations by a lawyer. Even though Juvenile Convictions are not considered “convictions” for immigration purposes, the Supervisor can’t advise Taylor further without knowing more about the facts and circumstances. Too often, we charge juveniles as adults in the USA, so we cannot be sure this shoplifting situation will not be a problem based on the information here..
According to the USCIS: “Typically if an individual only has minor traffic citations with no arrests resulting (i.e. speeding tickets), they will not be required to submit any additional information with the N-400. However, if, during the course of the interview, an adjudications officer determines that there are circumstances that warrant further investigation, (e.g. there is an indication that the applicant has failed to pay fines associated with the citations), the officer may request additional documentation. (e.g. payment, certified police/court documents indicating such).”
You must submit documentation of traffic incidents if:
- The incident involved alcohol or drugs;
- The incident led to an arrest; or
- The incident seriously injured another person.
You do not need to submit documentation for traffic fines or incidents that did not involve an arrest or did not involve drugs or alcohol, if the only penalty was a fine of less than $500 or points on your driving record.”
If your only tickets were for parking violations — that is, things like staying too long at a parking meter or parking your car in a red zone — you don’t even need to mention these on Form N-400. But for any violation where you were behind the wheel, or your motor was running, your best bet is to mention it.
15. Why are these questions still on the citizenship form?
- A. Because it’s illegal to be a Nazi in America.
- B. This is the only way the U.S. can prosecute Nazi war criminals who became naturalized US citizens after WWII.
Answer: “B”: Nazi war criminals can’t be prosecuted in the U.S. under the War Crimes Act because their crimes were committed overseas, the people who committed them were not U.S. citizens at the time, and the victims weren’t U.S. citizens. Instead, they are tried for lying about their Nazi service on their American immigration and citizenship applications, stripped of their citizenship and deported.
The latest and possibly last Nazi war criminal was discovered in 2002. Jakiw Palij was ordered deported in 2004, after losing his citizenship in 2003. Although he had originally been a Ukrainian, he was finally deported to Germany in 2019, where he died at the age of 95.