Every year there is a Presidential election, USCIS generally experiences a surge in N-400 applications for naturalization. 2016 will likely prove no different. If anything, there may be unprecedented numbers of lawful permanent residents applying to become US Citizens, especially given what is at stake for our country. For some, the prospect of Republican candidate Donald Trump in office has stirred up fears of anti-immigrant sentiment, increased enforcement and a moratorium on immigration. Others are motivated by the perennial, unfounded rumor that is easier to become a citizen during an election year. Whatever a person's reasons, there are certain deadlines that one needs to be mindful of if he/she wishes to vote this year. In New Jersey specifically:
New Jersey Presidential/State Primary
Election Date: June 7, 2016
Voter Registration Date: May 17, 2016
New Jersey General Election
Election Date: Nov. 8, 2016
Voter Registration Date: October 18, 2016
Therefore, if one is hoping to vote for the next President this year, he or she will need to register before October 18. (Keep in mind that different dates apply if one is voting through absentee ballot.) The prerequisite to vote (or register to vote) of course, is US citizenship, which in New Jersey, can take roughly five to eight months these days (which is always subject to change). It is also worth reviewing a few basic, fundamental facts about the citizenship process.
Myth One: If you have been here for more than 10 years, you automatically become a citizen without having to take the test. False. Every applicant for naturalization must take a civics exam, unless an N-648 Medical Disability Waiver application has been approved.
Myth Two: If you have been here for more than 10 years, you can take the test in your own language. False. In order to be waived from the English component of the naturalization examination, you must demonstrate that you satisfy one of the following two exceptions: 1) You are at least 55 and have been a permanent resident for at least 15 years; or 2) you are at least 50 years old and have been a permanent resident for at least 20 years. Waiving the English requirement is not the same as waiving the test. You still have to take the history examination, but you can take it in your language.
Myth Three: Immigration can look up all my trips, since I don't remember them. While DHS probably does have the capability to look up all of your entries and exits, it certainly won't do so just because you don't remember all of your trips. Citizenship is a privilege, and any applicant applying must bear the burden of proof in showing that he/she meets all the requirements. If the trips section of the N-400 is left blank or is incomplete, you will likely be asked to come back with a complete list of all of your trips outside the United States.
Like almost anything else with immigration, it is critical to have an informed understanding of the basic requirements prior to initiating the process. All too often, we have seen many people apply and been denied due to some very common, but nevertheless wrong, misconceptions about citizenship eligibility.
Please remember that this is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship or be a substitute for legal advice. If you need legal advice, please book an appointment to consult with one of our attorneys.