The first answer is “no.” Lawful permanent residents are certainly entitled to apply on their own to become naturalized citizens. For most people, the process entails filling out the N-400, appearing for fingerprints (or biometrics) and then for an interview in which the applicant will be tested on his/her knowledge of American civics and ability to speak, read, and write English. For people who don’t have issues, they may not need an attorney provided that they are comfortable enough to appear and perform well during the examination.
The better question, of course, is, should I get the help of a lawyer to become an American citizen? If you can afford to, it certainly would be to your benefit. For example, the average layperson may not recognize what can be an issue with the case. Typical but by no means an exhaustive list of topics which an immigration attorney may need to explore the implications of include:
· Any and all criminal arrests/convictions;
· Long or frequent trips abroad, especially any trips 180 days or more;
· Registration for selective service, or lack thereof;
· Party or group affiliations;
· Marital history;
· Filing of income taxes;
· Manner in which permanent residence was obtained
Issues in any of the above areas can make what is seemingly a simple naturalization case an extremely complex one. The immigration attorney will be able to assess the impact and consequences of these type of circumstances and should be able to recommend whether applying for naturalization is viable.
What Can An Attorney Do At The Interview?
Many people are under the misimpression that attorneys are not allowed inside the examination room during the interview. Wrong. If that were the case, we wouldn’t be doing what we have been doing for more than almost sixteen years. Attorneys are absolutely allowed inside the interview room. Your representative will have to present a signed and executed G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance As Attorney, to the Information Services Officer (ISO), but once that is furnished, the attorney should be permitted to be present. The presence of an attorney can be extremely beneficial to the applicant. While the attorney can neither answer the test questions nor translate for the client, his or her presence is nevertheless invaluable because he/she is there as an official witness on your behalf to ensure that the interview is conducted fairly. For example, you are required to answer six out of ten history questions correctly during the civics portion of the examination. What if you answered six correctly, but the officer, due to inattentiveness or some sort of misunderstanding, thinks that you only answered five correctly? Wouldn’t you want an attorney there to help you prove that you did? More importantly, while the attorney may not take the test for you or help you to answer the questions, he or she may need to speak on your behalf to address any procedural irregularities or even discuss any legal issues. Additionally, sometimes an officer may not be able to approve a case even though the applicant may have already passed the test because he/she would like to examine further documents. This request is usually issued on Form N-14. A knowledgeable attorney will be in a much better position to understand the N-14 and help you procure the necessary information.
So while many people may not necessarily need an attorney to help them become citizens, there are also many out there who may, but just don’t realize they do until it is too late. At the very least, it is recommended that you consult with an attorney even if you have no intention of hiring an attorney to file the application or be present with you at the interview. The consultation will at least confirm what you already know, or it may, in some cases, make you aware of things that you may want to consider.
We hope that you have enjoyed this article and learned at least one new thing or tip that you may not have known. To keep informed about the latest developments in immigration law, please subscribe to our blog feed by clicking on the “Subscribe To This Blog’s Feed” button on the right. It is important to understand that the above is only general information. The law is extremely fact and circumstance sensitive. For an individual legal analysis of your specific legal case, please complete the “Case Evaluation” box to the right of the screen to get in touch with one of our attorneys.