Many prospective applicants for naturalization are under the mistaken impression that they may choose where to be examined for citizenship. While naturalization is a federal matter, there are nevertheless specific rules regarding which district office has jurisdiction over a person’s N-400 application. Therefore, it is not as simple as someone living in New Jersey to desire to have the test and oath administered in Florida because he/she prefers that state or has some sentimental attachment to it. The general rule, as found in the Code of Federal Regulations (“CFR”) indicates that an applicant must file in the State that has jurisdiction over his/her place of residence; moreover, the applicant must have resided in the State for at least three months prior to filing. Put simply, this means that the applicant must live in the state for at least three months before filing in that state. If someone has just moved to New Jersey and resided here for only one month, for instance, the three-month residency requirement has not yet been satisfied.
What if I move after I file my N-400 application?
It is not uncommon for applicants to have to move for work or personal reasons to another state after they have already filed for naturalization. Where, technically, will the interview be held? Fortunately, USCIS has a provision to cover this type of situation: since all permanent residents are obligated to inform USCIS of any change of address, the N-400 file should be transferred to the new office that has jurisdiction over the case. So, for example, if someone initially filed a case while living in New York but subsequently moved to New Jersey, the case should be transferred to the New Jersey District Office in Newark or Mount Laurel.
What if I am a student?
Student’s residences for N-400 purposes can sometimes be tricky because it is unclear whether they are “residing” at the school itself or at home, which may be in a different state. In these types of scenarios, students may elect either to file where the school is located, or in the state of their home residence if it can be demonstrated that they are financially dependent on their parents both at the time of filing and during the naturalization process.
What if I have traveled outside the US?
Applicants are sometimes confused whether they are subject to the three-month waiting period if they have just returned from a trip abroad. According to the USCIS policy manual, applicants do not have to wait the three additional months if they are returning to the same residence where they resided prior to departing-assuming that they have not abandoned their residence, and assuming three months have elapsed from when they first established their residence in that state. In other words, the brief absence outside the US will not interrupt the three-month residency. In contrast, if an applicant has traveled abroad and then relocated to a new residence in a different state, he or she will have three months as per the general rule.
While these rules may seem trivial, they nevertheless constitute important requirements that must be satisfied before an application for naturalization can be adjudicated. Failure to follow these rules can result in a case being rejected or worse, possibly accepted for filing and then denied at the interview. For more information on naturalization jurisdictional requirements, please contact our office. The foregoing is general information only. It is not legal advice nor intended to substitute for an attorney-client relationship.