On October 3, 2018, USCIS issued a public bulletin regarding the incorporation of digital tablets into the naturalization reading and writing process. Our office began seeing implementation of tablets a few months back, and this announcement not only confirms that this practice is here to stay but that technology will assume an even greater role in the process than ever before. Previously, citizen applicants were asked to review and digitally sign their applications on iPad or ipad-like devices. Now under this expansion, the use of pen and paper is essentially being phased out and discontinued. Pen and paper may be used “on a case-by-case basis,” but by and large, both the reading and writing components of the N-400 examination will now be conducted on digital tablets:
· For reading: the sentence will appear on the tablet and the applicant will be asked to read the sentence out loud off the tablet
· For writing: the officer will read a sentence out loud and the applicant will be instructed to use a stylus to write the sentence on the tablet
The other two parts of the examination-English speaking/comprehension and civics-will continue to be administered orally.
While this may appear to be a welcome change, this new practice is not necessarily beneficial to those who are not familiar with the latest technology, particularly elderly permanent residents. In fact, there is a large contingent of elderly people who do not regularly use electronic devices as part of their lifestyles and therefore are not accustomed to them. From our own experience, we have a lot of older clients who rely upon their children when use of electronics is involved, whether it is to sign into a doctor’s office or file something electronically. Otherwise, they continue to do things the “old-fashioned” way, utilizing pen and paper. Those not familiar with this new practice may indeed find this new procedure challenging and intimidating, especially given that applicants must ordinarily appear alone for the examination unless accompanied by an attorney.
Applicants for naturalization would be well advised, therefore, to familiarize themselves with tablets, ie., how to scroll up and down, and how to sign with a stylus. It is also worth mentioning that applicants are entitled to three chances to demonstrate that he/she can read as well as write English. That is, the applicant must successfully read one out of three sentences correctly and write one out of three sentences correctly. The presence of an attorney can ensure that these procedures are followed, and that applicant is accorded a fair interview.
The above is general information only and not to be relied upon as legal advice. It does not create an attorney-client relationship, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice in lieu of consultation with an attorney.