In recent years, many of the most commonly filed immigration forms underwent substantial revisions. These include the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative; I-129F Petition for Fiance; I-485 Application to Adjust Status; and N-400, Application for Naturalization. Rather than simplifying what is often an arcane process, the forms arguably obfuscate and complicate things even more. Soon, it is very likely that the N-400 will be changing again. Unfortunately, some of the proposed revisions and requirements will make the process more onerous and confusing, especially to a layperson who might be attempting to file pro-se.
One of the more significant changes pertains to travel history. Currently, the N-400 application only requires the applicant to list trips outside the US, 24 hours or more, taken within the last five years. The proposed revisions require the applicant to list all trips taken since becoming a permanent resident or during the last ten years. Practically speaking, it is labor intensive enough for individuals to accurately document trips within the last five years. Sometimes, entry and exit stamps are not recorded in the passport, and other times, a person's travel history may not be available or accessibly though Customs and Border Protection. Nevertheless, since continuous residence is an eligibility requirement, requesting a person's five-year travel history is not unreasonable. What is unreasonable, however, is expecting an applicant to document an additional five years of trips which have nothing to do with the five-year statutory period and are therefore practically irrelevant to the applicant's eligibility.
Another disturbing change relates to documentary requirements. The new changes call for applicants to submit copies of their tax returns at the time of filing. Additionally, birth certificates of children will be expected to submitted with the application. While tax returns may be asked at the time of the interview, they are currently not required to be filed with the application. Making them required initial evidence seems unnecessary. Even more unnecessary, though, are the birth certificates of children, which arguably have nothing to do with whether someone qualifies for citizenship, especially since all the information is already disclosed on the appropriate section of the form.
Beyond the two aforementioned proposals, there are a number of superfluous questions. Their redundancy and vagueness not only increase the length but also the amount of time necessary to complete the application. In short, the N-400 process is formidable enough with the current application, increased processing times, and heightened scrutiny. These revisions are nether necessary nor appropriate at this time.
The above information 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 in lieu of consultation with an attorney.