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10 Biggest Problems and Solutions for Naturalization

AG Law Firm Feb. 8, 2023

We all know that immigration in the US can be difficult. With all the delays from COVID and the laws changing all of the time, the difficulty increases tenfold. We’re coming to you today to provide the ten biggest hurdles people face in applying for Naturalization and some ideas in terms of solutions.

So, without further ado, here they are:

1. Not Knowing if You’re Eligible Under the Residency or Physical Presence Requirements.

To apply for US naturalization, an individual must have been physically present in the United States for at least 5 years (60 months) as a permanent resident. Additionally, they must have been residing continuously within the US for at least the 5 years preceding the date of filing the naturalization application, with no single absence of more than one year. There are some exceptions to this requirement, such as for spouses of US citizens, who may only need to be physically present in the US for 3 years (36 months) before applying for naturalization.

If an individual was absent from the United States for more than 6 months but less than 1 year during the 5-year period preceding the naturalization application, it may raise concerns about their continuous residence in the US. However, it does not necessarily mean that the individual is disqualified from naturalizing. The USCIS will consider the specific circumstances of each case, such as the reasons for the absence, the length and frequency of the absences, and other factors, to determine if the absence impacted the individual's continuous residency. If USCIS determines that the absence impacted the individual's continuous residency, they may deny the naturalization application. It's recommended to consult with an immigration attorney if you have questions about your eligibility for naturalization.

2. Not Being Able to Get the Documents You Need to Apply.

There are ways to get documents from your home country in order to be able to apply. Additionally, there are lists of what kinds of documents are proper for submission online. To find out what documents are required for a naturalization application, you should review the instructions for Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, available on the USCIS website. The instructions provide a detailed list of the required documents and evidence that must be submitted with the application. Additionally, you may find it helpful to consult with an immigration attorney or an accredited representative for assistance in gathering the necessary documents and evidence. Keep in mind that USCIS may also request additional documentation or evidence during the naturalization process, so it's important to be prepared to provide additional information if requested. Here is the link for the USCIS website where you can find the instructions for Form N-400, Application for Naturalization:

You can also look up what is the proper civil authority for issuance of various documents on the following link: Keep in mind that this website is maintained by the US Department of State, and the information provided may not be specific to the requirements for USCIS. If you have any doubts, it's best to consult the instructions for Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, available on the USCIS website, or to reach out to an immigration attorney or an accredited representative for guidance.

3. You Just Don’t Know the Language or US Civics.

There are several language exemptions for the naturalization application process. The general English proficiency requirement can be waived if the applicant:

Is age 50 or older and has been a lawful permanent resident (LPR) for at least 20 years; or

Is age 55 or older and has been an LPR for at least 15 years; or

Has a qualifying physical or developmental disability or mental impairment that affects the ability to learn English.

Additionally, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may also grant an exemption from the English test based on a finding of exceptional hardship if an applicant is unable to comply with the requirements due to a physical or developmental disability or mental impairment.

Note that these exemptions are not automatic and an applicant must still meet all other eligibility requirements for naturalization, including passing a civics test unless they are exempt or waived.

It’s also possible that you can get an exemption from both the English and Civics test based on a qualifying disability or impairment that prevents you from learning either English or Civics or both. To request an exemption, you have to submit form N-648 completed and signed by a medical doctor or psychologist. These forms have to have detailed explanations of the nature and extent of your disability or impairment and how it affects your ability to learn English or take the civics test.

4. Maybe You Have a Criminal Record or Prior Immigration Violations that (Rightfully) Make You Worried About Submitting an Application for Citizenship.

This one’s best left to an attorney. Seriously. Don’t try to figure this one out yourself – or you may end up worse off than you started. Did you know you could get deported even if you have permanent residency? Please, please, call an attorney if you have a criminal record or prior immigration violations and are thinking of applying to naturalize.

5. You Don’t Have the Funds at The Moment.

We all go through lean times. But, did you know there are fee waivers available for the naturalization application based on financial hardship? To request a fee waiver, you have to submit an i-912 (can be found here: and provide proof of your hardship, if you have low income, high medical bills, or other factors you’d like them to take into account.

6. You Don’t Know Where to Start.

Well, first thing’s first. Go to the N-400 webpage (cited above) and read the instructions. If you still need help, an immigration attorney or many local non-profit organizations provide help in applying for naturalization. They can provide you checklists, and, often, more detailed guidance including form preparation that can help you get together what you need to apply.

7. How Much Time is it Going to Take?

The processing times can depend a lot on where you are applying. Average times can be a year or more at certain locations. It all depends on the backlog and workload of each USCIS field office. A good resource to check out is the USCIS website that provides processing times for specific locations: To view the processing times for your specific application, you need to select the form type, the USCIS field office where you filed your application, and the date you filed. The processing time information is updated regularly and is intended to give you a general idea of how long it may take for USCIS to process your application.

8. What if You Filed Incorrectly or Missed Something?

To avoid filing incorrect or incomplete forms, individuals can consult with an immigration attorney or accredited representative for guidance. There are a ton of checklists and instructions out there, so it can get confusing. Get help as soon as you can when you’re lost to avoid denials, delays, and having to repay filing fees for a new filing.

9. That Last Point Actually Ties in with the Next Biggest Concern for A Lot of People: What if I Missed a Biometric Appointment or Interview?

Check notifications as often as possible. Create an online USCIS account to track your case and regularly get updates online. If you missed an appointment for biometrics, USCIS may reschedule it for you, but you have to call them or contact them online as soon as possible in order to explain and request a new appointment. You don’t want delays or denials because of something like this. Additionally, it’d be prudent to file a change of address as soon as possible whenever you move. To file a change of address with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) after you have filed for naturalization, you need to complete Form AR-11, Alien's Change of Address Card. The form can be submitted online or by mail.

If you submit the form online, you can access it through the USCIS website at:

It's important to keep the USCIS informed of any changes to your address while your naturalization application is pending, as all communication and notices from USCIS will be sent to the address on file. If the USCIS is unable to reach you at the address on file, your naturalization application may be delayed or denied.

10. Lack of Preparation for the Tests.

Ok, so you’ve filed, but you’ve really been slacking on getting your civics prep together. What now? Good news! The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides sample civics test questions and answers for the naturalization exam on its website. You can find them at:

The USCIS also provides an interactive online tool called "Civics Practice Test" that allows you to practice and test your knowledge of U.S. history and government. The tool includes 100 questions, similar to the ones asked during the naturalization exam. You can find the Civics Practice Test on the USCIS website at:

In addition to the USCIS resources, you can also find study materials and sample questions from other sources such as books, websites, and community organizations that offer classes and preparation for the naturalization exam.

It's important to prepare thoroughly for the naturalization exam, as passing the exam is one of the requirements for obtaining U.S. citizenship. You should also consider taking a review course or practice test to help you prepare for the exam.

BUT, don’t worry, if you’ve already failed the exam once, you get another shot! If you fail the naturalization exam (civics and English proficiency test) during your first interview with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), you will generally be given a second chance to take the test. The USCIS will schedule a second interview for you within 90 to 120 days of your first interview.

At the second interview, you will have another opportunity to take the civics and English proficiency test, and you will also have the opportunity to bring an interpreter if necessary. If you fail the test again, you may be denied naturalization, and your application fee will not be refunded.