USCIS has released a new form N-400 used to apply for citizenship as part of their continuing initiative to add barcodes to allow the information on the forms submitted to be easily scanned into their systems. The new form is more than double the length of the prior forms so is surely going to be more intimidating for individuals trying to complete on their own. The length of the new form however isn’t due to additional information being requested so much as what seems an attempt by USCIS to include a lot of explanatory information in the form itself which was previously included in the form instructions. This could be a benefit for not only the individuals completing the form, but also the USCIS adjudicators themselves who can sometimes get tripped up by certain requirements and waivers they are not used to seeing. In particular I think it’s very helpful for the elderly applying that the special exemptions to the language and civic test requirements are listed on the form. We’ve had many clients be forced to try to complete these requirements by adjudicators who aren’t familiar with when they are waived.
Of all the changes none are onerous and one in particular provides welcome relief; applicants are no longer required to list every absence outside of the US since they gained Permanent Residency status, just the last 5 years. This change makes sense as 5 years is what is relevant for eligibility. So don’t be scared by the 21 pages, but if you’ve already completed the old form make sure to file by May 4th when the new form will become mandatory.
Here’s a link to the new form and instructions: http://www.uscis.gov/n-400