Common Naturalization Pitfalls

If you have been a green card holder for the requisite period of time, and you feel like a Yankee Doodle kind of person, you may decide to apply to become a naturalized citizen. But before you jump on your N-400 form, there are a few things you need to be aware of.

1. You must be in compliance with all federal laws, not just immigration laws. In order to become a naturalized citizen, you must (again) prove your good moral character. This not only means avoiding crimes of moral turpitude, aggravated felonies, drug crimes and domestic violence, but also other laws such as tax laws. For example, if you owe back taxes, get on the phone with the IRS (or state tax commission) and make arrangements to get it paid, then pay in accordance with the agreement.

2. You must be truthful in your dealings with the USCIS. If you omitted important information in any of your previous immigration petitions, correct it and provide a detailed explanation regarding the oversight. If your N-400 is inconsistent with your previous petitions, that will raise red flags with the USCIS, and they could investigate you for fraud. Having a copy of all previously-submitted documents will help ensure that you are giving the USCIS consistent information.

3. You are obligated to keep the USCIS updated on any changes of address. All green card holders are required to keep their address current with the USCIS. You may submit a change of address by visiting:

4. You are required to maintain continuous residence and physical presence in the United States prior to applying for citizenship. The continuous residence and physical presence requirements are as follows:

Continuous Residence

Applicants are required to show that they have:

  • Resided continuously in the U.S. for five years before applying, or
  • Resided continuously in the U.S. for three years in the case of qualified spouses of U.S. citizens,

“Continuous residence” means that the applicant has maintained residence within the United States for the required period of time shown above.

Extended absences outside of the U.S. may disrupt an applicant’s continuous residence.

  • Absences of more than six months but less than one year may disrupt an applicant’s continuous residence unless the applicant can prove otherwise,
  • Absences in excess of one year or more may disrupt an applicant’s continuous residence,
Physical Presence

In addition, applicants are required to show they have resided for at least three months immediately preceding the filing of Form N-400 in the USCIS district or state where the applicant claims to have residency (See 8 CFR §316.2(a)(5) & §319.1(a)(5)).

Failing to comply with any of the above-itemized requirements/conditions could not only result in your citizenship application being denied, but could also potentially put you in danger of receiving a Notice to Appear in removal proceedings. Seek the advice of a qualified immigration attorney before you begin your N-400.