INS Procedures to Remedy Prematurely Filed Naturalization Applications

June 29, 1999

Memorandum For Regional Directors
Service Center Directors

From: William R. Yates
Deputy Executive Associate Commissioner
Office of Field Operations
Immigration Services Division

Subject: Interim Procedure to Remedy Prematurely Filed Naturalization Applications

The purpose of this memorandum is to establish an interim procedure to address the problems associated with prematurely filed naturalization applications and naturalization applications filed by applicants seeking age and residence exemptions from the English and Civics requirements. This interim procedure may only be used for naturalization applications filed on or before the date of this memo.

Purpose of Interim Procedures

Sections 312 and 334 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) require that applicants qualify for age and residence based exemptions to the English and Civics requirements and for the continuous residency requirement (may be filed up to 90 days prior to reaching the continuous residency requirement) at the time of filing.

Under recent INS policy, field offices (including service centers) were instructed to screen and reject (not fee receipt) any prematurely filed naturalization application. See July 8, 1997, Office of Naturalization Operations Policy Memorandum No. 11, "Reiteration of Service Policy Regarding Sec. 334 of the INA" (Copy attached). In addition, for prematurely filed applications pending with the Service, field offices were directed to deny such applications based on Section 334 of the INA and provide the applicant with an opportunity to file a new application with fee.

For applicants seeking an exemption from the English and Civics requirements of section 312 of the INA based on the 55/15 and 50/20 age and residence exceptions, field offices were reminded that applicants must establish eligibility at the time of filing not at the time of examination. Thus, despite the instructions on the N-400, if applicants were not eligible for the age and residence exception to Section 312 at the time of filing, they would be required to meet the section 312 requirements at interview, unless they could establish eligibility for another section 312 exception (e.g., disability).

INS' policy on prematurely filed applications and the erroneous N-400 instructions on the 55/15 and 50/20 residence exceptions, in certain instances, created undue hardship, requiring some applicants to file a new N-400 and return to the end of the naturalization queue. The Immigration Services Division is authorizing the interim procedures, outlined below, to provide relief from current waiting times to those applicants who may have made an innocent filing error or relied on the erroneous N-400 instructions.

These procedures only apply to naturalization applications filed on or before the date of this memorandum, as service centers now screen N-400s to determine if the applicant has met the eligibility requirements for filing. In addition, since the July 8, 1997, memorandum, all new N-400 application packages contain either an addendum regarding when an applicant must establish eligibility for the 55/15 and 50/20 residence exceptions, or a Guide to Naturalization, which addresses this issue.

Applications/Applicants Eligible for Interim Procedure

To be eligible for this interim procedure, the naturalization applicant and/or application must meet the following criteria:

1. The application was filed on or before the date of this memorandum;

AND

2. The Service determines that the application was unintentionally filed more than 90 days before the applicant met the continuous residence requirements or the applicant, in reliance on the form instructions, filed an N-400 seeking an age and residence-based exemption from the English language or civics requirements;

AND

3. On the date of the naturalization examination, the applicant has met the continuous residence requirement or is eligible for the 55/15 and 50/20 residence based exemptions to section 312.

Application of Interim Procedures

If an applicant and/or application meets the above criteria, Service officers may employ the interim procedures described below, permitting the applicant to file a new N-400, without fee, at the time of examination, and have such application processed out of chronological order.

Service officers are reminded that an applicant must meet all the eligibility requirements of the naturalization provision the applicant is seeking naturalization under when filing the new N-400. For example, if an applicant previously applied under section 319(a), but has subsequently become ineligible, he or she cannot rely on prior eligibility under the old N-400 to establish eligibility for the new filing.

Officers may use the following interim procedures at the time of an applicant's examination on the naturalization application:

(1) If the application was filed more than 90 days prior to meeting the continuous residence requirements, inform the applicant that the application was filed prematurely and, as filed, must be denied;

(2) If the applicant filed an application seeking an age and residence exception from the section 312 requirements:

(a) Inform the applicant that he or she was ineligible for the age and residence exceptions at the time of filing.

(b) If the applicant has established eligibility for a section 312 exception on another ground, proceed with the examination.

(c) If the applicant has not established eligibility for any other section 312 exception, inform the applicant that he or she will be tested on English and Civics, unless he or she chooses to withdraw the application. Also, inform the applicant that he or she is currently eligible for the age and residence exceptions if a new N-400 is filed.

(3) Offer the applicant the opportunity to withdraw the application.

(a) If the applicant does not agree to withdraw:

(i) the prematurely filed application, deny the application in accordance with the July 8, 1997, memorandum.

(ii) the application despite ineligibility for the age and residence exceptions to section 312, test the applicant on English and Civics and proceed with adjudication of the N400.

(b) If the applicant agrees to withdraw the application:

(i) have the applicant complete a withdrawal request [sample attached]; (Form is attached as a pdf file)

(ii) have the applicant complete a new N-400 or modify a photocopy of the N-400 as necessary to make a new application. This includes all new information related to marriages, absences, children, etc. and any new responses to questions in Part 7 of the N-400;

(iii) accept the new application without fee;

(iv) date stamp and initial the new N-400 in the appropriate space to reflect the new filing date;

(v) note on the NQP4 adjudications processing worksheet that the old application was withdrawn. Complete a new NQP4 adjudications processing worksheet for the new application.

(vi) examine the applicant and adjudicate the new application on its merits, based on the new filing date. If additional documentation or evidence is required as a result of the new filing, issue the applicant an N-14, requesting the required additional documentation;

(vii) have the applicant sign and date the new N-400 at Part 11 to reflect the new filing date (which is also the exam date);

(viii) upon completion of the examination, have the applicant initial amended responses and sign the N-400.

Officers may not make a final decision on the new naturalization application unless the FD-258 control number for the applicant is still current. An FD-258 control number is current for 15 months from the processing date. Even if the FD-258 control number is current, the officer may request an up-to-date FBI check before final decision on the new application if, based on the examination, the applicant's responses on the N-400, or on other relevant information, the officer determines that an updated criminal history response is necessary. 0I 105.10(a).

System Updates and Statistical Counting

Under Direct Mail, all new naturalization applications are currently filed with the service centers for processing. However, applications covered by these interim procedures are new filings that are being accepted at the district offices. Offices are granted an exception from the Direct Mail requirement so that they may accept such new applications while these interim procedures are in effect. The general requirement that all other new naturalization applications must be filed with the service center, not locally, is otherwise unchanged.

All offices should follow the procedures in Attachment A to update RNACS and CLAIMS 4 to reflect new filings under this interim procedure. Please note: To accommodate this interim procedure in CLAIMS 4, which does not allow for new filings to be accepted locally, the case will be closed as withdrawn. Because the new application will not be in CLAIMS 4, offices must schedule applicants for oath and produce certificates manually. Offices will update CIS directly to reflect the actual date of naturalization for those applicants processed under these interim procedures. The requirement to allow local acceptance of new filings for special circumstances will be added to future releases of CLAIMS.

For purposes of statistical counting on the G-22.3, each case processed under the interim procedure shall be counted as follows:

(1) Count the withdrawn application as "denied-other" at the time of interview;

(2) Count the new application as an "initial receipt";

(3) Count the completion of the new application as "oath-approved" at the time of system update (RNACS, CLAIMS, CIS) to reflect that the applicant was naturalized.

Authority to Complete Actions Outlined Above

To accomplish the interim procedure, offices should accept new applications without the fee and process them out of chronological order. Offices have the discretion to grant fee waivers and process out of chronological order pursuant to current regulations and operating instructions. Therefore, the decision to use the interim procedure to remedy a particular naturalization application is exclusively a discretionary decision. Offices are encouraged to apply this procedure to all prematurely filed or age/residence based naturalization applications that meet the above-stated criteria. However, because the interim procedure is based on discretionary authority, an applicant may not appeal the decision not to use the interim procedure and to deny a specific prematurely filed naturalization application.

Point of Contact

If you need further information or have questions relating to the interim procedure described in this memorandum, please contact Lyle Boelens, Office of Field Operations, Immigration Services Division, at 202/514-6442.

Attachments


Attachment A

RNACS

In RNACS, follow the below steps:

1. At the Command Prompt, type ADMN (press Enter)

2. Type OPEN (press Enter)

3. Check that the status reflects "Pl"

4. Chose "N" for schedule for prints (press Enter)

This process will administratively close the old case, open a new case, and transfer all the information to the new case. This will also change the clock-in (filing) date to the current date (date you transact this process). The new case can then be adjudicated based on the new filing date.

CLAIMS 4

From the Adjudications screen in CLAIMS 4:

  1. Chose denial/withdrawal
  2. Denial notice is printed (will show the adjudication complete).
  3. Case will automatically be closed.

This will administratively close the case in CLAIMS 4. There is no process by which to open a new case at the local office in CLAIMS 4. The new filing must therefore be processed outside of the system.

The applicant must be scheduled for oath and the certificate printed manually because the case will not be processed in CLAIMS 4. Upon oath, update CIS to reflect the applicant's new citizenship status.

Manual (no system)

Update CIS after the applicant takes the oath of citizenship.



Section 334 of Act

July 8, 1997

To: From:

All Regional Directors Office of Naturalization

All Service Center Directors

All District Directors

All Officers-In-Charge

This is a follow-up to the February 10, 1997, memorandum reminding field offices of the requirements of Section 334 of the Act. A copy of that memorandum is attached for your immediate reference.

Since the issuance of the February memorandum, we have learned that field offices are not be complying with the statutory requirements of Section 334(a) in all instances and may still be accepting naturalization applications outside of the ninety (90) day window. Examples of noncompliance are: 1) Applications have been accepted up to seven (7) months in advance of the applicant's eligibility date; 2) Some applications have been adjudicated at the time of interview and approved, even though the applicant was ineligible to file, because the adjudications officer determined that, at the time of the interview rather than filing, sufficient time had elapsed such that the applicant had satisfied the requisite period for residence under section 316(a) or 319(a); and 3) Some adjudications officers are calculating the statutory good moral character period from the time of interview rather than the time of filing.

Please ensure that when an office accepts an application for naturalization, all statutory requirements are met at the time of the submission of the application.

All offices, including Service Centers who accept Applications for Naturalization in the direct mail environment, are to immediately begin screening applications for the ninety (90) day window of Section 334(a). Those applications received prior to the ninety days are not to be fee receipted by the Service. They are to be rejected (even for one day), and returned to the applicant with the explanation:

For those cases that have already been received by the Service, offices are directed to deny these cases, without prejudice to refiling, citing Section 334(a) as the reason. District Adjudications Officers should explain to the applicant that their application was accepted in error, that it is being denied because of "early filing" and they may, if they choose, file a new application with appropriate fee.

In addition, we have learned that offices are not adhering to the statutory requirements of Section 312 of the Act, as it relates to the exceptions.

Section 312(b)(2) states:

"(2) The requirement of subsection (a)(1) shall not apply to any person who, on the date of the filing of the person's application for naturalization as provided in section 334, either-

(A) is over fifty years of age and has been living in the United States for periods totaling at least twenty years subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence, or

(B) is over fifty-five years of age and has been living in the United States for periods totaling at least fifteen years subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence."

Some offices have been using the date of the interview, rather than the date of filing, as the determining date for determining eligibility for the 50/20 or 55/15 exceptions. This is a statutory, not discretionary, requirement mandated by Congress and must be followed without deviation.

If you have any questions or require additional information, feel free to contact Susan Arroyo, Senior Adjudications Officer, Naturalization Branch, at (202) 514-8247.

Sincerely,

Robert K. Bratt

Executive Director

Naturalization Operations

Attachment


Reiteration of Service Policy regarding Sec. 334 of the INA

February 10, 1997

All Regional Directors Office of Naturalization

All Service Center Directors

All District Directors

All Officers-In-Charge

The purpose of this memorandum is to remind you that applicants for naturalization may file their application for naturalization up to three (3) months before they meet continuous residency requirements.

Section 334(a) of the Act states:

"…In the case of an applicant subject to a requirement of continuous residence under section 316(a) or 319(a), the application for naturalization may be filed up to 3 months before the date the applicant would first otherwise meet such continuous residence requirement. Those persons who file up to three months in advance of eligibility pursuant to Section 334(a) of the Act must establish eligibility as it relates to residence and physical presence as of the date of the interview (8 CFR 310.2; 316.2(a)(5))."

If you have any questions or require additional information, feel free to contact Susan Arroyo, Senior Adjudications officer, Naturalization Branch, at 202/514-8247.

Terrance M. O'Reilly
Acting Assistant Commissioner