New N-400 Citizenship Application on the way

lots of new questions/new vocabulary to teach


USCIS has revised the citizenship application form and put it in the Federal Register now for a comment period (ending 2/19). Most of the changes relate to the inadmissibility grounds that were added by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.

I've looked through the proposed changes and they are substantial. There are many new questions that students have never been asked before. The sections have been renumbered--it's gone from 14 sections to 17. The formatting is also revised, and would you believe the form has gone from a total of 10 pages to 21!!! (USCIS doesn’t seem too concerned about the additional paper people will end up printing out and putting in the mail, probably because in a few year's time it is expected that the form will be submitted electronically.)

The current questions about Nazis, prostitution, “habitual drunkard,” Communist Party, mental institutions, and hereditary titles are still there. It looks like none of the current questions have been eliminated. But quite a few new ones have been added.

Some examples:

What is your child’s relationship to you? ___ biological __ current stepchild

__ legally adopted

Were you ever involved in any way with any of the following:

__ genocide?__ torture?__ killing or trying to kill someone?

__ badly hurting, or trying to hurt, a person on purpose?

__ forcing, or trying to force, someone to have any kind of sexual relations?

__ not letting someone practice his or her religion?

Were you ever a member or, or did you help or participate in, any of the following groups:

__ military unit?__ paramilitary unit?__ police unit?__ self-defense unit?

__ vigilante unit?__ rebel group?__ guerilla group?__ militia?__ insurgent group?

Were you ever a worker, soldier, or volunteer in any of the following:

__ prison? __ prison camp? __ detention facility? __ labor camp?

__ any place where people were forced to stay?

Did you ever sell, or help another person to sell or give weapons to any person?

Did you ever receive any type of military, paramilitary, or weapons training?

Did you ever ask, sign up, force, or use any child to be a soldier?

Did you ever make a child do anything that helped or supported people in combat?

The national immigrant advocacy and legal rights groups will probably submit comments, and it's possible that USCIS will make some revisions to the proposed form in response to these comments. A final version is likely to come out in a few months. 

How is this going to impact citizenship applicants and educators? For starters, a 21-page application is going to use up a lot of paper, take longer to fill out, and cost more to send in the mail. Keep in mind that the additional questions on the application form will become part of the personal background interview. That means that USCIS interview (and therefore our practice interviews) are going to take longer.

But I think the most significant impact for citizenship educators is that we will now have to teach a longer list of vocabulary words and corresponding questions that are unique to the citizenship interview (e.g. “child soldier,” “paramilitary group,” “biological child,” “genocide,” “sexual relations,” “guerilla/insurgent group,” etc.). Not the sort of thing we normally teach in the ESL classroom...

I’ll keep you posted on this, as I get wind of new developments.