Applicants may soon have to deal with a cumbersome document-gathering process in order to submit N-400’s

CLINIC weighs in with concerns

USCIS has proposed some changes to the application for citizenship (form N-400), and its instructions, with the public comment period closing Jan. 22nd. The Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) has submitted an extensive set of comments in response. I am sharing portions of these comments below, to give readers a heads-up about some of the proposed changes that will make the application process even more burdensome than it already is.

Tax Returns and Children’s Birth Certificates

The proposed revision requires applicants to provide two types of evidence at the time of filing that are currently not required: three years of tax returns, and any children’s birth certificates. The previous edition of instructions did not require this documentation as part of submission, but instructed the applicant to bring the evidence to the interview. CLINIC’s concern is that this would significantly increase the documentation and paperwork burden at the time of filing. This additional documentation would be a burden to applicants, as they would need to gather these documents before filing, rather than having the entirety of the often 12 to 20 month adjudication time to gather these documents. It would also be a burden to USCIS staff and adjudicators, as they will be required to process and review documentation that was previously unnecessary for many naturalization filings, leading to further slowdowns in an already severely backlogged system. CLINIC very strongly recommends that USCIS maintain the current practice of requiring this documentation only at the time of interview, as it is unnecessary for many form types, and it would reduce the burdens on all parties, as called for under the Paperwork Reduction Act.

10-year travel history

The proposed revisions to Form N-400 would require applicants to increase to 10 years the amount of time that a long-time permanent resident must report foreign travel. The Paperwork Reduction Act requires that agencies reduce information collection where it is not necessary. This collection does not contribute to any evaluation of physical presence, as that evaluation extends a maximum of 5 years in an applicant’s past. USCIS proposes this significant change without providing any rationale for its necessity, and despite its clear increase in the burden to the agency and the applicant... Furthermore, long-term residents are a target population that USCIS and CLINIC should be striving to transition to citizenship and integration. This additional burden only serves to dissuade applicants, as it requires them to gather information that may not be readily available due to the passage of time. CLINIC very strongly recommends that USCIS cap the look-back period for foreign travel reporting at 5 years, as that is the amount of time most relevant to a naturalization request, and additional requests unreasonably increase the burdens on all parties.

You can see the full set of comments submitted by CLINIC here: (Note: other national immigrant advocacy groups will likely submit similar comments soon. I would include the official link for readers to submit their own comments, but the site appears to be disabled due to the government shut down.)