LSS Center for New Americans
Silke Hansen, ESL Instructor
You asked? We answered!
Oftentimes as soon as they arrive in Sioux Falls our clients and students ask when they can apply for citizenship because they want to bring their whole family. Following are more answers to some of their frequently asked questions about the long road to citizenship.
My name is misspelled – can I change it?
Yes. A name change for whatever reason is free when you become a US citizen. If you want to change your name at any other time, you have to hire a private attorney, go to court and pay a fee.
My date of birth is wrong – can I change it?
It is extremely difficult to change the date of birth. You need to present an original certificate or an original baptismal record, either one issued at or around the time of your birth. Or you need to have witnesses who were present at your birth and will swear under oath which is the correct date. After you become a citizen, you cannot change the date anymore as you swore under oath that all the information on the application is correct.
Can I get a waiver for the citizenship interview?
Under specific circumstances, all or parts of the regular citizenship requirements can be waived. If you are 50 or older and have lived in the US with a valid green card for at least 20 years, you can do the interview in your native language and you only need to do the 100 questions. The same applies if you are 55 or older and have lived in the US with a valid green card for at least 15 years. If you are 65 or older and have lived in the US with a valid green card for at least 20 years, you only need to study 20 questions. A request for a medical waiver has to include a doctor’s diagnosis and the reason why this affliction prevents you from learning. A teacher’s statement about your progress in the classroom is also helpful. If USCIS accepts the disability waiver you can have an interpreter present and you only need to answer questions about your application.
What will prevent me from getting citizenship?
The most common reason for not obtaining citizenship is a lack of English, both oral and written. Attending English classes and studying hard will usually result in a successful citizenship application. A criminal record will substantially delay or even stop the application process. Convictions for domestic violence, 2 shoplifting convictions, drug and gun violations are taken very seriously by Homeland Security and will result in deportation proceedings. If you have a criminal record, please consult with an immigration lawyer before starting the application process.
Which family members can I bring to the US?
As a US citizen, you can bring your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 and your parents with no wait time. You can also bring married children of any age. You can bring your siblings, but depending on their country of origin the wait time will be 10 years or longer. As a green card holder, you can bring your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 with a wait time of 2 years, unmarried older children may have to wait more than 7 years.
Thanks for tuning in to our 2-part FAQs about Immigration! If you’d like more information, visit the USCIS page.
Written by Silke Hansen, ESL Instructor, with the assistance of Janice Godtland, Immigration Lawyer, both at the LSS Center for New Americans in Sioux Falls.