A New N-400

by Elizabeth Brettschneider

When US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) makes changes to an application form, usually they are minor--a few new questions, an added bar code, a new font. Not so with the new N-400, Application for Naturalization. This form, filed by foreign nationals who are Lawful Permanent Residents (i.e., have Green Cards) and want to become US citizens, has just had a major overhaul, though the eligibility requirements to apply haven’t changed. USCIS states that the revisions “provide USCIS with additional tools to make important eligibility determinations, present customers with clearer instructions, and incorporate technology that improves efficiency and accuracy for both USCIS and our customers.”

Some of the more obvious changes to the form are in the appearance. The form no longer has two columns running down the page. Instead, the new form is in a full-page format. A 2D barcode has been added to the bottom of each page, which USCIS will use to facilitate accurate data capture and transmission (but only if the form is filled out electronically). Probably the most obvious change is that the form has gone from ten to twenty-one pages!

There are several additional questions added to the form seemingly to get at factors in the naturalization process that the prior form did not. For example, there are now many more questions about the applicant’s parents. With these questions USCIS is evidently trying to assess whether the applicant may already be a US citizen—deriving or acquiring citizenship from their parents before the age of eighteen.  

The new N-400 also has many more questions about the applicant’s “good moral character.” For example, there are significantly more detailed security questions surrounding the applicant’s possible involvement in past acts of torture, genocide, and membership groups, among others. There is also a question that asks if the applicant married in order to obtain an immigration benefit or made any misrepresentation to obtain any public benefit in the US. The subject matter of the questions is similar to the old form but the detail of the questions are now much more comprehensive.

The new N-400 also asks many more questions about the applicant’s spouse and children. For instance, the form asks for not only the applicant’s spouse’s date and country of birth and citizenship, but also the spouse’s present employer and prior marriages. For the applicant’s child, the form asks about the child’s relationship to the applicant (i.e., whether biological or step).

An interesting and perhaps surprising new line of questioning surrounds tiles of nobility--if the applicant has or had a title. There is also a new section to renounce foreign titles, which is something for all the dukes and duchesses to keep in mind when applying.

On the positive, a welcome addition to the form finally lets applicants choose more than one race and not force them to choose just one--a change long overdue.  Another welcome change: the form only asks applicants to list the trips they have taken outside the US during the last five years as opposed to the prior form which required all trips since lawful permanent residency status was granted. Further, the form clarifies that USCIS is looking for trips of twenty-four hours or longer. This change is surely to be welcomed by those applicants who have been long-time legal permanent residents who have lost old passports or who travel frequently enough to make recollecting every trip a huge hassle.  
The new version of the form also clarifies what men (yes, just the men) now over the age of twenty-six who failed to register with the Selective Service have to do to correct that failing. Answer: submit a statement about their lack of knowledge of the requirement to register and get a status information letter from the Selective Service. There is no cut-off date after which the applicant is no longer required to submit these documents. This avoids any prior confusion about whether or not it is required. 

The old N-400 can be used until Friday, May 2, 2014; beginning on Monday, May 5, 2014 USCIS will only accept the revised N-400. USCIS also has a video introduction to the new form on Youtube.

All in all, the new N-400 adds many additional questions and details and requires applicants to divulge more about their background. With all these additions to the form, you may wonder if there is anything USCIS has removed. Indeed there is. No longer does the form ask for the applicant’s weight! Many a Green Card holder just breathed a sigh of relief. 

UPDATE JANUARY 3, 2018: The N-400 can now be filed online.