U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced a plan to improve the filing and processing of naturalization and citizenship applications. It says that the changes will streamline both he processing of forms through the various local and regional offices and the collection of fees. The changes should also, it claims, bring more consistency to the agency's intake process. Overall, the agency hopes the system will run more efficiently as a result.
Effective Sunday, October 30, individuals seeking naturalization as a United States citizen will submit specific forms to a specific "Lockbox" instead of their local USCIS office. This will get the forms through the appropriate channels faster by skipping at least one level of bureaucracy. Until Friday, December 2, 2011, forms still sent to a local USCIS office will be forwarded to the appropriate Lockbox. After that date, local offices will return forms to the sender. People applying for naturalization and the immigration attorneys who help them should be aware of this in particular, since return mail could cause an applicant to lose substantial time in the application process.
These new procedures apply to four forms used in naturalization:
- Form N-300, Application to File Declaration of Intention. Legal permanent residents file this form to indicate their intent top become a U.S. citizen. It is not strictly required by USCIS for naturalization, but it may be necessary for some purposes under the law of some states, such as obtaining a business license. The fee for this form is $250, and it goes to the Lockbox location in Dallas, Texas.
- Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings. An applicant for naturalization who has received an unfavorable decision (e.g. a denial) may request a hearing before a new immigration officer. The fee for this form in most cases is $650, and it is filed at the Phoenix, Arizona Lockbox. If timely filed, a hearing should be scheduled within 180 days from the filing date.
- Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship. This form allows a person residing in the United States to obtain documentation of citizenship based on citizen parentage. It is available to people born outside of the United States to at least one U.S. citizen parent (or legally adopted by at least one). The fee for a N-600 is $600 in most cases, and it is filed at the Lockbox in Phoenix, Arizona.
- Form N-600K, Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322. This allows a child residing outside of the United States who has at least one U.S. citizen parent to claim citizenship. It is similar to Form N-600 described above. This form also costs $600 in most cases and is filed in Phoenix, Arizona. Applications filed on behalf of children born overseas to members of the Armed Forces are filed in Lincoln, Nebraska.