Citizenship Filing Location Options for College Students24 Aug 2016
It is not unusual for a lawful permanent resident (LPR) to be enrolled in a university that is located in a state other than where the student’s family resides. Many in this situation live near their universities while school is in session, and then return to their respective parents’ homes between semesters. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recognizes that split-residency can create logistical problems in the context of an LPR student’s application for naturalization. Accordingly, the USCIS provides options for such students as to where an application for naturalization (form N-400) may be filed.
Background: Age Eighteen is Adult for Naturalization Filings
Even though immigration law generally defines a child as an unmarried person, under twenty-one years of age, this definition does not apply in the naturalization context. In most situations, if an LPR’s custodial parent naturalizes prior to the child’s reaching 18 years of age, the child automatically acquires U.S. citizenship, as well. If the LPR has not become a U.S. citizen prior to turning 18, then that individual can only naturalize by meeting the standard naturalization requirements and filing an independent application.
Filing Location – School Address or Parents’ Home, if Dependent
An N-400 typically must be filed at the USCIS service center that corresponds with the applicant’s state of residence. Additionally, it is necessary in most cases to reside in the filing jurisdiction for at least 90-days before filing. A residence is defined as one’s principal dwelling place.
A student who attends an out-of-state school, however, has the option to file a naturalization application based either upon the state where the school is located, or “… in the state of the applicant’s home residence if the applicant is financially dependent upon his or her parents at the time of filing and during the naturalization process.” This special exception, as well as several others, is set out in the USCIS Policy Manual.
Process for Filing and Obtaining U.S. Citizenship
In determining where to file a naturalization application, an LPR student should take the timeframes of the naturalization process into consideration. Naturalization applicants must undergo fingerprinting, in-person interviews and, if successful, an in-person swearing-in ceremony. More information on this process, and on naturalization requirements, is available in the MurthyDotCom InfoArticle, Basic Eligibility Requirements for Naturalization (09.Nov.2010).
The location of filing is typically not a matter of choice in naturalization cases. But, in some circumstances, the applicant has more than one option as to where the case is submitted for processing. This can make the application process less burdensome for the applicant, and is something to consider when determining where to file.
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