Waited months, still no date for my naturalization oath ceremony – what should I do?

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Question:

I attended my naturalization interview over five months ago. The USCIS officer there told me that I passed and would get a swearing-in ceremony appointment by mail. But nothing has come. I am worried that it is taking too long. (Also, I want to petition my parents for a green card.) Is this normal? Can I do anything about it?

Answer:

Delays of several weeks – and even months -- between when U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) conducts the citizenship interview and when the applicant is scheduled for the swearing-in ceremonies are frequently an issue. Nevertheless, a wait as long as you've endured seems out of the ordinary. You should definitely try to find out what is going on.

The most likely cause is that either:

  • Your name still hasn’t been cleared by the FBI, which needs to finish running a security check before USCIS can grant you citizenship. This is especially likely to cause delays if you have a common name, or share a name with a person considered a threat.
  • USCIS or the federal courts are backed up in fitting people into their scheduled ceremonies. In some parts of the U.S., only the federal courts conduct these ceremonies; in others, the courts have passed this authority onto USCIS, in which case the scheduling is usually faster (and sometimes same-day). But, for example, if you requested a name change, which only the federal court can do, and you live in a region where most of the oath ceremonies are conducted by USCIS, that might account for the delay.
  • Something has gone wrong. USCIS is a big bureaucracy, and mistakes and lost files happen. Also, the letter could have been lost in the mail. (We’re assuming you didn’t change your address in the days since your interview.)

As for what to do, here are the steps most likely to help:

  • Make an appointment to visit your nearest USCIS office. You will need to do this online rather than just showing up, using the INFOPASS system. Bring your green card and copies of your naturalization-related paperwork, in particular any letter of recommended approval that the USCIS officer gave you at the end of your interview. They can’t speed up your oath ceremony, but they may be tell you where your file is at within the system, and take action if it has somehow fallen through the cracks.
  • Send a letter to the USCIS office that handled your interview. Include your A-number on the letter, and a copy of the recommendation letter given to you by the USCIS officer there.
  • Consult an attorney. Following up on delays and lost files is a regular part of every immigration attorney’s work. An experienced attorney will know what the typical wait times are in your region and how to make inquiries.

A final note: As you alluded to, you cannot petition for your parents to receive U.S. lawful permanent residence until you yourself are sworn in as a citizen and have received a citizenship certificate as proof of your new status.

by: , J.D.

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