What will the naturalization examiner see after opening my A-file?

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Question:

I'm planning to apply for U.S. citizenship, but have heard that I should be cautious, because the immigration officer will review my whole "A-file." What is an A-file, and why should I be worried about it?

Answer:

If you have nothing in your immigration history to hide, then the A-file review -- which is, indeed, part of every naturalization application -- shouldn't be a problem for you. But when applying for U.S. citizenship, some immigrants fail to realize that this will open the door to a review of their entire immigration history -- and that if they ever committed fraud, weren't eligible for an immigration benefit that they obtained, or should have been deported from the U.S. or had their green card revoked, this may be the time when the U.S. immigration authorities catch on to this, and take action.

At worst, the naturalization examiners may transfer the file to the enforcement arm of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and place the applicant into removal proceedings.

What will the examiner find in your A-file? An A-file is your alien file, and may include materials showing:

  • * how you obtained lawful permanent residence
  • * what other applications or forms requesting immigration benefits you have submitted
  • * correspondence between you and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
  • * internal memos and forms created by USCIS officers applicable to or discussing your eligibility for various immigration benefits, and
  • * any criminal records, correspondence from the FBI or other agencies, or investigative reports and records of immigration or other enforcement actions.

As you can see, the A-file contains a lot of useful information. And while in most cases the USCIS examiner won't actually reopen past decisions that were made in your case, applicants won't be protected from situations where they committed fraud or where an issue simply wasn't considered up to this point. If you're worried about anything that might turn up in this A-file review, consult with an experienced immigration attorney. In some cases, it's safer for applicants to simply postpone applying for U.S. citizenship.

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