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How to Prepare for the Immigration Process

5 min read

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By Mara Cortez

Reviewed By: LegalBoulevard

The immigration process can be difficult to navigate. Learn what steps to take when preparing for your personal interview, naturalization test and medical exam.

For many applicants, the immigration process is overwhelming and difficult to navigate. By taking the following steps to prepare, you can improve your chances of successfully achieving U.S. citizenship…

Verify Your Eligibility

Before beginning the formal immigration application process, verify your eligibility. Applicants must meet the following requirements to become a U.S. citizen.

Exceptions and special provisions may be available for individuals who’ve served in the U.S. military and other special circumstances. If you still aren’t sure if you’re eligible for citizenship, the Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) supplies a naturalization eligibility worksheet.

Explore Your Options

There are numerous pathways available to individuals who wish to become U.S. citizens. The following situations may provide a road to permanent U.S. residency:

The USCIS’s Explore My Options page provides applicants with a simple way to determine the appropriate path to immigration for each circumstance and offers instructions on how to proceed.

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Gather Documents..

Before filling out the downloadable Form N-400 Application for Naturalization, read through the instructions and gather the requested documents. Depending on your immigration category, you may be required to provide the following items:

Prepare for the Medical Exam

After you file the paperwork and pay any applicable fees, you’ll be contacted to schedule a medical examination from a list of approved physicians. This exam, which is designed to safeguard the health of the U.S. population, typically includes a physical and psychological assessment, vaccines and a screening for tuberculosis.

Before your medical exam, make sure you have the following items:

USCIS may also require information regarding psychiatric hospitalizations or details about any history of harmful or violent behavior toward people or animals, as applicable. Be prepared to provide information regarding special education or supervision requirements if you or a family member has a learning disability.

Note: If you have not been vaccinated, you must receive immunizations prior to immigration.

Prepare for the Interview

The immigration process typically includes an interview with a USCIS representative to determine whether any conditions surrounding your background or present circumstances could preclude immigration approval. Because the tone of the interview can vary significantly, depending on the interviewer’s personality, preparation can be challenging, but there are steps you can take to make the process easier:

Hire an Immigration Lawyer

Although an immigration lawyer isn’t required when filing for citizenship, these legal professionals can provide several important benefits. They know what permits you’ll need at all stages and can maneuver easily through the system. More importantly, an immigration attorney provides essential direction throughout the process and can help you avoid mistakes that can result in your application’s denial.

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Reasons You May Not Be Accepted

No matter how prepared an applicant is, it’s possible to be denied naturalization. U.S. citizenship may be denied for the following reasons:

Paperwork Erros

Paperwork errors occur when applicants fail to submit properly completed forms. They may also result from missing documentation or missing fee payments.

Security Concerns

Individuals formerly involved in Nazi or totalitarian parties, matters of genocide, terrorist efforts or adversaries to U.S. foreign policies may be denied citizenship.

Criminal History

Certain criminal convictions, including repeated crimes, can lead to citizenship disqualification. The following types of crimes may result in an applicant’s disqualification:
  • Fraud
  • Prostitution
  • Drug trafficking
  • Money laundering

Failure to Attend Appointments

Applicants are required to attend a formal interview, medical exam and fingerprinting appointment. Failure to attend these appointments may result in denial of your application.

Health-Related Grounds

A failed medical exam may result in disqualification. There are several primary health-related reasons for a denied application:
  • Issues with drug abuse or addiction
  • Failure to provide proof of required immunizations
  • The presence of communicable or quarantinable diseases that have public health significance
  • Physical or mental disorders that may lead to harmful behaviors

Public Charge

If an applicant is determined to be a high risk for long-term reliance on the U.S. government for financial support or care, they may be considered inadmissible.

Processing Errors

Processing errors, such as name misspellings and incorrect dates of birth listings, can sometimes result in an applicant being denied citizenship.


Regardless of the reason for denial, applicants who feel they were disqualified in error may file an appeal. Appeals must typically be filed within 30 days of denial. Your appeal should include a motion to reopen the case, along with a clear reason why.




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