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Jump through the naturalization hoops or you could be in trouble

Although native speakers of English may not have a problem answering the questions on a naturalization form, not everyone that is immigrating to South Carolina is a native English speaker. It is a naturalization requirement that applicants be able to speak English, but it is no surprise that official government forms rarely use easily accessible English.

If someone with limited English skills tries to fill out a naturalization form without the help of an immigration attorney, he or she could be putting him- or herself at risk of being denied, being criminally prosecuted for fraudulently trying to obtain citizenship or being removed from the country.

One of the questions that an applicant is asked is whether he or she ever persecuted individuals because of their national origin, race, religion, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. If someone accidentally checks "yes," he or she would be denied citizenship. Another question is whether the applicant ever promoted the overthrow of a government by violent or forceful means. Again, one wrong check could mean a rejected application.

While these two examples are quite extreme, the problem of making a mistake on an official form like an application for naturalization is not. Even for native English speakers, the risk associated with making a mistake is often enough to prompt a conversation with an immigration attorney. After all, most of the people who are at the stage where they are applying for citizenship have been in the country for at least five years, have families and careers here, and otherwise have strong ties to South Carolina and the U.S. To put all of that in danger just to avoid speaking with an attorney, is a mighty risk.

Source: Reuters, "U.S. charges ex-Liberian defense minister with lying in citizenship bid," Jonathan Stempel, May 13, 2014

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