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JimmyHou

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About JimmyHou

  • Rank
    Diamond Member
  • Member # 173657

Profile Information

  • Gender
    Male
  • City
    Houston
  • State
    Texas

Immigration Info

  • Immigration Status
    Naturalization (approved)
  • Place benefits filed at
    Texas Service Center
  • Local Office
    Houston TX
  • Country
    Egypt

Immigration Timeline & Photos

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  1. I wanted to document my N-400 journey in detail. Many members find reassurance in reading the experiences of others, and I hope this helps. I got my green card through my employer and applied based on 5 years of permanent residency. Some of this information is specific to Houston, but most of it will be of use to all applicants. I hope this serves as a useful "sample timeline" for others. So here you go; everything that happened from the moment I sent the application to the moment I picked up my naturalization certificate. ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- Timeline ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- 16-Dec-2015 Early-filing eligibility date 17-Dec-2015 Day 1 N-400 mailed to Lewisville, TX 18-Dec-2015 Day 2 Application delivered (FedEx confirmation) 23-Dec-2015 Day 7 Check cashed 23-Dec-2015 Day 7 Application received (e-notification) 28-Dec-2015 Day 12 Receipt notice (NOA) received 04-Jan-2016 Day 19 Biometrics notice received (for 13-Jan-2016) 13-Jan-2016 Day 28 Biometrics completed 26-Apr-2016 Day 132 In-line for interview (e-notification) 03-May-2016 Day 139 Interview scheduled (e-notification) 06-May-2016 Day 142 Interview letter received (for 07-Jun-2016) 07-Jun-2016 Day 174 Interview completed (recommended for approval) 09-Jun-2016 Day 176 In-line for oath (e-notification) 10-Jun-2016 Day 177 Oath scheduled (e-notification) 13-Jun-2016 Day 180 Oath letter received (for 22-Jun-2016) 22-Jun-2016 Day 189 Oath ceremony ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- Application ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- 16-Dec-2015 I became eligible to file my application; 90 days before the 5th anniversary of the "resident since" date on my green card. Note: the early filing calculator on the USCIS website took into consideration that 2016 is a leap year. 17-Dec-2015 - Day 1 I mailed my application to the Lewisville, TX lockbox (sent to the street address, not the P. O. Box). I included the N-400 form, the G-1145 form, two passport photos with my name and A-number written on the back, a copy of the front and back of my green card, and a personal check for $680 with my A-number written on it. I used FedEx; for $7.50, they guaranteed next-day delivery, although I'm sure it was only that cheap because it's only a 3 hour drive. 18-Dec-2015 - Day 2 My application was delivered to USCIS in Lewisville, TX according to the tracking tool on the FedEx website. 23-Dec-2015 - Day 7 Morning: my bank account showed that USCIS cashed my check. Afternoon: I received a text message and e-mail notifying me that my application had been accepted. The text message said that my case had been received and it provided me with my case number (starting with NBC*). The email contained the same information, but also informed me that the application had been routed to the National Benefits Center and said that I should expect my NOA in the mail within 7-10 days. I used my case number to set up an account on the USCIS website and to turn on text message and email alerts for the next stages of my application. 28-Dec-2015 - Day 12 I received my receipt notice (I-797C Notice of Action) with a notice date of 22-Dec-2015. The NOA states that I'll be scheduled to appear for an interview "upon receipt of all required Record Checks". ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- Biometrics ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- 04-Jan-2016 - Day 19 I received my biometrics letter with an appointment date of 13-Jan-2016. The letter was sent from the National Benefits Center in Lee's Summit, MO and is dated 26-Dec-2015. 13-Jan-2016 - Day 28 My biometrics appointment was scheduled for 2:00 pm at the Southwest Houston Application Support Center (11777 S State Highway 6), which is actually in the city of Sugar Land, just southwest of Houston. I arrived at 1:40 - note that parking is no concern at all since this ASC shares a parking lot with a Kroger and several other stores. I left my phone in the car, because I was asked to do so on every other visit. When I walked in, the security guard told me to turn off my cellphone if I had one (even though there was a sign that said no cellphones). They may have relaxed the rules, since on previous visits I was told to leave my phone in the car. He checked my letter, asked to see my green card, and gave me the "Learn About the United States" packet and a form to fill out. The form asked for my biographical information as well as any other names I have used in the past. When I was done, I handed the security guard the form and followed another gentleman to do my biometrics. There were two people ahead of me when I walked in and they were done by this time. He then asked me to sit down for the photo, which he had to retake because I didn't lean all the way up against the wall the first time. I then had to sign my name on an electronic reader and I could see my signature, photo, and fingerprints on the screen. I filled out an evaluation card and was given my biometrics letter (now stamped and dated). I walked out at 1:55. ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- Interview ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- 18-Apr-2016 - Day 124 I have not heard anything from USCIS since my biometrics appointment, which was 3 months ago. The status check page on the USCIS website won't let me submit an online "Case Status Inquiry" because my application is still within normal processing times. However, those are predicted times for the whole process, and not just for the stage I'm in. It's too early to bother calling or making an Infopass appointment. So on the recommendation of a fellow December 2015 filer who was in the same position, I filed an "Notice Not Received" online inquiry. Since I haven't received the Inline for Interview notice, I thought this made sense. 26-Apr-2016 - Day 132 I was placed inline for interview scheduling. I received an e-mail update and my online case status was updated around 11:00am. The text message arrived two days later. My status now says that USCIS "started the interview scheduling process." No idea if this is related to the online inquiry. 03-May-2016 - Day 139 My interview was scheduled. I got a text message and an email and my online status was updated to indicate that USCIS would send me an interview letter in the mail. 06-May-2016 - Day 142 I received the interview letter in the mail. My interview is scheduled for 07-Jun-2016 at the new USCIS office on Gears Road in north Houston. 07-Jun-2016 - Day 174 I had my interview this morning and I was recommended for approval. My appointment was for 8:30 at the new USCIS office at 810 Gears Road in north Houston. I walked into the building at 8:10, went through a security checkpoint, and turned in my interview letter at the front desk. There was no line at check-in, and I was asked to wait in one of two waiting areas in a large open room. One waiting area was for naturalization interviews and the other was for Infopass appointments. Every now and then, a number would be called, and someone in the Infopass area would be told to go to one of the windows around the room. The naturalization interviewees were called by name and told to go to a door where an officer was waiting. I waited for about an hour (so about 40 minutes after my appointment time) before my name was called. My interviewer met me at the door, introduced herself, and chatted while we walked back to her office. By any measure, she was friendly, but by USCIS standards, she was positively bubbly. When we got to her office, she asked me to sit down and give her my green card, passport, and drivers license. She then asked me to stand so she could place me under oath. We started with the testing portion of the interview. She asked me the following six questions: - What group of people was taken to America and sold as slaves? - How many amendments does the Constitution have? - What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803? - What is the name of the Vice President of the United States now? - Why did the colonists fight the British? - What is the highest court in the United States? She then said, This is going to be very elementary for you and moved to the language test. She asked me to read: What country is north of the United States? She asked me to write: Canada is north of the United States We went through the application page by page. She went over my legal name and had some questions as to what my birth name was (I had a translated copy of my birth certificate with me and she took this). We went over all the biographic information and she double-checked my name change request. I told her at the start that I had another trip to add to my list (taken after the application was sent). I had printed this correction out for her and she took the new sheet and added it to my application. Going through the rest of the application, she specifically asked whether my parents were US citizens, whether I was currently a member of any organizations other than those listed, whether I had any citations within the last 5 years other than those listed (she didnt seem to care about the older ones), and whether I had ever been in the military. When we got to the question about selective service, she asked me how old I was (I'm over 31) and she said, "So this doesn't apply to you," and moved on. Other than those specific questions, she seemed to be picking yes/no questions at random (or maybe just the ones she was interested in asking); she didnt ask all of them. She did not ask me for any additional documentation and she didn't look at my passport beyond a quick glance at the name. She asked me if I understood the oath and then asked me to sign my application in two places. After that, she printed out three sheets of paper. The first two were for the name change and were identical. She asked me to sign both with my current name and reminded me that my name would not legally change until the ceremony. The third sheet of paper had my biographic information on it and was stapled to a small ziplock bag with my photos in it (thats how I had attached the photos to the application). She asked me to check the information, but I looked at it and said, My name is not Maria and Im not from El Salvador; she had attached the photos to the wrong piece of paper. She laughed, corrected this and gave me the right paper to check. She did not ask me to sign my photographs; this seems to be common for name change applicants. At this point she told me that everything looked good and she gave me the N-652 form stating that I had passed the English and civics tests and that my application was recommended for approval. She said that I should get an oath letter in the mail and that it was important to show up at the time indicated on the letter because it takes hours to get everyone checked in. She said that they were not having people wait for letters today (which I took to mean that they sometimes do on other days). She said that I would mostly likely be scheduled for the June 22nd ceremony, but that if not, then I would be scheduled for the July 27th ceremony. The interview took about 30 minutes. She walked me out to the waiting room and told me she would call me when she was done making copies of my passports (2), green card, and drivers license. I waited for about 5 minutes before she called me back to the door, handed me my documents, and told me to have a nice day. ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- Oath Ceremony ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- 09-Jun-2016 - Day 176 I was placed inline for oath ceremony scheduling. I got a text message and an email and my online status was updated. 10-Jun-2016 - Day 177 My oath ceremony was scheduled and the letter was mailed. I got a text message and an email and my online status was updated. 13-Jun-2016 - Day 180 I received my oath ceremony letter in the mail. It says to take my green card and oath letter to the ceremony and has a number of yes/no questions on the back that need to be filled out on the day of the ceremony. The questions are all related to whether or not anything has changed since the interview. The ceremony is scheduled for 7:00am on 22-Jun-2016. 22-Jun-2016 - Day 189 Today was the big day; my naturalization ceremony. A guest and I arrived at the M. O. Campbell Educational Center in north Houston at 7:15, a little later than indicated on the oath letter. It was raining heavily when we got there and some people were soaked by the time they made it across the large parking lot to the entrance; luckily I had two umbrellas. At the entrance guests were ushered inside so they could wait in the auditorium while applicants waited outside in a covered area. Our oath letters had numbers on them (from 0 to 9) and these corresponded to the check-in table that you were supposed to go to. After about 20 minutes I was inside the building and 10 minutes after that I was at the front of the line for my table. I turned in my oath letter and green card and was given my certificate to check. I was then given a purple piece of paper and told that we would be dismissed by color (colors corresponded to order of arrival, so those who get there earlier get to leave earlier). I met my guest and we sat together on the second tier of the auditorium (the lower tier was already mostly full). This was at around 8:00 am. As I walked in, I was given a packet containing an American flag, a welcome letter from President Obama, and a copy of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. There were a few announcements made about the colored pieces of paper, but mostly people just took photos and talked and waited. Around 9:00 am the doors were closed and ceremony began with a brief speech by the USCIS director. At this point she asked any applicants who had requested a modified oath to see her and shortly after that, she introduced the judge. The U.S. And Texas flags were brought in and a young lady sang the national anthem. The judge opened the formal court session and made some very kind remarks urging people to relax, take as many photos as they wanted, and not worry about their kids making noise; he said that it was a formal court session, it was a day to celebrate. He also said that he'd stick around afterwards and pose for photos with anyone who was interested. The USCIS director indicated that of the 2089 people scheduled for the oath, 2020 were present and asked the judge to "continue the applications" of those not present, whatever that means. The judge then introduced several members of the armed forces who were being naturalized and asked them to stand and be recognized. He then asked all applicants to stand and he read the entire oath of citizenship at once, after which he said, "If that is your oath, please say, 'I will'" and everyone said "I will." The judge then congratulated us as "his fellow Americans". Before we sat down, we recited the pledge of allegiance. The judge said a few more words about the importance of voting, but kept it brief. That was it; simple, but very enjoyable. There were no additional songs and no video from the president as I've read about at other ceremonies. The judge closed the session and dismissed us shortly before 10:00 am. USCIS officials called out the first color to be dismissed and I heard them call green, orange, pink, yellow, and red before they called purple about 30 minutes after the ceremony ended. When I left, the judge was still posing for photos with over 100 people still in line, so he was going to be there for a while. I went back to table 9 and gave them my purple paper (which they'd written my A-number on). They gave me my certificate and congratulated me. Attached to my certificate was a name change order signed by the judge. Also, unlike almost all the other applicants, the photo on my certificate was the one I had submitted with my application and not the one taken at biometrics. Based on what I've read this is common for those who change their names. The photo was glued on and embossed, not scanned and printed. We left the building at roughly 10:45 and walked out into a hot, humid, sunny Houston morning. ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- U.S. Citizen ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- And with that, 16 years after I moved to the U.S., I'm happy to call myself an Egyptian, an immigrant, and an American. People differ on what it means to be an immigrant; should one assimilate completely, or should one hold on to their heritage as tightly as possible? As with most things, the best answer is probably somewhere in the middle. Over 200 years ago, Thomas Paine, an immigrant, revolutionary, abolitionist, and founding father, said it better than I ever could, "Independence is my happiness, and I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world, and my religion is to do good."
  2. I thought this might help those of us considering a legal name change. The N400 application is (in most cases) a great time to legally change your name. It's fast and it's free. Outside of the N400 process, a name change requires a visit to your local courthouse, may require a public announcement in a newspaper (depending on your state and local laws) and will cost you money. In New York City, the cost is about $65 while on Houston it is over $400, so cost varies from city to city. You can change your name to anything you want within certain limitations. You can't change your name to impersonate someone or in an attempt to hide your identity for illegal purposes. Other than that, it's up to you. If you are Arthur Robert Wilkinson, you can become Geraldo Mohamed Leibowitz. It's important to note that if you are just changing your last name to take your spouse's last name or to revert to your maiden name, then a legal name change is not required. This is because a marriage certificate or a divorce certificate acts as proof of legal name change. This is true EVEN IF your certificate does not show the new name that you want to take. For example, if Anita Mary Harrolds marries Geraldo Mohamed Leibowitz, she can legally be known as Anita Mary Leibowitz even though that name does not appear anywhere on the certificate. In fact, she can also hyphenate both last names without a legal name change. However, if she wanted to change her middle name from Mary to Margaret, she would need a legal name change. To request a legal name change through the naturalization process, fill out the name change section of the N400. The interviewer may ask you to confirm that you still want to change your name because some people change their minds between the application and the interview. The interviewer may ask for proof of your current legal name. In case of a discrepancy between your green card and your passport, a birth, marriage, divorce, or name change certificate determines your current name, so make sure you have these with you (if they apply in your case...it's always a good idea to have your translated birth certificate with you at the interview). The interviewer will print out some forms (three I think) for you to check and sign. These should have your old and new names on them. You will have to be scheduled for a judicial oath ceremony. This is because USCIS does not have the legal authority to change your name and must ask a judge to do so. If your city has regular judicial ceremonies then there shouldn't be any delays. If your city holds regular administrative ceremonies, but not many judicial ceremonies, then the name change may cause a delay. Some cities (including San Francisco and San Jose) have stopped scheduling judicial ceremonies altogether. Applicants in these cities cannot legally change their names through the N400 application. Your interviewer will inform you of this and will cross out the name change section during the interview. You will have to request a regular name change before or after naturalization if you live in these cities (see above). At your oath ceremony you will be given your naturalization certificate as well as a name change certificate signed by a judge. This second certificate will show your old and new names and you'll need it to update your name with your banks, on your drivers license, credit cards, etc. In addition to doing all the paperwork to make these changes, you'll also have to consider the effect of the name change if you have dual citizenship; your name on your two passports may not match and your other country may require you to go through different name change procedures or may not allow name changes at all. People do travel using passports with different names, but you have to be careful when booking tickets and you may want to travel with your name change certificate (and translations). If you want to check whether or not (and how often) judicial ceremonies are held in your location, find your office here and look under naturalization ceremonies: http://www.uscis.gov/about-us/find-uscis-office/field-offices
  3. Good luck to all February 2015 naturalization/citizenship applicants. I'll let one of the table experts add the tracking table!
  4. I found this document that explains what you can expect at your oath ceremony. I think it's well-written and easy to read, so I hope some of you will find it helpful. I haven't found any information on it that is currently out-of-date, but note that it is old and check it for yourselves. https://cliniclegal.org/sites/default/files/231718_clinic_09.pdf Please note that this is not an official USCIS document. It covers several topics including: - receiving the oath letter - maintaining eligibility before the oath - completing the questionnaire - dressing for the ceremony - what to bring to the ceremony - checking in at the ceremony - ceremony agenda - what to do after the ceremony - possible de-naturalization - sample oath letter - sample naturalization certificate
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