USCIS’s new naturalization application keeps the kookinesses of the old one.

Sunday, May 18th, 2014
By: Jonathan MontagJ.D.

Naturalization is what American immigration law, in all its archaic grandeur, calls becoming a citizen of the United States. The old naturalization application had some funny parts to it. USCIS created a new application. It is twice as long as the old one. I was afraid it would be less funny. Fortunately, it is more funny. One of the funniest questions on the old form was at Page 6, Part 10.A., Question 5:

Do you have any title of nobility in any foreign country?

When I asked clients this question when working on the application, they usually look at me with amusement or, for those that did not understand the question, puzzlement. To puzzled Mexican clients I try to make it clear by asking, “Are you related to King Maximilian?” Unsurprisingly, I have never had a client answer yes to this question.

There is another question that is equally as odd which I never have to ask clients at Page 7, Part 10.B. Question 12:

Between March 23, 1933, and May 8, 1945, did you work for or associate in any way (either directly or indirectly) with:

a. The Nazi government in Germany?

b. Any government in any area (1) occupied by, (2) allied with, or (3) established with the help of the Nazi government in Germany?

c. Any German, Nazi, or S.S. military unit, paramilitary unit, self-defense unit, vigilante unit, citizen unit, police unit, government agency or office, extermination camp, concentration camp, prisoner of war camp, prison, labor camp, or transit camp?

The funniest part of this question is the date specificity. I imagine the day a client will say, “Well, I was indirectly involved in a S.S. labor camp, but started on May 9, 1945, and so we can safely check the ‘No’ box.” The reason I don’t ask the question is that, assuming a person needs to be reasonably old to get involved with Nazism, say 15 years old, a person would have to be 84 years old to potentially be able to answer these questions in the affirmative. As I have never been involved, directly or indirectly, in the naturalization of an 84 year old, I feel safe skipping the question (though I give the client a copy to read over to make sure everything is correct).

How do these questions fair in the new application? Despite adding many questions about involvement in military groups, terrorist groups, police groups, vigilante groups, and on an on, and question about all kinds of conduct, from military training to recruiting for military organizations, to receiving weapons training, to raping people, followed by, in the best segue in any form, stopping someone from practicing their religion, USCIS still clung to the Nazi questions entirely.

As for the “Are you the King of Mexico” question, the new form did not abandon that show-stopper question. Instead, it expanded it at Page 13, Part 11, Question 4, to:

Do you have, or did you ever have, a hereditary title or an order of nobility in any foreign country?

The question expands the inquiry to the past – Were you related to King Maximilian? It also adds to the relatively clear “title of nobility” the concept of “order of nobility,” which I have no idea what it means. My guess either that you have some noble lineage that may matter even though you have no title, or a monarch bestowed (ordered) on you a noble honor, such as Lord Bob Hope and Lord Steven Spielberg.

In addition to expanding the question, another question is added at Page 18, Part 11, Question 53, five pages later, presumably to answer after the initial chuckles have subsided:

At your naturalization ceremony, are you willing to give up any inherited title(s) or order(s) of nobility that you have in a foreign country?

Thank heaven for the new, improved, modernized naturalization application. While some of the old problems have been somewhat solved, like a conundrum of a question about registering for the draft at Page 9, Part 10.G. Question 33:

Are you a male who lived in the United States at any time between your 18th and 26th birthdays in any status except as a lawful nonimmigrant?, the new form leaves the completely inadequate box for listing all the details of all criminal encounters with law enforcement (See Page 16, Part 11, Question 29) intact and the Oath of Allegiance, incomprehensible to most applicants –“I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, or whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen,” also remains unchanged.

The naturalization application reveals America’s history of preoccupations, such as shedding the noble titles and hereditary monarchical rule of Great Britain, de-Nazification after World War II, and the current war on terror. However, one would think it is not too soon to relax a little about fears from irridentist British nobles or Nazi pre-teens and modernize the application instead of simply enlarging it beyond all reason. Or perhaps it is not too soon to use the word citizenship instead of naturalization. Obviously, it is too soon.

Do you or have you ever, directly or indirectly, laugh(ed), guffaw(ed), or chuckle(d) at any question(s) on a naturalization application, past or present, or do you or have you ever encourage(d), assiste(d) or abet(ted) a past or present foreign country potentate or sovereignty in laughing, guffawing, or chuckling? I think once with some Dame, but she was 85 years old. Posted May 18, 2014.


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