“I hope you will consider this your third safe place–home, work and the library,” Santa Clara City Librarian Hilary Keith told about 40 attendees on March 21 at a U.S. naturalization information session hosted at Central Park Library, 2635 Homestead Rd. “I hope you will continue to use our resources for many years to come.”
The information session for legal permanent residents and interested naturalization applicants was presented by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Two officers gave a step-by-step power-point description of the naturalization process and conducted a mock interview.
Four steps were listed in the naturalization process, which can take six or seven months from the time of filing for citizenship: looking at general eligibility requirements, filing an application for naturalization (currently $640 plus $85 for biometrics), interviewing with a USCIS officer (now being scheduled for August) and being sworn in as a citizen, usually at a monthly ceremony.
Between July 1 and September 30, 2016, the San Jose Field Office received 4,688 applications and San Francisco received 7,761. At the Campbell Heritage Theater on March 23, about 1,300 successful applicants were sworn in. For San Francisco, a March 29 ceremony was at the extra-large venue Oakland Paramount Theater.
When asked the most important advice she could give, USCIS Officer Cortez responded, “Don’t procrastinate. File for your citizenship.”
Mexican-born Rosaura Sanchez Kovats, a session attendee from Merced, has waited 37 years to file–since getting her permanent green card in 1980.
“My daughters finally convinced me to do it,” said Kovats. “I want to avoid any problems visiting my family in Mexico. I’m afraid of being questioned now with what’s happening.”
To prepare for an interview, USCIS Officer Zhang advised focusing study time on the questions on the N400 application because 70 percent of the oral interview questions are based on the N400 form. Only about 30 percent of the oral questions are about civics.
Cupertino resident and green card holder Chitra Sridhar volunteered for the mock interview with Officer Cortez. When she aced the civics test in the first six questions, Cortez ended that portion of the interview. If an interviewee gets the first six civics test questions correct, they pass it.
“Because I want to vote,” Sridhar responded when asked why she was applying for citizenship.
USCIS Community Relations Officer Nina Sachdev emphasized the importance of being truthful when answering questions and avoiding scams when getting assistance by checking for official credentials.
“Always tell the truth,” said Sachdev, “and make sure you’re getting the right help. The wrong help can hurt you.”
Tom Pyke, Director of Constituent Services for U.S. Congressman Ro Khanna in California’s 17th District, told session attendees that the Congressman’s office (www.khanna.house.gov) can assist people already in the system with issues related to federal agencies, for example, social security and immigration issues.
Central Park Library has a Citizenship Corner on the second floor behind the reference desk.
Resources include study flash cards, 100 questions in different languages and a civics and citizenship toolkit kept at the reference desk. A book section for English learners is also on the second floor. An informal ESL conversation club meets Wednesdays from 10:30 a.m. to noon in the Margie Edinger Room.
“Lots of things we do, people don’t realize. It’s nice to get the word out,” said reference librarian Jenny Hsiao.
For official information and forms, visit the USCIS website: www.uscis.gov/citizenship and www.uscis.gov/forms. A county-sponsored information source is www.immigrantinfo.org. The Santa Clara library has not yet set a date for its next naturalization information session.