The N-400 is the legal naturalization application that immigrants use in order to move one step closer to becoming naturalized U.S. citizens. Unlike the I-130 application, the N-400 is much longer, includes more questions, and involves many pages of “Yes” and “No” questions that ask the applicant targeted questions about their previous history. All of these questions are objective and straightforward in nature and need to be answered one way or the other. There is no middle ground on this application and that is perhaps one of the most difficult parts.

The reason this application process can be challenging, as mentioned, is also because immigrants might not have a native command of the English language. For such reasons, key terminology might sound confusing when to immigrants whose mother tongue is not English. The applications have been created by the USCIS though, and by extension Americans in the federal government—all Native English speakers, mostly.

Thus a review of some of the key terms used in the application should be advantageous for immigrants who are currently going through this process. This is also not just important for the actual filling out of the application, but also for the eventual naturalization interview, in which key terms that were used on the application will be spoken by immigration officers. It is a good idea to have a command of these terms, so the applicant will be able to understand what’s going on in both settings. Answering questions concisely and without confusion in the naturalization interview also shows any immigration officer that the applicant is confident in their previous history and a credible source.

Some Terms Worth Reviewing 

Although it may seem redundant, here are some key terms that every applicant should know and understand to have better chances of getting through the N-400 application without any problems. It is also common for immigration officers to sometimes ask applicants verbatim what a certain word, or phrase, might mean:

Advocate— To publicly support 

Overthrow a government— to remove someone in power, or a leading political party, often by force. 

Persecuted—This word actually is interpreted quite differently depending on ones culture and where they grew up. This might mean religious persecution, most commonly, for those who predominately Catholic faiths, in which a member of the community who was not a Catholic was “persecuted” or punished, or to cause suffering on behalf. In the context of a citizenship interview, the word persecute can refer to damaging someone’s reputation or status because of political affiliation.

Associate—Applicants may be asked by immigration officials if they know what the word associate means. This is not the case of a business “associate”, meaning somebody you work with. In this sense, it is meant to describe someone you are connected with, often implying somebody you perhaps shouldn’t be associated with. For example, being associated or affiliated with any terrorist organization is grounds for having your N-400 application rejected outright.

Recruit—Again, an immigration officer might ask an applicant to explain what “recruit” means. It’s important to distinguish the noun form, or someone who is about to, or potentially worth hiring, with the Verb form that is being asked about. In the latter sense, “recruit” is implying about an applicant’s previous history of ever being recruited by some type of political party, group, community, etc.

Expunge— Usually this word will be given in the contexts of some type of criminal or minor offense record. “Expunge” means to erase from your personal record.

Having a command of many of these terms will also applicants to be able to quickly recall the context in which these questions are being asked. This will ultimately help applicants with a sort of mental guide for how to prepare for a citizenship interview.

N-400 U.S. Citizenship I-485 Naturalization