Not on the test

How To Avoid Lines at your USCIS Appointment

I have been to USCIS processing centers so many times in the ten years up to my naturalization. I’veĀ  been for biometrics repeatedly, every time I lose my green card. The drive to the Biometrics center is not inconsiderable, and this time I finally worked out how to make the appointment take less time so I can get back on the road home. I spend more time with the family, and less on uncomfortable plastic chairs in waiting rooms.

It’s pretty simple really, and it was my wife who discovered it while getting her photo and fingerprints taken for another visa unrelated to my US immigration.

So you’ve got your appointment letter and it says something like 11:00 am. The thing is, there are a whole bunch of people who got the same invitation, all saying 11:00 am. So you turn up 15 minutes early and go to the official with your invitation to the party. You get first in line. And then at 11:00 am all the other people in your one hour time slot show up and then wait around for as long as an hour.

Meanwhile, you waltz up to the first appointment in your time slot and you’re on your way. OK. So it’s not rocket science, but it can save you a bunch of waiting.

Naturalization Not on the test

Becoming a Citizen – Update Your Social Security Card

If you were already a permanent resident in the United States before you passed your immigration test, you already have a Social Security Number (SSN). At the oath ceremony, the person up front probably told you that you have to go vote, you can get a passport and you can update your SSN. Here’s how to do the latter.

Download the SS-5 and fill it in and print it

You have to go to your local Social Security office in person to change status. No matter what you might read, you can’t do it by post. You certainly can’t do it online, so don’t waste your time. You need to take two qualifying identifying documents. The easiest two are:

  • State issued drivers license
  • US passport

These two cover all your needs. Of course, you need to apply for a passport, but heck, there’s no point becoming a citizen of the US if you can’t leave, and you need a passport for that anyway. You could theoretically use a birth certificate, but do the Social Security Administration really know what a Tongolese birth certificate look like?

The only other thing you need is the SS-5 form from the Social Security Administration. (SSA) This assumes you’re in the US, which you at least were when you passed your immigration tests. If you’re outside of the United States, there’s a different form – the SS-5-FS. You can fill this in when you get there, but I prefer to spend as little time as possible in such places, so I downloaded mine and filled it in and printed it.

If you want to find the nearest office at which you can do this, use the locator function on the SSA site.