The opinion of the court was delivered by: Surrick, J.
Presently before the Court is Kenneth Ajuz's Petition for Review of Denial of Application for Naturalization. (Doc. No. 1.) We conducted a hearing and reviewed de novo the denial of Petitioner's Application for Naturalization. For the following reasons, the Application for Naturalization must be denied.
Kenneth Ajuz ("Petitioner") was born on November 17, 1965, in Nigeria. (Gov't Ex. 4 at p. 2.) Petitioner lawfully entered the United States in 1983 with a student visa and enrolled in college in Louisiana. (Tr. at 7-8.) Petitioner studied chemistry and learned to read and write English. (Id. at 38.) He obtained a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Tennessee, and he has been working steadily ever since. (Id. at 8, 34, 38.) Presently, Petitioner is employed as a chemist. (Id. at 7.) He pays his taxes and has no criminal record. (Id. at 34.)
In 1993, Petitioner's father filed an Immigrant Petition for Relative ("Form F-29") on Petitioner's behalf so that he could begin the process of becoming a lawful permanent resident, and eventually a citizen. (Id. at 9.) The immigrant petition classified Petitioner as an unmarried child of a lawful permanent resident. (Id.) Petitioner had to wait six-and-a-half years for that petition to be granted. (Id. at 10.) Once it was granted, Petitioner was classified as an unmarried child of a lawful permanent resident. (Id.)
On May 1, 2000, Petitioner applied for permanent residency ("Form I-485") with the assistance of an attorney. (Id. at 13.) Petitioner was not married at the time and he so indicated on his application for permanent residency, consistent with his immigration classification as an unmarried child of a lawful permanent resident. (Id. at 13-14.) On June 3, 2000, a month later, Petitioner got married while his application for lawful permanent residency was pending. (Id. at 39.)
On August 9, 2000, an immigration officer, David Spaulding ("Spaulding"), interviewed Petitioner under oath as part of the application process for lawful permanent residency. (Id. at 15-16, 31.) During that interview, Spaulding asked Petitioner a three-part question: Are you married? Have you ever been married? Have you ever been married anywhere at anytime? (Id. at 16-17, 53-54, 62.) Petitioner answered "no," that he was not married, had never been married, and had never been married anywhere at anytime.*fn1 (Id. at 53.) Petitioner would have been ineligible for permanent residency if he had told Spaulding that he had married a few months earlier, because Petitioner was considered to be an unmarried son of a lawful permanent resident and his wife had not filed a separate application on his behalf. (Id. at 55-57, 88.) In January 2001, Petitioner's application for lawful permanent residency was granted. (Id. at 22, 40.)
Petitioner understood that he had to wait five years after he received lawful permanent residency before he could apply for naturalization as a citizen. (Id. at 25.) On February 23, 2006, after waiting the necessary five years, Petitioner applied for naturalization ("Form N-400"). (Id. at 22-23; Gov't Ex. 4, at p. 1.) Petitioner took the U.S. history and civics test required of candidates for naturalization. (Tr. at 33-34.) Petitioner received a perfect score. (Id.) On his application for naturalization, Petitioner indicated that he became a permanent resident on January 2, 2000, and that he got married on June 3, 2000. (Id. at 24, 43; Gov't Ex. 4, at pp. 2, 4.) In actuality, Petitioner had become a permanent resident on January 2, 2001, not in 2000. (Tr. at 40.) Petitioner's error made it appear as though he was a permanent resident at the time of his marriage. (See id. at 43.)
Lucy Anne Noel ("Noel"), an immigration officer, reviewed Petitioner's file in anticipation of Petitioner's naturalization interview. (Id. at 26, 73.) Noel noticed the discrepancy with the date of Petitioner's permanent residency. (Id. at 73-74.) She discovered that Petitioner's class of admission as an unmarried child of a lawful permanent resident would not be valid because Petitioner's records indicated that he married before he was granted permanent residency. (Id. at 74.) In an effort to resolve the discrepancy, Noel spoke to Spaulding about Petitioner's August 9, 2000 interview for permanent residency. (Id.) Noel was satisfied that Spaulding had asked Petitioner if he was married anytime, anywhere. (Id. at 74, 78.) Petitioner's response to that question at the interview was "no." (Id. at 53.) Noel thought that since Petitioner provided the incorrect date for his permanent residency, perhaps his marriage date was incorrect, as well, and Petitioner might still be eligible for naturalization. (Id. at 74-75.) Since Petitioner had not attached his marriage certificate to his naturalization application, Noel could not immediately verify the date. (Id. at 76.)
On June 12, 2006, Noel interviewed Petitioner as part of the application for naturalization. (Id. at 26, 36.) At Noel's prompting, Petitioner corrected certain details on his naturalization application that had changed since he filled out the form, including his address, telephone number, county of residence, and, notably, the date of his permanent residency. (Id. at 42-43.) Petitioner told Noel that January 2, 2001, was the correct date of his permanent residency and made the appropriate correction on the application. (Id. at 75.) Noel asked Petitioner for his marriage certificate and discovered that the date of his marriage was correct in the application. (Id. at 76.) Noel then asked Petitioner, among other things, the following two questions:
Have you ever given false or misleading information to any U.S. government official while applying for any immigration benefit or to prevent deportation, exclusion or removal?
Have you ever lied to any U.S. government official to gain entry or admission into the United States? (Gov't Ex. 4, p. 8; Tr. at 71.) Petitioner answered both questions, "no." (Tr. at 71.)
Noel explained to Petitioner that based on her review of Spaulding's notes from the prior interview for lawful permanent residency, Petitioner's marriage date could pose a conflict with his application. (Id. at 30, 76.) Noel asked Petitioner why he told Spaulding that he was not married when, in fact, he had married several months earlier. (Id. at 76-77.) Petitioner told Noel that "he did not do it intentionally," and that is was a "misunderstanding." (Tr. at 77.) Petitioner submitted a sworn statement to Noel under the heading, "Explanation of Why False Information Was Given During Your I-485 Interview," as follows:
At the time I filed, May 1, 2000, the I-485, I wasn't officially married. I mistakenly told the officer at the interview session that I was not married. My reason to answer [sic] the office [sic] no was because I thought the question was about the time I signed the I-485 petition. I have no intention in [sic] providing false information, but this was just a misunderstanding.
(Gov't Ex. 4; Tr. at 32.)
On December 11, 2006, Petitioner's application for naturalization was denied on the grounds that Petitioner had not resided continuously within the United States for at least five years after being "lawfully admitted" for permanent residence. (Gov't Ex. 5.) The officer found that Petitioner was not "lawfully admitted" into the United States for permanent residence in 2001 because he was married at that time and ...