NAPLES, Italy — The answers were different each time Lt. Brian Waite and his wife, Anna, asked immigration specialists questions about the process for her to become a U.S. citizen.

The inconsistent — and sometimes conflicting — answers left the couple befuddled and annoyed … until Thursday. That’s when they attended the first immigration workshop held by the Navy’s Region Legal Service Office in Naples, Italy.

Immigration specialists in the States “are not used to dealing with the military or military spouses who are applying from an overseas location, so it made it very difficult,” said Brian Waite, who transferred from Maryland to Naval Forces Europe/6th Fleet two weeks ago.

“We called the info line and they were not very informed,” added Anna Waite, who is Polish and had met her husband while the two were working in Bahrain. “And they would only let you ask five questions. Can you believe that?”

But Thursday, Joseph Hackbarth, an immigration officer with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Rome, traveled to Naples to answer questions from a handful of the 14 people who attended the workshop, with queries ranging from the timeline to become naturalized to fees associated with becoming a citizen.

The process is quite complex, Hackbarth told the group, and exponentially so when military members and spouses live overseas. But to help ease aggravations, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services established a toll-free military helpline with specialists trained to focus on military and military spousal questions. The number is 1-877-247-4645. Although the number is toll free, callers in some countries might be charged for the call.

Troops can also go through the base operator and dial DSN 1-800-375-5283.

Also, beginning Oct. 1, 2008, the service, which falls under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, redesigned the naturalization test, making it more difficult, he cautioned.

“The previous test was relatively easy for most people,” Hackbarth said.

Those who apply for citizenship before Oct. 1, 2008, but who are interviewed after that date, have a choice to take the old or new test. But by Oct. 1, 2009, all applicants must take the new exam. The service is waiting a year before giving the new exam to let applicants study. The 100-question exam is posted on its Web site at:

Naples’ Region Legal Service Office received several queries about naturalization, either for themselves or their spouses, and questions on adopting non-U.S. children. The interest prompted the office to hold the workshop, said Maria Ortiz, an immigration specialist with the Region Legal Service Office Europe and Southwest Asia.

They hope to hold a workshop once a quarter, depending on the need and interest.

Need more help?

USCIS: Information on naturalization process, forms, fees, tracking of applications, adopting children, etc. Visit

Military helpline: 1-877-CIS-4MIL (1-877-247-4645)

USCIS office in Rome: Information on hours, location, appointment and forms, visas or fees. Visit or e-mail or

Official translators: USCIS requires all non-English documents to be translated. For a list in Naples area, visit http://italy.

Consulate General of the United States-Naples: For questions on immigrant visas or other questions, visit http://naples. or by phone Tuesday and Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. by calling 081-5838-111.

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