Articles Posted in Citizenship Interview

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As we approach the end of the year, in this blog post, we look back at the major policy changes implemented by the Trump administration in the year 2019 that have had a profound impact on the way our immigration system functions today.

JANUARY 

Government Shutdown Woes

The start of 2019 began on a very somber note. From December 22, 2018 to January 25, 2019 Americans experienced the longest government shutdown in American history (lasting a period fo 35 days) largely due to political differences between the Republican and Democratic parties on the issue of government funding to build a border wall along the U.S. Mexico border.

The government shutdown created a massive backlog for non-detained persons expecting to attend hearings in immigration court. Because of limited availability of federal workers, non-detained persons experienced postponements and were required to wait an indeterminate amount of time for those hearings to be re-scheduled.

To sway public opinion, 17 days into the government shutdown, the President delivered his first primetime address from the Oval office where he called on Democrats to pass a spending bill that would provide $5.7 billion in funding for border security, including the President’s border wall.

With no agreement in sight, on January 19, 2019, the President sought to appease Democrats by offering them a compromise solution. In exchange for funding his border wall and border security, the President announced a plan that would extend temporary protected status of TPS recipients for a three-year period and provide legislative relief to DACA recipients for a three-year period. The President’s proposal however did not provide a pathway to residency for Dreamers, and was quickly rejected by Democrats.

On January 25, 2019, with still no solution and pressure mounting, the President relented and passed a temporary bill reopening the government until February 15, 2019.

Meanwhile, immigration courts across the country were forced to postpone hundreds of immigration hearings, with Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky being the most deeply affected by the shutdown.

Changes to the H1B Visa Program

On January 30, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security announced proposed changes to the H-1B visa program including a mandatory electronic registration requirement for H1B petitioners filing cap-subject petitions beginning fiscal year 2020, and a reversal in the selection process for cap-subject petitions. The government outlined that it would first select H-1B registrations submitted on behalf of all H-1B beneficiaries (including regular cap and advanced degree exemption) and then if necessary select the remaining number of petitions from registrations filed for the advanced degree exemption. Moreover, only those registrations selected during fiscal year 2020 and on, would be eligible to file a paper H1B cap petition.

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Last week, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated its policy manual to clarify acts that may prevent a naturalization applicant from meeting the good moral character requirement.

A successful naturalization applicant must show that they have been, and continue to be a person of good moral character during the statutory period prior to filing the application for naturalization and up until taking the Oath of Allegiance. The statutory period is generally give years for permanent residents of the United States, three years for applicants married to U.S. citizens, and one year for certain applicants applying on the basis of qualifying U.S. military service.

Two or more DUI Convictions

Firstly, the policy manual clarifies that two or more DUI convictions during the statutory period could affect an applicant’s good moral character determination (Matter of Castillo-Perez). However, applicants with two or more DUI convictions may be able to overcome this presumption by presenting evidence that they had good moral character even during the period within which they committed the DUI offenses.

DUI refers to all state and federal impaired-driving offenses, including driving while intoxicated, operating under the influence, and other offenses that make it unlawful for an individual to operate a motor vehicle while impaired.

Post-Sentencing Orders

Secondly, the policy manual clarifies the definition of “term of imprisonment or a sentence” to mean, an alien’s original criminal sentence, without regard to post-sentencing changes. Post-sentencing orders that change a criminal alien’s original sentence are only relevant for immigration purposes if they are based on a procedural or substantive defect in the underlying criminal proceeding.

Furthermore, the policy guidance provides the following as examples of unlawful acts recognized by case law as barring good mood character (this list is not exhaustive):

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On August 28, 2019, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued new policy guidance defining “residence” as it relates to U.S. Citizenship.

The new policy guidance clarifies what it means to “reside in the United States” for the purpose of acquiring citizenship and sets out new policy guidelines as it relates to the acquisition of citizenship of children of U.S. government employees and U.S. armed forces members employed or stationed outside the United States.

Effective October 29, 2019, children residing abroad with their U.S. citizen parents (who are U.S. government employees or members of the U.S. armed forces stationed abroad) will not be considered to be residing in the United States for acquisition of citizenship. Similarly, leave taken in the United States while stationed abroad is not considered residing in the United States even if the person is staying in property he or she owns.

Therefore, U.S. citizen parents who are residing outside the United States with children who are not U.S. citizens should apply for U.S. citizenship on behalf of their children, by filing Form N-600K Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322 and must complete the process before the child’s 18th birthday.

The child of a member of the U.S. armed forces accompanying his or her parent abroad on official orders may be eligible to complete all aspects of the naturalization proceedings abroad. This includes interviews, filings, oaths, ceremonies, or other proceedings relating to naturalization.

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Immigration Raids Cancelled for Two Weeks

In a new turn of events, President Trump announced on Saturday, June 22, 2019, that he would delay the immigration raids that were set to begin on June 23, 2019, for a period of two weeks to give Congress more time to make changes to existing asylum law.

On the eve of the immigration raids, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi brokered a deal in which she asked the President to cancel the planned immigration raids. On Saturday the President tweeted that at the request of the Democrats, the raids would be pushed back for two weeks giving both parties time to roll out proposals regarding immigration reform.

For the time being the immigration raids will not be going forward as originally planned.

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Digitized FOIA System

USCIS has announced that its FOIA System is now digitized. Users will now be able to submit, track, and receive FOIA requests digitally. This is great news because this option will speed up the process of requesting a FOIA and also speed up the form of delivery. Previously, applicants were required to submit a request by mail and would receive the results of the FOIA request by mail in compact disc form. Now, applicants will be able to access their documents digitally.

Applicants will simply need to create a USCIS online account to take advantage of this new and improved system.

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Today, June 17, 2019, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), announced a new strategy aimed at reducing the processing times for applications for naturalization and adjustment of status. This new strategy will attempt to equalize the processing times for citizenship and adjustment applicants who live in a jurisdiction that has been burdened by higher than normal demand.

USCIS has issued a press release indicating that during fiscal years 2016 and 2017 the agency received a higher than expected volume of applications. Unfortunately, the increase in applications received throughout this period has burdened some field offices more than others, resulting in the disparities we are seeing in processing times across field offices.

To decrease the processing times in hard hit regions, USCIS will now be shifting citizenship and adjustment of status cases between different field offices to better distribute the workload and increase efficiency. This strategy should result in a decrease in processing times in regions that were previously experiencing higher than normal processing times.

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In this post, we share with our readers the top five things you need to know before filing for citizenship.

  1. You must be a lawful permanent resident of the United States for a required period of time to apply for citizenship

In order to apply for citizenship, you must be a lawful permanent resident of the United States for a specified period of time. The period of time you must wait before filing for citizenship depends on how you acquired your permanent residence.

If you acquired your permanent residence based on marriage to a United States Citizen spouse, and you are still married to that individual, you may apply for citizenship once you have reached a 3-year period of continuous residence as a legal permanent resident.

If you are no longer married to the U.S. Citizen spouse through which you gained your permanent residence, or if you did not gain your permanent residence based on marriage, you may apply for citizenship once you have reached a required 5-year period of continuous residence as a legal permanent resident.

  1. You must demonstrate that you have been physically present in the United States and maintained continuous residence for a required period of time in order to file for citizenship

Physical Presence

In order to apply for citizenship, you must demonstrate that you have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months in the 5 years preceding your citizenship application.

Continuous Residence

In addition, you must demonstrate that you have maintained continuous residence in the United States for a 3- or 5-year period depending on how you obtained your permanent residence. This means that you must not have taken any trips outside of the United States that lasted more than 6 months out of the year in the 5 years preceding your citizenship application. Trips outside of the United States include trips taken to Mexico.

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In this post, we discuss the top five reasons applicants are denied at their citizenship interview.

First let’s go over some basics:

In order to become a United States Citizen, you must meet the following general requirements at the time of filing your N-400 Application for Naturalization:

 

You must be:

  • A lawful permanent resident
  • At least 18 years of age
  • Maintained continuous residence in the United States since becoming a permanent resident
  • Be physically present in the United States
  • Have certain time living within the jurisdiction of a USCIS office
  • Be a person of Good Moral Character
  • Have Knowledge of English and U.S. Civics with some exceptions outlined below
  • Declare loyalty to the U.S. Constitution

As part of the citizenship interview, applicants must pass a civics and English test in order to receive United States Citizenship. The Civics test is an oral examination provided in the format of Question and Answer by an immigration officer in which the officer tests your knowledge of United States history and government. During the Citizenship interview, the USCIS officer asks the applicant up to 10 out of 100 civics questions provided by USCIS on their website as part of the study material for the examination. Applicants must answer 6 out of 10 questions correctly to pass the civics portion of the naturalization test.

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