Articles Posted in Citizenship

32876675381_f3e46f3cd9_cWe would like to wish our clients a very happy Presidents Day! Please remember that our office is closed in observance of the holiday, but will reopen tomorrow. To read more about the services we offer please visit our website.

 

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Many of our clients are unaware that they may be eligible to receive a fee waiver upon demonstration of a clear financial need. Although USCIS receives much of its funding from the application and petition fees they charge to applicants, the service understands that applications can be very costly for applicants, and that some applicants will not be able to pay the necessary filing fees. Although not all applications and petitions are eligible to receive a fee waiver there are many petitions that qualify.

Who may apply for a fee waiver?

A fee waiver request may be submitted by persons who are unable to pay the required filing fees or biometric service fee(s) for any application or petition that is eligible to receive a fee waiver. In order to receive a fee waiver, applicants must demonstrate that they are unable to pay the filing fees by providing documented evidence of that need with the fee waiver request Form I-912. A fee waiver request, Form I-912, must be filed with all applications and petitions for which you are requesting a fee waiver.

You can request a fee waiver if:

  1. The form you are filing is eligible for a fee waiver (refer to list below) and
  2. You can provide documentation showing that you qualify based upon at least one of the following criteria:
  • You, your spouse, or the head of household living with you, are currently receiving a ‘means-tested benefit.’
  • Your household income is at or below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines at the time you file.

You can verify whether your income is below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines by calculating your household size and household income, and reviewing the I-912P 2016 Federal Poverty Guidelines.

For example, if you are living in the state of California and you have a household size consisting of three people (you, your husband, and your child) and your total income is at or below $30, 240 you may file a fee waiver request by providing evidence that your income falls below the federal poverty guideline based on your household size and place of residence.

  • You are currently experiencing financial hardship that prevents you from paying the filing fee, including unexpected medical bills, emergencies, or other hardship.

Note: You are only required to file one Form I-912 for all family-related applications or petitions you would like to qualify for a ‘fee waiver’ at the same time.

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Did you know that if you fail to provide USCIS written notice of a change of address, within 10 days of moving to your new address, you may be convicted of a misdemeanor crime?  If you currently have a case pending with USCIS, and you fail to provide written notice of a change of address to USCIS, within 10 days of moving, you could face a fine of up to $200, imprisonment up to 30 days, or both if convicted. If you are an alien (non U.S. Citizen) you could also face removal from the United States for non-compliance (INA Section 266(b)).

It is extremely important for applicants to notify USCIS immediately upon moving to a new address. Filing a change of address with USCIS is easy and it’s free. Applicants may change their address online by visiting the USCIS website and completing Form AR-11 online. In order to file a change of address online, you must know the Receipt Number (appearing on the Notice of Action) associated with your application, if your application is currently pending with USCIS. A Receipt Number is also known as the case number, identifying the petition submitted. The Receipt Number typically begins with three letters and is followed by ten digits.

The first three letters of the Receipt Number indicate the USCIS service center which is processing the petition, as follows:
– EAC – Vermont Service Center;
– WAC – California Service Center;
– LIN – Nebraska Service Center; and
– SRC – Texas Service Center

If you have filed more than one petition with USCIS (as in cases of adjustment of status for spouses of U.S. Citizens) you must provide the receipt number of each petition you have filed, when submitting the change of address online. If you do not have your receipt notice or have lost it, you should contact USCIS National Customer Service Center by telephone for assistance:

Our number is: 1 (800) 375-5283
Our TTY number is: 1 (800) 767-1833

If you are outside the United States and have filed an application or petition with a USCIS Service Center, you can call 212-620-3418 to check the status of your case.

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According to a new study by the Pew Research Center, the number of permanent residents applying for U.S. Citizenship has risen 5% when compared to the 2012 election cycle. This fiscal year USCIS received the highest number of applications for naturalization in four years. The Pew Research Center suggests that the recent surge in applications for naturalization is not due to political reasons.

This fiscal year approximately 249,609 permanent residents applied for naturalization, a 13% increase from the previous fiscal year, according to preliminary data provided by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. During the last election cycle, in fiscal years 2011 and 2012, there was a 19 % increase in applications, compared to this year’s election cycle at 13%. Research conducted by the Pew Research Center indicates that the increase in the number of applications is due to practical reasons, such as avoiding fee increases and criminal prosecution, and not for political reasons. For instance, during fiscal years 2007 and 2008, the number of naturalization applications decreased by 62%, at a time when USCIS announced an increase in the application fee for adults, from $330 to $595, taking place on July 30, 2007. As a result of this announcement, an unusual number of applications were filed before the planned increase in filing fees. In fiscal year 2007, before the increase in filing fees, the number of naturalization applications increased by 89% compared to fiscal year 2006. This was the largest increase in naturalization applications ever seen since 1907.

From fiscal year 1995 to 1998, more than 900,000 people applied for citizenship every fiscal year, reaching a record high 1.4 million naturalization applications in fiscal year 1997, due to a series of Congressional legislation enacted in the mid 1980s. According to the Pew Research Center, one such legislation was the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which gave approximately 2.7 million undocumented immigrants the opportunity to become legal permanent residents. This piece of legislation increased the pool of potential citizens who would apply for naturalization within 5-10 years. By 2009, nearly 40% of permanent residents had become U.S. Citizens. In 1996 Congress passed laws restricting public benefits and legal protections of noncitizens, and expanded the list of offenses for which legal permanent residents could be prosecuted and deported. These laws prompted millions of permanent residents to apply for naturalization out of fear of deportation.

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It is our pleasure to introduce our incredibly skilled operations manager and immigration consultant, Lupe Lopez. If you have called or stopped by our San Diego office for a free consultation, chances are you have already met with her to discuss your needs. Throughout her immigration career, Ms. Lopez has assisted thousands of clients with their immigration concerns. There is no situation or immigration story she hasn’t heard and no shortage of extraordinarily challenging cases she has assisted with. Her compassion and empathy working with clients who have faced family separation and other adversities is unmatched.

Ms. Lopez holds over 12 years of experience in the field of immigration legal services. Her expertise includes filing waivers of inadmissibility, I-360 VAWA petitions, removal proceedings, nonimmigrant waivers, business, investment, and family immigration petitions. Ms. Lopez possesses a B.S. in Human Resource Management and a Certificate in Labor Relations. She is currently in the process of becoming Dale Carnegie certified. Aside from serving as an immigration consultant, Ms. Lopez is also our Operations Manager, ensuring that we deliver the highest level of customer service with proven results. She helps train, organize, and improve our operations systems which allow us to gain the customer trust, loyalty, and satisfaction. In her capacity as operations manager, she addresses both internal concerns and client concerns keeping our standards for excellence above our competitors.

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The American Immigration Lawyers Association will be hosting a free workshop on September 19, 2015 at various sites around the country.  The workshop will be providing assistance to lawful permanent residents who are eligible for naturalization. Each year, at sites across the country, AILA attorneys and other stakeholders provide assistance to lawful permanent residents eligible for naturalization.  Last year, AILA and its partner “ya es hora ¡Ciudadanía!” held more than 50 naturalization clinics in 22 states and the District of Columbia serving thousands of immigrants who aspired to become citizens. We will provide more updates to our community as they become available. For more information about the event please contact AILA’s Pro Bono department probono@aila.org.

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It is our pleasure to introduce our readers to Associate Attorney Yingfei Zhou, Esq who joined our firm in 2012. Attorney Zhou is an active member of the California State Bar, the New York State Bar, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

Ms. Zhou practices primarily on employment-based and investment-based immigration law. Ms. Zhou has experience in various aspects of business immigration, including employment-based permanent residence and nonimmigrant visas, as well as marriage-based immigration and citizenship matters. Specifically, she has provided counsel to clients in relation to employment in specialty occupation, nonimmigrant NAFTA professional visa, individuals with extraordinary ability and achievements, nonimmigrant trainee or special education exchange visitor visa, religious worker visa, E-2 treaty investor visa, waivers, applications for adjustment of status, employment certification (PERM) applications, motion to reopen/reconsider, re-entry permit, visa interviews, as well as extensive EB-5 investment immigration work.

Ms. Zhou received her Bachelor’s degree in Law (LL.B) from Zhejiang University, one of the top universities in China. She graduated with distinguished honor awarded by the Department of Education of Zhejiang Province and was editor-in-chief of law review of her law school in China. She subsequently attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, CA and obtained her Master’s degree in Law (LL.M.). Prior to joining the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick, Ms. Zhou has practiced in China for two years.

By Lupe Lopez

It was 1984 and I was meeting a friend at the Immigration office in San Francisco.  My friend was running late and asked that I wait for her in the courtroom.  She gave me the number of the room and as I walked into the courtroom I saw a small, thin, older woman crying – throwing herself down on her knees begging the judge to not deport her son.  “We have been here since he was 4 months old.  We don’t even know anyone in Germany.”  She cried and told him that they were alone and didn’t have anyone else but each other.  The judge looked empathetic but he said his hands were tied.  The young man of 19 had committed a crime that made him deportable.  The judge said to her “if only your son had become a citizen.  You both had plenty of time.”  The young man was taken away and the older woman had to be carried out of the courtroom screaming and crying for her son.

I have never forgotten that courtroom scene.  In 1984 I never dreamed that someday I would be working with Immigration lawyers or in an immigration law firm.  But, since I started working in the field of immigration, there has not been a month that goes by that I have not heard this same scenario in one form or another.  Parents become legal permanent residents and then for any of a multitude of reasons, never become U.S. Citizens; leaving their children to make the decision themselves as to whether or not they want to become citizens.  They never imagine that one day their child can be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or simply that their child may never get into trouble with the law.

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President Obama’s executive order is looming on the horizon, as part of an alleged 10 point plan the president plans to announce as early as Friday, November 21. According to a draft proposal released by a U.S. government agency, the plan may suspend removal proceedings for millions of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, as well as parents of U.S. Citizen children residing in the United States illegally, and parents of green card holders, by allowing them to benefit from a reprieve that will expand deferred action for these individuals. Among its 10 initiatives, firstly, the plan proposes to bolster border security, secondly, to improve pay for immigration officers, thirdly, to provide a 50% discount to the first 10,000 applicants whose income levels are below 200% of the poverty level in order to encourage participation, fourthly, to establish a program designed to stimulate the tech industry which could potentially offer millions of immigrants and their dependents a path to citizenship, and lastly, to prioritize removal proceedings on the basis of the severity of an immigrant’s criminal history, calling an end to the program known as ‘Secure Communities.’ This 10 point plan makes anyone who entered the United States before turning 16 and before the date of January 01, 2010, eligible for naturalization. Such a plan would thereby suspend deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants.

The proposal has not yet been announced, we would like to inform our audience to please be wary of fraudulent schemes. At this time ONLY preliminary information has been released.

Please continue to follow our blog for further updates, for more information please contact our office.  It is our goal to provide you with the most up to date immigration reform developments.

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By Lupe Lopez

Alan and Diana married in February 2014.  They quickly filed for Diana’s green card and because they had been married less than two years at the time of the interview, Diana received conditional permanent residence.  Everything was fine and there were no problems until Alan received a promotion to a position in one of the firm’s overseas offices.  Both Alan and Diana were concerned because they knew that Diana would not be able to spend much time out of the U.S. and still maintain her permanent residence.

Alan and Diana came to our office in to get an attorney’s opinion of their situation and to see if there was any way they could file a form that would maintain Diana’s permanent residence while living abroad.  Normally, if you are a permanent lawful resident, you cannot be out of the country for an extended period of time if you wish to maintain your residency; especially for the purpose of obtaining citizenship.  In order to be naturalized as a U.S. Citizen, the permanent resident must fulfill residency requirements and show evidence that he or she has been physically present in the United States for at least half of the three years (for people who have gained status through marriage to a U.S. Citizen – half of five years for all others).  Diana would not be able to accumulate the time needed if she is forced to live abroad with her husband.