Articles Posted in N-400

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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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New changes are coming to the naturalization examination beginning in December of 2020 to early 2021.

We have learned that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been busy revising the current naturalization test to ensure that the test accurately reflects an applicant’s knowledge of civics and United States history.

Back in December of 2018 a group was formed with the task of updating the test questions that appear on the naturalization exam, as well as implementing changes to the speaking portion of the examination. Prior to its implementation, USCIS will be testing the revision via a pilot program.

Section 312 of the INA requires naturalization applicants to pass an English and civics examination as part of the naturalization process. As part of this examination, applicants must demonstrate “…an understanding of the English language, including an ability to read, write, and speak words in ordinary usage in the English language…” and “…knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history, and of the principles and form of government, of the United States…”

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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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USCIS has issued new policy guidance clarifying good moral character requirements for naturalization.

Naturalization applicants should be aware that a violation of a federal controlled substance law, including for marijuana, remains a conditional bar to establishing good moral character for naturalization purposes, even where that conduct would not be found to be an offense under state law.

Although some states have enacted laws which decriminalize the cultivation, possession, and distribution of marijuana, under federal law such actions are unlawful and may lead to serious immigration consequences. For naturalization purposes, as previously stated such an offense is a conditional bar for applicants wishing to apply for naturalization.

An applicant who is involved in certain marijuana related activities may be found to lack good moral character if found to have violated federal law, even if such activity is not unlawful under applicable state or foreign laws.

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As part of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) new plan to modernize services offered by the agency, the agency has announced that it will gradually end self-scheduling of Infopass appointments, to encourage applicants to use online information resources and other online tools that allow applicants to check the status of their case, and other information.

According to USCIS, the Detroit Field Office and five offices in the Los Angeles area will begin the gradual phaseout of Infopass services. Newark, Great Lakes, and San Francisco will be next to gradually phaseout these services during the beginning of fiscal year 2019. USCIS expects to modernize its system completely by the end of fiscal year 2019.

According to USCIS Director Francis Cissna, “Expanding this program is a significant step in our efforts to move more USCIS services and information online. It also frees up agency staff to spend more time adjudicating benefit requests which should help reduce case processing times. USCIS remains committed to pursuing the most effective and efficient ways to administer our nation’s lawful immigration system.”

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Beginning next year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will launch a task force located in Los Angeles, designed to identify, detect, and prosecute individuals who have fraudulently gained United States Citizenship, for example by entering into a ‘sham’ marriage to obtain permanent residence, or engaging in other fraudulent activity, such as using a false identity to apply for permanent residence and/or naturalization.

USCIS has already begun to process of hiring lawyers and immigration officers who will review cases of individuals who have been deported, who the agency believes may potentially use a false identity to obtain permanent residence and/or citizenship. Such cases will be referred to the Department of Justice, who will then initiate the removal of individuals who have committed immigration fraud.

Of the denaturalization task force, USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna told reporters, “We finally have a process in place to get to the bottom of all these bad cases and start denaturalizing people who should not have been naturalized in the first place. What we’re looking at, when you boil it all down, is potentially a few thousand cases.”

The denaturalization task force will be funded by immigration application filing fees. The denaturalization task force will be primarily focused on targeting individuals who have used false identities to obtain immigration benefits.

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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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It is our pleasure to bring you the latest immigration news.

Adjudication of DACA-based Advance Parole

In response to the uncertain political climate, USCIS has responded to rumors that USCIS has suspended the processing of DACA-based advance parole documents. USCIS has confirmed that they have NOT suspended processing of DACA-based advance parole applications, and will continue to adjudicate these applications as normal. In addition, USCIS released a statement notifying the public that they will continue to process all applications, petitions, and requests consistent with current immigration laws, regulations and policies. We have also learned that USCIS has distributed guidelines to USCIS Field Offices across the United States providing officers with a clear framework regarding the issuance of emergency advance parole documents for DACA applicants. Please be aware that if you are in the process of applying for a DACA-based advance parole document, the advance parole document contains an important disclaimer which states that an advance parole document does not guarantee any person admission to the United States. Customs and Border Patrol may use their discretion in deciding whether or not to admit a person with an advance parole document into the United States. DHS may also revoke or terminate an advance parole document at any time.

Donald Trump on Visa Program Abuses

On November 21, 2016 the President-elect, Donald Trump, released an update on the Presidential Transition, outlining some of his policy plans for his first 100 days in office, including his day one executive actions. Donald Trump announced that he during his first day in office he plans to direct the Department of labor to investigate all abuses of visa programs that undercut the American worker. So far, it is unclear what position he will take on nonimmigrant worker programs.

Increase in Filing Fees

On December 23, 2016 USCIS will increase filing fees for certain immigrant and nonimmigrant petitions processed by the service. In order to avoid these fee increases, USCIS must receive your application before this date. The petitions that will be most heavily impacted by the fee increases include Form I-924 for Immigrant Investor Pilot Program, Form I-526 Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, the N-400 application for citizenship, I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant workers, the I-485 Adjustment of Status Application, the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative, the I-129F petition for alien fiancé, and the I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Permanent Residence. Fee waivers are available for select family based petitions. For a complete list of the fee schedule please click here.

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In this post we bring you your daily dose of immigration updates. For more information on the immigration services we provide please visit our website. For a free first legal consultation please contact our office. It is our pleasure to accompany you on your immigration journey.

USCIS extends TPS Designation for Nepal for 18 months

The Secretary of Homeland Security recently announced that Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for eligible nationals of Nepal will be extended for an additional 18 months, beginning December 25, 2016 through June 24, 2018. Eligible TPS applicants must either be foreign nationals of Nepal or habitually resided in Nepal. DHS will be extending current TPS Nepal Employment Authorization Cards (EADs) with a December 24, 2016 expiration date for an additional 6 months, valid through June 24, 2017.

For more information regarding TPS for Nepal please click here. For information about the TPS program please click here. Employers interested in verifying or reverifying the employment eligibility of employees who are TPS beneficiaries, may click here for more information.

EADs Extended 6 Months for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone TPS Beneficiaries

Current Beneficiaries of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program for the designations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone have had their TPS status extended for a period of 6 months, to expire on May 21, 2017. The Department of Homeland Security authorized this temporary extension to allow beneficiaries to make an orderly transition out of the United States, before termination of their TPS status on May 21, 2017. Current beneficiaries of the TPS program from these designations will automatically retain their TPS status until this date, and the validity of their current Employment Authorization Cards (EADs) will be extended through May 20, 2017.

Click here for more information about the 6-month extension of orderly transition before termination of TPS designations for Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. For general information about the TPS program please click here.

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