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Articles Posted in Naturalization

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post, we are breaking down Biden’s new immigration reform proposal which was recently introduced before Congress. The new proposal, also known as the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, is groundbreaking because it creates an earned path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States on or before January 1, 2021.

While this piece of legislation is still just a bill, it is opening the door for further dialogue from members of Congress and provides a unique window into what a final bill on immigration reform might look like.


How exactly does one “earn” their citizenship with this bill?


Undocumented immigrants who came to the United States on or before January 1, 2021, who can prove that they do not have a criminal record, and are not otherwise ineligible, would be eligible to secure something called “lawful prospective immigrant status” or “LPI” under this new bill.

Essentially, “LPI” would be a provisional temporary type of status that would allow undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States lawfully for a six-year period of time. This provisional status would act as a “gateway” to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for permanent residence and citizenship in the future.

Under the bill, eligible applicants would be granted “LPI” status for a 6-year period, and within that period of provisional status, immigrants would then be eligible to apply for permanent residence after 5 years. After 3 years of being in green card status, such immigrants would then be eligible to apply for U.S. Citizenship.

All applicants would be required to pass background checks and pay taxes under the law.


Would LPI immigrants be able to travel in and out of the country?


Yes. LPI immigrants would be eligible to receive employment authorization and advance parole that would allow them to work and travel in and out of the country.

Additionally, LPI immigrants would be protected from deportation while their applications for LPI would be pending with immigration.


Are there special provisions for DACA recipients, TPS eligible immigrants, and farm workers?


Yes. Under the bill, those with DACA, individuals eligible for TPS, and farm workers with a demonstrated work history would be exempted from the “LPI” provisional status and would be permitted to apply for permanent residence directly without having to wait 5 years to apply for permanent residence, through an expedited “fast track” type of processing.

All others, however, would need to first obtain LPI status and then after 5 years apply for a green card.

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It’s been an exciting week in the world of immigration. As we had been expecting, on Tuesday President Biden signed a fresh batch of executive orders directly impacting our immigration system.

These include (1) Executive Order on, “Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans,” (2) Executive Order entitled, “Creating a Comprehensive Regional Framework to Address the Causes of Migration, Manage Migration Throughout North and Central America, and to Provide Safe and Orderly Processing of Asylum Seekers at the United States Border,” and (3) Executive Order on, “the Establishment of Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families.

In this blog post, we will discuss the major provisions of the Executive Order entitled, “Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion for New Americans,” and what this order means for you.

*Please note we will discuss the other two orders in separate upcoming blog posts.


EO – Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration System and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion for New Americans


First, we will discuss the President’s initiative to create a new task force that will promote integration and inclusion of foreign born immigrants, dismantle harmful policies arising from the public charge ground of inadmissibility, promote naturalization, and initiative to revoke former President Trump’s memorandum on enforcing the legal responsibilities of sponsors of aliens.

Task Force on New Americans

This executive order was created in order to promote integration and inclusion for immigrant communities including asylees and refugees. In line with this new executive order, the President has ordered his cabinet agencies to coordinate their efforts to pass policies that both welcome and support immigrants to the United States. To that end, the government will convene a Task Force on New Americans to positively impact local immigrant communities.

As discussed in section 3 of the order, the Department of State, the Attorney General, and the Department of Homeland Security will review and revise any existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and agency actions to ensure that they conform with the President’s agenda to welcome and support vulnerable immigrants. As part of this process, the government will be dismantling barriers that make it difficult to receive immigration benefits, including actions taken by the previous administration that do not promote fair access to the legal immigration system – such as potentially rescinding USCIS fee increases, and other such areas of concern.

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On November 13, 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced important revisions to the civics examination component of the naturalization test.

Unfortunately, these changes will make it more difficult for at least some immigrants to successfully become U.S. Citizens.

As you may be aware the naturalization test consists of two components. The first is English proficiency – applicants must demonstrate English language proficiency as determined by their ability to read, write, speak and understand English. The second requirement is the civics examination – an oral examination requiring applicants to demonstrate knowledge of U.S. history and government.

As part of the civics examination a USCIS Officer asks the applicant up to 10 of 100 possible civics questions. To successfully pass the examination applicants are required to answer 6 out of 10 questions correctly.

With the new revisions applying to applications filed on or after December 1, 2020, USCIS will increase the number of civics test questions that will be asked from 10 to 20 and applicants will be required to answer 12 questions (instead of 6) correctly in order to pass.


What exactly do the new changes include?

The USCIS policy alert published on November 13, 2020 entitled “Civics Educational Requirement for Purposes of Naturalization,” outlines the changes that will be made to the naturalization civics examination beginning December 1, 2020.

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We have important new developments to share with our readers regarding the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) planned increase in filing fees for certain applications and petitions, which was set to go into effect beginning October 2nd 2020.

As we previously reported on our blog, in early August USCIS published a final rule in the Federal Register entitled, “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fee Schedule and Changes to Certain Other Immigration Benefit Request Requirements.” This final rule discussed the agency’s planned increase in filing fees for applications, petitions, or requests filed with USCIS postmarked on or after October 2, 2020.

*For a complete list of the planned increases and petitions affected click here.

According to USCIS, the final rule was intended to ensure that the agency would have enough resources to provide adequate services to applicants and petitioners. The agency stated that after having conducted a review of current fees, the agency determined that they could not cover the full cost of providing adjudication and naturalization services without a fee increase.

This news was not surprising to say the least. Since the emergence of the Coronavirus pandemic, USCIS has been facing an unprecedented financial crisis that has forced the agency to take drastic measures to account for its revenue shortfalls.

Federal Judge Grants Injunction Blocking Increase in Filing Fees

In a surprising turn of events, just days before the final rule was set to go into effect, several organizations filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security to stop the government from enforcing the final rule. Immigrant Legal Resource Center, et al., v. Chad F. Wolf.

On Tuesday, September 29, 2020, federal judge Jeffrey S. White of the District Court for the Northern District of California, granted the injunction temporarily preventing the government from enforcing the increase in filing fees as planned on October 2nd.

As a result of the court order, USCIS is prohibited from enforcing any part of the final rule while the lawsuit is being litigated in court. While the government is sure to appeal the court’s decision, for now applicants can continue to send their applications and petitions with the current filing fees as posted on the USCIS webpage.

In support of his ruling, judge White reasoned that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed in challenging the final rule because both the previous and current acting secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) were unlawfully appointed to their posts and therefore were not authorized to issue the final rule. The judge also agreed that the fee hike would put low income immigrants at a severe disadvantage stating, “Plaintiffs persuasively argue that the public interest would be served by enjoining or staying the effective date of the Final Rule because if it takes effect, it will prevent vulnerable and low-income applicants from applying for immigration benefits, will block access to humanitarian protections, and will expose those populations to further danger.”

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We are just 60 days away from Election day in the United States which falls on Tuesday, November 3rd. Do you know where your candidate stands on immigration? In this post, we cover Presidential nominee Joe Biden’s stance on important immigration issues, and everything you need to know about his vision for America.

We would also like to take this opportunity to remind those of our readers who are American citizens to exercise their right to vote. It is your civic duty and will help shape the nation’s immigration policy for the next four years. For voter registration information please click here.


Immigration under Joe Biden

If elected President of the United States, Joe Biden has stated that he will enact a number of policies during his four-year term. Among these policies, he promises to take urgent action to undo destructive policies implemented by the Trump administration, modernize the immigration system, reassert America’s commitment to asylum-seekers and refugees, and implement effective border screening.


Comprehensive Immigration Reform

First and foremost, Joe Biden supports working with Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration solution that would offer nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. As vice president, Joe Biden worked alongside former President Obama to push forward a bill that would do just that. Unfortunately, the Republican-led Congress refused to approve the bill, leaving millions of undocumented immigrants in limbo including Dreamers.

Joe Biden advocates for the creation and expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program,  the Central American Minors program, which allows parents with legal status in the U.S. to apply to bring their children from Central America to live with them, and the creation of a White House task force to support new Americans to integrate into American life and their communities.

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We would like to wish our readers a very great start of the week. In this blog post, we will be covering recent and exciting developments in immigration law.


K-1 Visa Applicants

We have great news for K-1 fiancé visa applicants. Today, August 31, 2020, the Department of State issued an important announcement for K visa applicants. Effective August 28, 2020, the Department of State has given Consular sections the authority to grant K visa cases “high priority.” This directive applies to Consulates and Embassies worldwide and gives Consular posts the discretion to prioritize the scheduling of K visa interviews, as country conditions allow during the Coronavirus pandemic.

DOS has encouraged applicants to check the website of their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for updates on what services that post is currently able to offer.

Revalidating the I-129F Petition

DOS has also stated that while the I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) is valid for a period of four months, consular officials have the authority to revalidate the I-129F petition in four-month increments.

In addition, the announcement states that for most cases impacted by the suspension of routine visa services or COVID-19 travel restrictions, it will not be necessary to file a new I-129F petition.


Interview Waiver Eligibility for Certain Non-Immigrant Visa Applicants

The Department of State announced on August 25, 2020, that Consular officials at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad can temporarily waive the in-person interview requirement for individuals applying for a nonimmigrant visa in the same classification.

Previously, interview waiver eligibility was limited to applicants whose nonimmigrant visa expired within 12 months. The new announcement temporarily extends the expiration period to 24 months.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post we bring you the latest immigration updates.


Naturalization Ceremonies

Great news for naturalization applicants waiting for an oath ceremony. On July 1, 2020, USCIS issued an announcement notifying the public that it anticipates that it will complete nearly all postponed administrative naturalization ceremonies by the end of July of 2020.

USCIS has been prioritizing the scheduling of oath ceremonies for all naturalization applicants who were approved following their interviews. As we previously reported, USCIS is also exploring options to bypass the formal oath ceremony process in the future, and administer the oath immediately following a successful naturalization applicant’s interview. This will help move cases along quickly during the pandemic and limit further exposure.

USCIS remains committed to being as flexible as possible to welcome new citizens to the United States as fast as possible. We are glad that in the very least, naturalization applicants are being accommodated by the agency during this difficult time.

If you have not yet received your naturalization oath ceremony notice, you should be receiving one very soon. As always, we recommend calling USCIS to expedite the process.


Calls to Extend TPS for Yemen and Somalia due to COVID-19

Dozens of organizations are calling on the government to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for at least 180 days to all current Yemen and Somalia TPS holders due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A letter was issued in early April by interested organizations urging USCIS and DHS to automatically extend work authorization and TPS for all current Yemen and Somalia TPS holders, or at the very least extend the re-registration period for TPS holders from Somalia and Yemen for a total of 180 days.

The letter emphasizes the importance of granting relief for Yemeni and Somalia TPS holders stating, “While states across the country are rightfully taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, these measures and the subsequent loss of income and freedom of movement establish insurmountable barriers for TPS holders to renew their status before the rapidly approaching re-registration deadline. TPS holders should not have to choose between missing a deadline and violating health directives that keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe.”

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Interviews at the San Diego Field Office

We have great news for our local readers. The USCIS San Diego Field Office is scheduled to resume interviews on July 6, 2020, with priority given to adjustment of status applications filed by doctors and front-line workers fighting to mitigate the effects of Covid-19. Under certain circumstances, USCIS will exercise its discretion to waive adjustment of status interviews on a case-by-case basis.


What will be the approach for rescheduling?

The USCIS San Diego Field Office will begin rescheduling all other interviews on a “first-in, first-out,” basis based on receipt date of filing. This will occur as soon as possible.


When will biometrics offices reopen to the public?

Application Support Centers in San Marcos in Chula Vista are scheduled to reopen to the public on July 27, we ask our readers to please be patient while they wait to be rescheduled. Those with cancelled biometrics will be automatically rescheduled and will receive a notice in the mail with a new biometrics appointment.


What about Parole in Place cases?

Parole in place applications continue to be adjudicated, however applicants should expect delays.


What about citizenship applications?

USCIS will continue to prioritize the scheduling of oath ceremonies for naturalization applicants. Those who did not appear at a scheduled oath ceremony will receive a letter by mail. As we previously reported, oath ceremonies in San Diego are being held at the Cabrillo National Monument and the City of El Cajon parking lot adjacent to the police department.

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Our readers and clients have eagerly been asking why the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has reported extremely long processing times on their webpage. Others are concerned about when their field offices will reopen and reschedule their interviews. In this post we hope to provide some clarification regarding these very important issues.


Long Processing Times


As some of you may know as a result of the pandemic, USCIS has experienced a significant loss of revenue that has left the agency with no choice but to begin the process of furloughing much needed employees. The agency is no longer able to meet current workloads and has been taking drastic measures to try to cope with the current situation. CIS has requested $1.2 billion in aid from Congress to help keep the agency afloat. Among other things, CIS plans to increase filing fees this summer, and implement additional surcharges on all applications. The agency’s funding crisis has unfortunately resulted in very long processing times for those with pending applications. As many of you have noticed, the processing times listed on the CIS website vary widely depending on the service center processing the application or petition, and the relationship between the applicant and petitioner (for family-based petitions).


What accounts for the different processing times?


First, processing times vary depending on the service center that is processing your application or petition. Each service center has been specifically designated to handle specific types of immigration benefits. The type of center that will process your case depends on a number of different factors including: the type of immigration benefit you are requesting, your immigration category, and also your state of residency.

Since some types of immigration benefits are in great demand, such as permanent residency, service centers handling these types of applications generally have a heavier workload than others. Unfortunately, this means that processing times for service centers with heavier workloads will be longer than others. USCIS has tried to balance the workload by transferring some petitions to other service centers that do not have such a heavy workload. These efforts have been made to try to speed up the adjudication process.

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In this post we will share with our readers what we know is happening locally with the scheduling of interviews at the San Diego Field Office and oath ceremonies. Please keep in mind that we do not have information about other Field Offices at this time.

Oath Ceremonies

The San Diego Field office will prioritize the scheduling of oath ceremonies in the month of June. These ceremonies will be “drive thru” ceremonies to ensure the health and safety of participants. These ceremonies will take place at two locations that are offsite from the San Diego field office at the Cabrillo National Monument and the City of El Cajon parking lot adjacent to the police department. El Cajon will schedule ceremonies more frequently. Start and end times have not yet been provided for these ceremonies.

We have received information that judges will be present at both oath ceremony locations to address name change issues for participants.

When will the San Diego Field Office open to the public?

The San Diego Field Office will not officially open to the public for interviews until June 21st. However, we have received information that the office is more likely to open to the public in July for interviews. The San Diego Field Office will continue to be open for urgent cases and emergency appointments.

How will the procedure change once offices reopen?

Social distancing procedures will be put in place including installation of plexiglass to separate the interviewing officer from applicants, lines demarcating social distancing, and face mask coverings required to enter the building. The amount of people allowed in the facility will be reduced to comply with social distancing requirements. The San Diego Field Office is exploring extending work hours to allow more interviews to take place. Interviews will take place in person; no remote interviews will be allowed.

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