Articles Posted in Naturalization

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In this article, we will discuss how the upcoming Presidential election could impact immigration for years to come.

On November 3, 2020 Americans will head to the polls to cast their votes for the next President of the United States. While the upcoming presidential election seems far into the future, Americans must now begin to consider how their votes could impact the future of immigration.

During the 2016 election, the topic of immigration took center stage and has continued to remain a prominent topic of contention among Democrats in Republicans. In part immigration was catapulted to mainstream media by then Presidential nominee Donald Trump, who made the topic of immigration a central issue of his campaign, by means of his campaign logo “Make America Great Again,” to highlight the discontent that many Americans felt regarding illegal immigration, the availability of jobs in the United States, and the country’s general loss of “status” in relation to other countries. Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump consistently made pledges to his supporters with respect to immigration, including a promise to build a wall and ensuring Mexico pay for it, ending birthright citizenship, ending “mass” migration of Syrian refugees, removing undocumented immigrants from the United States, and limiting legal immigration, to name a few of his campaign promises. The President also vowed to serve the interests of America and its workers, calling them “the forgotten people.” This rhetoric proved to be successful as disenchanted Americans across the country began to rally in support of Donald Trump helping him win the Presidency.

The President’s strategy was so successful, that other Republicans have taken a page out of Donald Trump’ s playbook, using the same rhetoric to gain the support of rural Americans.

This same anti-immigrant rhetoric is expected to take center stage during the upcoming presidential election. Republicans have remained united on the issue of immigration and have consistently supported Trump’s policies even where courts have struck down the President’s orders with respect to ending DACA.

Today, Americans remain largely divided on the issue of immigration, making the outcome of the Presidential election all the more unpredictable. The President’s current impeachment proceedings have also thrown a wrench into the process, creating deep divisions among party lines.

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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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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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In this post, we bring our readers important information regarding revisions to the Notice to Appear “NTA” policy guidelines. On June 28, 2018, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released new policy guidance outlining the Department’s priorities for enforcement and removal of undocumented immigrants from the United States.

Form I-862 also known as a Notice to Appear is a document that is given to an individual to initiate removal proceedings. The Notice to Appear instructs the individual of a date and time to appear in immigration court for removal proceedings.

To better align with the President’s Executive Order 13768 “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” USCIS has revised its NTA policy expanding the class of individuals who may be referred to ICE and issued a Notice to Appear. Under the revised policy, USCIS may now refer cases “with articulated suspicions of fraud to ICE prior to adjudication,” of cases filed with USCIS. The revised policy does not apply to recipients and requestors of Deferred Action (DACA) when (1) processing an initial or renewal DACA request or DACA-related benefit request; or (2) processing a DACA recipient for possible termination of DACA. For this class of individuals the 2011 NTA guidelines will apply.

The President’s Executive Order 13768 specifically calls on DHS to “prioritize the removal of aliens described in INA §§ 212(a)(2), (a)(3), (a)(6)(C), 235, and 237(a)(2) and (a)(4) … who are removable based on criminal or security grounds, fraud or misrepresentation, and aliens subject to expedited removal.”

In addition, the Executive Order prioritizes the removal of individuals who:

  • (a) Have been convicted of any criminal offense;
  • (b) Have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved;
  • (c) Have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;
  • (d) Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency;
  • (e) Have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;
  • (f) Are subject to a final order of removal, but have not departed; or
  • (g) In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security

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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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For years you have 8276375308_d5f2721898_zput your trust in our office for all of your immigration needs and for that we thank you. We consider ourselves very fortunate to be able to serve you and your families. Throughout the years, we have helped thousands of immigrants from all over the world attain their American dream. Learning about their lives and their struggles has

always been an important part of our practice. Although many challenges lie ahead for immigration, we are confident that important changes will come about in the new year. Do not despair and know that our office will be with you every step of the way. We wish you and your families the happiest of holiday seasons.