Immigration

Applying for Citizenship from Outside America

Posted on October 4, 2013. Filed under: Immigration | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Non-U.S. citizens can gain American citizenship through a process called Naturalization.

The process of naturalization begins with permanent residency. Being a green card holder (permanent resident) for a certain period of time is one of the main requirements for citizenship. The requirements will differ depending on your situation.

Under most circumstances, you must be in the U.S. when you apply for citizenship.

U.S. Citizenship General Requirements

If you are not the spouse of a U.S. citizen and you are not in the military, the general requirements for citizenship are that you must:

  • Be 18 years old
  • Have been a green card holder (permanent resident) for five years
  • Have not left the country for more than six months
  • Have remained in the U.S. for at least 30 months in the last five years
  • Have lived in the district or state where you are applying for at least three months
  • Be of good moral character
  • Have basic knowledge of English and U.S. government

If you are the spouse of U.S citizen and have been living with the same U.S. citizen, the general requirements for citizenship are that you must:

  • Be 18 years old
  • Have been a green card holder (permanent resident) for three years
  • Have not left the country for more than six months
  • Have remained in the U.S. for at least 18 months in the last three years
  • Have lived in the district or state where you are applying for at least three months
  • Be of good moral character
  • Have basic knowledge of English and U.S. government

Note: In order for the above to apply, your U.S. citizen spouse must have been a U.S. citizen for the past three years.

If you are in the U.S. military and have served for at least a year, the general requirements for citizenship are that you must:

  • Have been a permanent resident for one year
  • Have been a green card holder (permanent resident) for one year if you are in the military
  • Have honorable service

Citizenship Application and working abroad

U.S. military personnel and other applicants who are working abroad are exempt from continuous residence requirements. The applicants must be working for:

  • The U.S. government
  • Contractors of the U.S. government
  • A recognized American Institution of research
  • A public international organization
  • An organization designed under the International Immunities Act

If working outside the U.S. for one of the above, you must file Form N-470, Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes.

 

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I-485 – Immigration Petition for Permanent Residency

Posted on September 26, 2013. Filed under: Immigration | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Adjustment of Status is the process of becoming a green card holder (permanent resident) while already inside the U.S. The USCIS form for adjustment of status is Form I-485.

This process, however, is not available to everyone. If you are not eligible for Adjustment of Status, you may apply for a green card outside the U.S. through consular processing.

Who is Eligible for Adjustment of Status?

Adjustment of Status may be available to applicants who are currently authorized to be in the U.S. with a valid nonimmigrant visa and reapplying for a green card based on one of the following:

  • Having an approved immigrant petition (Form I-130 or Form I-140);
  • Being the derivate of a principal green card applicant (spouse or child);
  • Having a fiancé visa and having already married a U.S. citizen in the U.S. (Form I-129 and K-1 visa);
  • Having asylee or refugee status;
  • Being born in Cuba or being the spouse or child of someone from Cuba;
  • Having continuous residence in the U.S. since before January 1, 1972;
  • Having a valid priority date under the Child Status Protection Act; Or
  • Having a Western Hemisphere priority date.

What Evidence is Required for Adjustment of Status?

The I-485 application process requires you provide the following evidence:

  • A copy of your birth certificate,
  • A copy of the passport page with your nonimmigrant visa
  • Two identical passport-style photographs of yourself
  • Your criminal records
  • Your biographical information
  • Your fingerprints
  • Affidavit of Support (if application is based on approved immigrant petition or based on a fiancé visa)
  • Marriage certificate  (if application is based on being a derivative or a principal green card applicant or based on a fiancé visa)
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Why Immigrant Dreamers still face DREAM Act’s Limits?

Posted on September 19, 2013. Filed under: Immigration | Tags: , , |

A year has passed since the start of the DREAM Act policy called Deferred Action (DACA). DREAMers who have been approved are still facing struggles.

DACA is a policy put in place by the Obama Administration to ensure that young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. at a young age receive protection from deportation.

Deferred Action defers deportation for a period of two years. This means that an undocumented immigrant who qualifies can live without fear of being deported. That is a huge opportunity in itself, but DACA not only stops deportation for a period of two years. It also gives recipients a work permit and a driver’s license.

As of mid-august, USCIS has received 588,725 applications for the program. Only 9,578 applicationshave been denied.

Of course, the program has helped;however, recipients of DACA are still facing frustration because of the program’s limitations.

Because the work permit is only issued for two years, many companies are not interested in hiring them. Yes, DACA can be renewed but companies cannot be sure that a renewal will be certain. Companies fear investing time and resources to train someone who could beineligible for renewal.A DACA recipient is treated as a temporary worker.

Other DACA recipients have trouble finding jobs because of their lack of experience. Many young undocumented immigrants have plenty of experience in various fields, but because they have been paid under the table, they are not able to list references of any kind.

There are also issues surrounding the issuance of driver’s licenses. In Arizona, for example, DACA recipients are still denied driver’s licenses. Not only does this mean they have to walk or use public transportation when job hunting, but they also have to deal with companies skeptical about hiring workers without their own transportation.

These limits further convince supporters that DREAMers really do need immigration reform that would grant them permanent lawful status.

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Fundamental Information on Immigration and Naturalization

Posted on September 11, 2013. Filed under: Immigration | Tags: , , , |

Naturalization is the process by which an immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen.

An immigrant, according to U.S. immigration law, is someone who has the intention to be a permanent resident while a nonimmigrant is someone who is seeking to remain in the U.S. temporarily. Immigration and naturalization is a process that begins with obtaining a green card.

Lawful immigrants are immigrants who have a green card. A green card is the official document that proves lawful permanent residency. Most people become lawful permanent residents with the help of a U.S. family member or U.S. employer.

To be eligible for citizenship, most applicants are required tohave lived in the U.S. with permanent residency for at least five years.There are two cases when the five-year requirement does not apply:

  • For applicants married to U.S. citizens, the requirement is permanent residency for at least three years.
  • For applicants who are in the military, the requirement is permanent residency for at least one year.

Naturalization Requirements

There are more requirements for naturalization than just having had a green card for a certain period of time. The other citizenship requirements are:

  • Be at least 18 years old at the time of filing the citizenship application
  • Be of good moral character
  • Have the ability to read, write and speak basic English
  • Have a basic understanding of U.S. history and civics (government)
  • Prove an attachment to the principles and ideals of the U.S. constitution.
  • Prove continuous residence during the five years immediately before filing the citizenship application. The requirement is three years for spouses of U.S. citizens. This Requirement does not apply to military servicemen applicants.
  • Prove physical presence in the U.S. at least 30 months out of the five years immediately before filing the citizenship application. The requirement is 18 months for spouses of U.S. This requirement does not apply to military servicemen applicants.
  • Demonstrate residency for at least 3 months in the state or USCIS district where submitting citizenship application

 

Naturalization Process

The naturalization process is completed through these steps:

  • File Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
  • Attend the biometrics (fingerprinting) appointment
  • Attend interview (Includes citizenship test to determine if the applicant fulfills knowledge of Basic English and basic understanding of U.S. history and civics requirements.)
  • Receive USCIS decision on application
  • Attend naturalization ceremony (Includes swearing loyalty to the U.S. by saying the Oath of Allegiance.)
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Immigration Reform Bill’s Big Question is Path to Citizenship

Posted on September 4, 2013. Filed under: Immigration | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Should the 11 million immigrants living undocumented in the U.S. get a path to citizenship?

That is the big question as Congress prepares to debate immigration reform & citizenship in the next few weeks.

While some House Republicans agree that undocumented immigrants should get some form of legal status, most disagree with the Senate’s plan.

The Senate immigration reform bill proposes to create a path to citizenship called Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI).

RPI would give undocumented immigrants legal status valid for six years with an option for renewal. After 10 years of lawful status, the RPI immigrants would be eligible for permanent residency, green card status.They would have to remain green card holders for three years and then they would be eligible for citizenship. The path to citizenship from RPI status to citizenship would take at least 13 years.

House Republicans say people who are living in the U.S. without authorization because they either illegally crossed the border or overstayed their visas should not be rewarded a special path to American citizenship. They say it is unfair to millions of people who are waiting in line for a green card through the current legal process.

Congress will return from its summer break the week of Sept. 9. All the focus will be on the Republican-led House of Representatives. It’s likely that the House will reject the Senate’s bill. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said recently the he did not support the bill: “We think a legal status in the United States, but not a special pathway to citizenship, might be appropriate.”

The Senate bill passed in June and aside from the path to citizenship provision, it includes provisions to increase border security and streamline the legal immigration system.

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Young Immigrant Dreamers Feel Frustrated by Deferred Action

Posted on August 29, 2013. Filed under: Immigration |

Image

DREAMer Noemi Romero can’t apply for DACA. Portrait provided by Noemi Romero.

Image by Jorge Rivas for Fusion (@thisisjorge)

 

In August 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began deferred action to provide undocumented young people who were brought to the U.S. as children with a two-year protection from deportation.

The latest statistics show that a total of 430,236 applications have been approved in the past year. These applicants will be allowed to remain in the U.S. without the threat of deportation while receiving a work permit and driver’s license. Had deferred action never become policy, these applicants with approved applications would not have these benefits.

Currently, there is no other policy that provides this sort of relief for childhood arrivals (often referred to as dreamers.) This means that if someone is not approved for deferred action, there’s really nothing else he or she can do.

This is why a lot of young immigrant dreamers feel frustrated and hopeless. They are not able to get deferred action because they can’t defend or prove their eligibility.

The deferred action eligibility requirements are:

  • Entered the U.S. before the age of 16
  • Currently be at least 15 years old and younger than 31 as of June 15, 2012
  • Physically present in the U.S. as of June 15, 2013
  • Resided in the U.S. for at least five years
  • Currently in school or have a high school degree or GED certificate or have been honorably discharged from U.S. Armed Forces or Coast Guard
  • Have no felony convictions, significant misdemeanors, three misdemeanors, or otherwise do not pose a threat to national security or public safety

For a dreamer to prove that he is eligible, he has to try to come up with documents often times not available. An undocumented immigrant lives in the shadows and may not have any documents that prove when they entered and how long they have been living in the U.S.

An applicant may have all other requirements, but if, for example, an applicant is missing one document to prove physical presence, his application willnot be accepted. An applicant has to try to come up with the documents,but often times, even after submission, he will likely not know if and when they will get approved.

It’s hard to say how long deferred action will be in place. If immigration reform passes, then it may go away, for immigration reform would give legal status to dreamers. Still, the same frustrations may remain. The eligibility requirements under immigration reform would most likely not be that different from the deferred action requirements.

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Steps On How To Apply For US Citizenship?

Posted on August 21, 2013. Filed under: Immigration | Tags: , , , , , |

Each year, the U.S. welcomes thousands of new citizens.According to USCIS, in fiscal year 2013, approximately 503,104 people have been naturalized.

What is naturalization? Naturalization is the process by which someone from another country becomes a U.S. citizen. People who were born in the U.S. or who were born in another country but had at least one U.S. citizen parent do not have to become naturalized for they are citizens by birth.

Here are the Steps on How to Apply for U.S. Citizenship:

Step 1: The first step is finding out if you are eligible for naturalization. To be eligible to apply, all applicants have to be at least 18 years. Since children automatically become citizens when their parents or guardians become citizens, they are not eligible to apply directly. Most applicants will also have to have been permanent residents (green card holders) for at least five years. The two types of applicants who do not have to fulfill that five-year requirement are spouses of U.S. citizen and military men.

Step 2: The second step is preparing your documents. If you have determined that you are eligible to apply for citizenship, the thing to do next is to prepare the documents you must submit. You are required to include:

  • 2 passport-sized taken within 30 days of application
  • A photocopy of both sides of your permanent resident card (green card)

Other documents necessary will depend on your specific case. Unless USCIS requests originals, you will only have to submit copies.

Documents that are not in English must be translated.

Step 3: The third step is completing form N-400, Application for Naturalization. The application is separated into eight parts. You will be asked to answer several questions, including questions about your eligibility and your time spent abroad. You must sign and date Form N-400 once you have filled out all the information. Be sure to check that all information is correct.

Step 4: The fourth step is mailing N-400. You have to include the current fee for citizenship, which is $595. You are only allowed to pay by check or money order. It must be payable to “The U.S. Department of Homeland Security”

Step 5: After these steps have been completed, you will wait for a notification from USCIS. USCIS will let you know when to attend your biometrics (fingerprinting) appointment, which are used to conduct an FBI background check.

After the biometrics appointment, you will have to attend an interview, during which your application will be reviewed and you will take your citizenship test.

 

Step 6: The final step of the process is finally the citizenship ceremony. This is where you take the Oath of Allegiance and promise loyalty to the U.S. After you take your oath, you will receive your citizenship certificate and be an official U.S. citizen.

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INS Form I-131 – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Posted on August 19, 2013. Filed under: Immigration | Tags: , , |

USCIS Form I-131 is the application for a Travel document.

Sometimes the form is referred to as INS Form I-131 because, previously to the USCIS, the INS was the main agency in charge of immigration forms.USCIS replaced INS and began reviewing INS forms in 2003 after the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

If you are a permanent resident or a foreign national living in the U.S., filing Form I-131 may be necessary in case you’re leaving the U.S. for a long period of time and wish to return without any problems with immigration and customs enforcement.

If you are a permanent or conditional resident and you are leaving the country for one year or more, Form I-131 will allow you to obtain a re-entry permit. This is necessary because if you stay outside the U.S. for one year or more, then USCIS may regard it as you abandoning your permanent residency. This may lead to you having to plea you case in front of a judge.

The re-entry permit would stop the USCIS from viewing your long stay out of the country negatively.

When filing for a re-entry permit, you must file at least 60 days before leaving the U.S. The re-entry permit is valid for two years from the date of issuance.

Form I-131 is also used to apply for two other types of travel documents beside the re-entry permit:

  • Advance Parole Documentto allow travel to people already inside the U.S. who wants to travel but has an adjustment of status application pending
  • Refugee Travel Document to allow travel outside the U.S. to people with refugee or asylum status
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E-Verify’s Bringing Change, Offer US Immigrants Hope

Posted on August 1, 2013. Filed under: Immigration |

E-Verify is a free online program that allows employers to check their employees’ work authorizations.

And very soon, all companies may be required to use it.

The system is operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA), but how does it work?

It’s very simple. An employer just enters the E-Verify system online, and with the information the employee has provided on his or her Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, the employer compares the information found in the online records. If the information proves to be correct, then it means that the employee is authorized to work.

E-Verify is used by many companies but it is not mandatory for all employers. It is only mandatory for certain Federal agencies, but this could change.

If Congress passes the Senate’s proposed immigration reform bill, all U.S. employers in all industries would be required to check their employee’s work authorizations using E-Verify within three days of hiring.

With E-Verify mandatory, it would be very difficult for undocumented immigrants with no work authorizations to work illegally.

A mandatory E-Verify has support from both Democrats and Republicans and President Obama.

The senate bill, in addition to requiring E-Verify, would also grant legal status to eligible undocumented immigrants. This means they would be able to have work authorizations.

Undocumented immigrants would gain legal status through a new status called Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI). These are the general requirements for RPI status:

  • Must be inside the U.S. when submitting the application
  • Must have been inside the U.S. since before Dec. 31, 2011
  • Must have no felony convictions, no three or more misdemeanors, no offenses under current law except purely political offenses, and no engagement in terrorist activity
  • Must pay taxes and fees

The great thing about E-Verify is that it would not deny anyone on RPI status who was previously undocumented.

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KIDS Act in the House of Representatives

Posted on July 25, 2013. Filed under: Immigration | Tags: , , , , |

Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives are currently drafting a dream act bill called the KIDS Act.It would provide legal status to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, also known as dreamers.

The KIDS Act announcement came last week but no details have been released yet.

Though not expected to be like the Dream Act the House Democrats passed in 2010, the KIDS Act will probably include most of the same rules. Dreamers would most likely get legal status if they:

  • Came to the U.S. before age 16
  • Lived in U.S. for at least five years
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Can demonstrate “good moral character”

Children who were brought to the U.S. as children suffer greatly from being undocumented: they can’t get the jobs they want, can’t apply for driver’s licenses and can’t receive assistance for college tuition.

Not being old enough to make decisions on their own, supporters of dream act legislation believe these undocumented immigrantsshould not be punished for breaking the law and should instead have access to legal status.

The Deferred Action (DACA) program lets recipients remain in the U.S. without having to face deportation for a period of two years. Recipients are granted a work authorization and may apply for a driver’s license.But DACA does not give legal status.

DACA has been in place since August of 2012. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has received over 500,000 applications thus far. Only about 20,000 applications have been rejected.

Early estimates stated there were about 2 million childhood arrivals that would be eligible. Some confusion still lingers over exactly what type of immigration status is granted to DACA recipients, and that may be holding people back.

In January, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) clarified that even though DACA does not give legal status, recipients are considered to belawfully present.

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