Articles Posted in Citizenship

 

In this video attorney Jacob Sapochnick addresses a somber but important topic: What happens when a U.S. Citizen dies, can a LPR spouse still apply for naturalization after 3 years?

To know more about this topic, just keep on watching.


Overview


Applying for Naturalization After the Death of an Immediate Relative

In this post we answer one of your frequently asked questions:

Q: I became a green card holder through my husband, who was born in the U.S. and was a U.S. citizen. Sadly, my husband died last year. I would like to apply to become a U.S. citizen as soon as possible. Can I still apply for naturalization after 3 years of having my green card?

A: This question comes up more often than we would like to admit.

As you may know as a general rule, a legal permanent resident (LPR) is eligible to apply for naturalization after being a green card holder for at least 5 years.

However, there is an exception to the rule. Spouses of U.S. Citizens are eligible to apply for naturalization after 3 years of being a permanent resident, so long as they are still married and living in the same household as their U.S. Citizen spouse. Couples that are no longer living together (such as where a separation occurs) do not qualify for the 3-year exception.

But what happens when the spouse dies?

This situation recently happened to one of our clients. She was able to prove that she was living with her U.S. Citizen spouse up until the time of his death and wanted to know if she could still take advantage of the 3-year rule to apply for naturalization.

Sadly, under section 319(a) of the INA, “A person is ineligible for naturalization as the spouse of a United States citizen, if, before or after the filing of the application, the marital union ceases to exist due to death or divorce….”

That means that where a marital union ended due to the U.S. Citizen spouse’s death, the legal permanent resident cannot take advantage of the 3-year rule and must wait to reach their five-year anniversary as a legal permanent resident (LPR) before they can apply for naturalization. It is permissible to file your application 90 days before reaching your fifth anniversary as a permanent resident.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses the latest in immigration reform. Over the past few months, Democrats have been scrambling to pass immigration reform through a series of social spending proposals included in President Biden’s Build Back Better Act, a piece of legislation that would shield Dreamers, TPS holders, farm workers, and essential workers from deportation.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


For a third time the Democrats have tried and failed to introduce comprehensive immigration reform proposals in the reconciliation bill known as H.R. 5376 “the Build Back Better Act.”


What happened?


On December 16, 2021, the Senate Parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, rejected the most recent proposal by Democrats in Congress to introduce important protections for undocumented immigrants including Dreamers, TPS visa holders, farm workers, and essential workers. H.R. 5376 also included provisions that would extend work permits, provide temporary relief from deportation for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before January 2011, and other provisions that would exempt certain employment-based and family-based immigrants from the numerical limitations prescribed by the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The Senate Parliamentarian quickly shot down the new proposals, stating that Congressional Democrats could not include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in a social spending bill. Further, MacDonough indicated that if passed, the proposal would create a new class of about 6.5 million eligible individuals for permanent residency which was already prohibited in the previous two rejected proposals. She added that the most recent proposal by Democrats was deficient in the same way as the previous proposals stating, “there are substantial policy changes with lasting effects just like those we previously considered and outweigh the budgetary impact.”

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. We hope you spent a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with your loved ones. We are grateful for all our viewers and the support you give us on this platform. We thank you for your trust and support.

In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick answers one of your frequently asked questions: I have a green card, why should I become a U.S. Citizen? In this blog post, you will find out what your rights are as a permanent resident versus a U.S. Citizen, and some of the key advantages you have as a U.S. Citizen.

Keep on watching to find out more.


Overview


What is the difference between having a green card and U.S. Citizenship?

First, let’s discuss the basics. When a person wants to immigrate to the United States permanently, the first step is to apply for a green card (also known as permanent residence). There are various different ways a person can qualify for a green card. The most common avenues to obtain a green card are family sponsorship through a qualifying relative (U.S. Citizen or LPR spouse, child, parent, or sibling) or employment-based sponsorship, where an individual will first obtain a work visa based on a job offer and then become eligible to apply for permanent residence through their employer. There are also other special categories of immigrants such as asylum seekers, Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) victims of domestic violence, diversity visa lottery winners, and many others who also qualify for a green card. There also green card avenues for individuals of exceptional ability (EB-1), those whose employment is in the national interest (EB-2), and EB-5 immigrant investors who invest at least half a million dollars in a new business enterprise or Regional Center project. While there are many ways to obtain a green card, the ultimate goal is to obtain permanent residency.

Once a person has obtained a green card, typically that person must wait a number of years before being eligible to apply for U.S. Citizenship. For instance, those who obtained their green card based on marriage to a U.S. Citizen and continue to remain married, must wait 3 years from the date they became a permanent residence to apply for citizenship. All others must wait 5 years from the date they became a permanent resident to become eligible to apply for U.S. Citizenship.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses the long processing times to adjudicate applications and petitions filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The backlog of cases has been especially significant for certain types of applications and petitions where demand is greatest, such as I-539 applications to extend/change nonimmigrant status, I-360 petitions for Amerasians, Widow(er), or Special Immigrants, I-765 Applications for Employment Authorization, I-751 Removal of Conditions applications, and many others. According to previous data, in 2014 an average green card case took about 5 months to be processed by USCIS, while in 2020 it has taken over 10 months to process the same type of application.

The reason behind these high processing times leads back to the crippling effects caused by COVID-19. Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, USCIS has been experiencing a financial crisis as more and more people have found it difficult to afford paying costly fees for their immigration processes. To make matters worse, USCIS has also been experiencing a shortage in personnel and resources, making it difficult for the agency to efficiently adjudicate immigration benefits.

Many of these limitations have been caused by conditions in various states around the country, as well as local government mandates. States with high rates of coronavirus for example have been especially hard hit, making it difficult for USCIS to continue to operate at previous levels. The Biden administration has taken steps to try to improve conditions and reduce the backlogs by reinstating deferential immigration policies mandating immigration officers to defer to prior approvals where immigration benefits involve the same parties and facts. The agency has also lengthened the status of removal of conditions applicants from 18 to 24 months while their applications remain pending with the USCIS and implemented flexibility policies to respond to requests for evidence. Despite these changes there is much more that needs to be done.

Want to know more about these important updates? Just keep on watching.


Overview


Massive Delays at USCIS Reach Crisis Levels

  • According to USCIS data, from fiscal year 2017 to fiscal year 2021, processing times for all I-539 applications to change or extend status rose from about 2.8 months in 2017 to 9.8 months in 2021 (an increase of more than 250%)
  • In the same period, processing times for family-based adjustment of status (I-485) applications rose from 7.9 months in fiscal year 2017 to 13.2 months in fiscal year 2021 (an increase of more than 67%)
  • Also during the same period, processing times for naturalization applications (N-400) increased from 7.9 months in 2017 to 11.6 months in fiscal year 2021 (an increase of nearly 47%)

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares a recent update from USCIS regarding a new policy that will extend evidence of status for green card holders who are applying to remove the conditions on their green card with the filing of either Form I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence or Form I-829 Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status. Jacob also provides some cautionary information for conditional permanent residents who have divorced and are returning to the U.S. after temporary foreign travel, as well as added scrutiny for those applying for naturalization who initially gained their green card through marriage to a U.S. Citizen.

Keep on watching to find out more.


Overview


2 Year Extension of Status for Conditional Permanent Residents with Pending Form I-751 or Form I-829

USCIS has recently shared important information for conditional permanent residents who have been issued a two-year green card by USCIS and are now seeking to remove the conditions on their residence. Starting September 4, 2021, USCIS is extending the time that receipt notices can be used to show evidence of lawful status from 18 months to 24 months for those who have properly filed Form I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence or Form I-829 Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status.

Previously, after filing Form I-751 or Form I-829, USCIS was issuing receipt notices which included an automatic 18-month extension of lawful status, allowing applicants to lawfully remain in the United States 18-months past the expiration of their green cards while their applications were under review with the agency. These extensions were issued for 18-months because that was the estimated processing time for removal of conditions applications prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.

USCIS will now be issuing 24-month extensions to reflect the current processing times more accurately for these applications, which has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses President Biden’s new plan to make the citizenship application process more accessible and available to more people: what’s happened so far and what plans does the Biden administration have for the future?

Keep on watching for all the details. In addition, please stay tuned for information about big changes coming soon to the United States passport application process, including a new gender option for applicants who are gender non-conforming, and information about a new bill introduced last week called, America’s CHILDREN Act that would open a pathway for permanent residence for certain individuals who came to the United States as children but overstayed their length of authorized stay.


Overview


Biden’s Interagency Strategy for Promoting Naturalization

The Biden administration is launching a nationwide campaign initiative to encourage long time lawful permanent residents (green card holders) to become U.S. Citizens. These efforts stem from President Biden’s February 2nd Executive Order “Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans.” A hallmark of this executive order is to “welcome strategies that promote integration, inclusion, and citizenship.” As part of these efforts, the Biden administration is now working closely with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to unveil a new strategy that will encourage an estimated 9 million green card holders living in the United States to apply for U.S. Citizenship. These unprecedented efforts will target those permanent residents who have the ability to naturalize.

How will this be done?

The Biden administration will be strategizing with USCIS to determine the best ways to reach this massive pool of permanent residents by holding naturalization ceremonies at national parks to raise awareness, partnering with the US Postal Service to display promotional posters at Postal Service facilities about becoming a US citizen, and engaging with the Department of Veterans Affairs and veteran service organizations to find ways to educate service members and veterans on citizenship.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick answers one of your frequently asked questions: How long does it take to get U.S. Citizenship after sending your application to USCIS? What are the actual steps involved in applying for citizenship?

Keep on watching to find out more.


Overview


How long does it take to get U.S. Citizenship these days?

The current processing time from start to finish to obtain U.S. Citizenship is over 12 months. The process begins with the filing of the N-400 Application for Naturalization with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) along with all of the necessary supporting documentation and ends with the mailing of the Oath Ceremony notice that contains the date, time, and location where the applicant must appear for his or her naturalization ceremony, following approval of the application at the in-person interview which takes place at a USCIS field office.


Why the delays?


As our readers will know, the Coronavirus pandemic and ongoing USCIS backlogs have greatly increased the processing times for nearly all types of applications filed with the agency, and the N-400 Application for Naturalization is no exception. The lengthy processing time also largely depends on the number of applications being scheduled for interviews at your local USCIS office. Certain local offices are experiencing much higher workloads than others, which can result in longer processing times in comparison to field offices in smaller cities. Unfortunately, these backlogs are set to continue through at least 2023.


What are the steps to apply for U.S. Citizenship?


STEP ONE: Filing and preparing the Form N-400 Application for Naturalization

The first step involved in the naturalization process is filing and preparing Form N-400, the Application for Naturalization, and including all the necessary supporting documentation with the application. This form is taking about 1 year to be processed by USCIS.

TIP: If you are a self-filer, be sure to carefully read the N-400 form instructions and ensure that you have provided accurate responses and completed the form correctly. Failure to ensure the proper completion of the form can result in delays, or serious immigration consequences. In addition, self-filers must ensure that they have sent the appropriate filing fees and have mailed the application to the proper address.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses the latest immigration legislation, otherwise known as the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021.

So, what is this new bill all about and how can it benefit your family?

Keep on watching to learn more.


Overview


We have very exciting news for you today. We are pleased to report that Biden and congressional Democrats have introduced a brand-new piece of legislation known as the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. While his new bill has not yet become law, it is creating a lot of buzz because it proposes an earned path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants who were in the United States on or before January 1, 2021.

The new bill would create a “fast track” green card application process for certain types of immigrants including DACA recipients, those who qualify for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and farm workers who can demonstrate their work history.

The introduction of this bill is significant, because it appears that Congress is finally gearing up to compromise and pass a comprehensive immigration reform package for the first time in decades.


What are the main highlights of the bill?


The bill makes the following proposals:

  • Establishes an 8-year path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States by January 1, 2021
  • Provides an expedited path to citizenship for farm workers, those eligible for Temporary Protected Status, and undocumented young people who arrived to the U.S. as children with temporary status under DACA
  • Establishes Lawful Prospective Immigrant Status for 6 years
  • Replaces the word “alien” with “non-citizen” under immigration law
  • Raises the per-country visa caps on family and employment-based legal immigration numbers
  • Repeals the penalty that prohibits undocumented immigrants who leave the country from returning to the U.S. for between 3- and 10-years (repeals the 3 and 10-year bars) to allow for families to stay together without the need to file a waiver of inadmissibility
  • Expands transitional antidrug task forces in Central America
  • Increases funding for technology at the southern border

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses a very important topic: what are the top 5 mistakes applicant’s make when applying for citizenship and how can you avoid them?

Want to know more? Keep on watching for more information.


Overview

New changes to the naturalization examination are coming. Beginning December 1, 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), will introduce new changes that will make it more difficult for applicants to pass the civics examination. These new changes will apply to citizenship applications filed on or after December 1, 2020.


What type of changes will be introduced?

In order to obtain U.S. citizenship, applicants must successfully pass two components of the naturalization examination: 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 – applicants must pass an oral examination by demonstrating adequate knowledge of U.S. history and government.

Beginning December 1, 2020 USCIS will:

  • Increase the general bank of civics test questions from 100 to 128 (the possible questions that may be asked)
  • Increase the number of test questions that will be asked for the civics exam to 20 (from 10)
  • Increase the number of correct answers needed to pass the civics test to 12 (from 6)
  • The test score required to pass (60 percent correct) the civics test however will not change

In order to pass the civics examination applicants must correctly answer at least 12 of the 20 questions asked.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares the latest update regarding reopening procedures for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) field offices nationwide.

Keep on watching for more information.


Overview


On May 27, 2020, USCIS announced that some domestic field offices and asylum offices would begin to reopen to the public on or after June 4, 2020. Unfortunately, as June 4th came and went, it became evident that USCIS would not be able to reopen its offices on June 4th. USCIS recently published an office closure webpage which shows that all field offices, asylum offices, and application support centers are still closed to the public, except for those seeking urgent emergency services. Unfortunately, this means that there will be delays in reopening offices nationwide. We have received information that the San Diego Field Office plans to reopen during the month of July. Based on this information we believe that the majority of field offices, asylum offices, and application support centers will also reopen around this time frame.

Even when USCIS offices do reopen, it will not be business as usual. USCIS has said it will be reducing the number of appointments and interviews at its offices to comply with social distancing requirements. As a result, USCIS will not be scheduling nearly as many biometrics appointments and interviews as it did before the coronavirus pandemic. This will result in further delays in the adjudication of applications and petitions that require an interview such as applications for permanent residency and naturalization.

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