Articles Posted in N-400

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 a new pilot program that will improve the accuracy and reporting of current USCIS processing times. As our readers will be aware, USCIS processing times have increased significantly during the past few years, especially for certain types of petitions, due to severe backlogs and personnel shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unfortunately, this has made it more and more difficult for applicants to ascertain exactly where they stand in the processing pipeline. To help resolve these issues, USCIS is testing new ways to better calculate processing times for immigration benefit requests with the unveiling of a new pilot program. This new system will help certain applicants determine whether their case is outside of the normal processing time, and when they can inquire about the status of their case. The pilot program will begin with posted processing times for Forms I-90, I-102, I-485, I-526, I-751, I-765, I-817, I-824, I-829, I-914, I-924, N-400, N-600 and N-600K.


Overview


Unfortunately, thousands of applicants have been negatively impacted by the lengthy processing times, currently affecting a broad range of applications and petitions filed at USCIS service centers nationwide. Many have been waiting months on end for interview scheduling, while others have yet to receive a Notice of Action, informing them that their case was properly filed and received by USCIS.

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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 discusses a new court order that prohibits the government from enforcing a final rule that sought to increase filing fees for certain applications and petitions filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). For more information keep on watching.


Overview

As many of you know on August 3, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security published a final rule in the Federal Register which sought to increase filing fees for most applications and petitions for immigration benefits payable to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). These filing fee increases were made by USCIS in order to help the agency meet its operational costs and ensure adequate resources to cover services provided by USCIS to applicants and petitioners.

Just days before the filing fee increase was scheduled to go into effect, a federal judge from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a nationwide temporary injunction blocking the government from implementing the final rule. The court order essentially stops the government from enforcing the fee increases as the government had originally planned beginning October 2, 2020.

The preliminary injunction issued by the court took effect immediately as of the date of the ruling (September 29, 2020) and will remain in effect pending resolution of the lawsuit Immigrant Legal Resource Center, et al., v. Chad F. Wolf.


Why did the Judge Grant the Injunction?

Several nonprofit organizations including the immigrant Legal Resource Center came together to file a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California challenging the government’s planned enforcement of the final rule increasing USCIS filing fees. In their lawsuit, these organizations asked the court to grant a nationwide injunction to block the government from enforcing the rule to applications and petitions postmarked on or after October 2, 2020.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick updates you regarding a recent practice followed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) – the waiver of marriage based green card interviews during the Coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, our office has observed that the agency is processing certain types of applications much more quickly than others.

Want to know more? Stay tuned for more information about this important topic.


Overview


Green Card Interview Waivers for Employment Based Applicants

Beginning in April of this year, our office began to receive approval notices for employment-based adjustment of status applications, without the need for the applicant to attend the in-person face-to-face interview as is typically required by USCIS.

As you may recall on March 18th USCIS announced the suspension of in-person services at field offices nationwide, which meant the cancellation of face-to-face interviews. It was not until June 4th that USCIS announced that it would begin resumption of services at field offices nationwide.

Presumably to avoid a growing backlog of cases needing to be scheduled for an interview, USCIS began to grant employment-based green card petitions without requiring the applicant to attend the in-person interview due to the suspension of in-person services.

USCIS never officially announced a policy change allowing for these interview waivers, and instead these changes were occurring as a matter of practice based upon the agency’s discretion.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides new updates regarding previously planned furloughs by the United States Citizenship Immigration Services (USCIS) as well as the expansion of interview waiver eligibility for certain visa applications at United States Embassies and Consulates Worldwide.

For more information on these important topics please keep on watching.


Overview


USCIS Cancels Planned Furloughs

We have great news for our readers. Recently, USCIS announced that it will cancel the agency’s planned furlough of more than 13,000 employees, which was scheduled to take place on August 30, 2020, to help the agency meet its budget quotas and ensure operational capacity.

On August 25th USCIS made the announcement stating that as of now the agency is able to maintain its operations through the end of fiscal year 2020.

What does this mean for applicants?

While the cancellation of these planned furloughs is certainly good news for the American workforce, USCIS has made clear that delays will continue for the foreseeable future, including an increase in backlogs and wait times across the board. USCIS has specifically stated that there is no guarantee that the agency can avoid future furloughs. The only mechanism that will safeguard operations is additional funding from Congress to help the agency meet its operational costs through fiscal year 2021

According to USCIS, the agency has cut costs by reducing the need to work with outside contractors who have in the past assisted USCIS adjudicators to process and prepare case files, and provide support to the agency. Of course, without this additional assistance, delays will continue to be expected.

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Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, we cover a new policy update handed down by USCIS that affects children of U.S. service members and government employees stationed abroad.

The new policy update states that certain children of U.S. government employees and U.S. armed forces members, employed or stationed outside the United States, will not be considered to be “residing in the United States” for purposes of acquiring citizenship under INA 320 beginning October 29, 2019.

In other words, some children of U.S. government workers and members of the U.S. armed forces stationed abroad will no longer be granted automatic citizenship. Instead, their parents will need to apply for their citizenship by filing Form N-600K Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322 before the child’s 18th birthday.

Who does the Policy affect?

This policy applies to the following categories of children of U.S. government employees and U.S. armed forces members:

  • children of non-U.S. citizens adopted by U.S. citizen employees or service members;
  • children of non-U.S. citizen parents who become citizens after the child’s birth; and
  • children of U.S. citizens who do not meet residency requirements to transmit citizenship to their children at birth.

While these children will no longer obtain citizenship automatically, U.S. citizen parents residing outside the United States, with children who are not U.S. citizens, can still apply for their citizenship, by filing Form N-600K before the child’s 18th birthday.

Who does the Policy not affect?

The policy DOES NOT affect children who are citizens at birth or who have already acquired citizenship prior to October 29, 2019.

The Takeaway

This new policy does not take away the citizenship rights of children of U.S. service members and government employees stationed abroad, but rather makes it harder for these children to acquire citizenship by requiring parents to submit Form N-600K with supporting documentation. Previously, children who regularly resided outside the United States could acquire citizenship automatically.

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What happens when you have let your green card expire, and you now want to apply for citizenship?

Overview: 

Under current immigration law, a naturalization applicant is not required to have a valid green card at the time of filing for citizenship.

Because of this, individuals with a now expired green card do not need to apply to renew their green cards before applying for citizenship.

However, in cases where the green card was lost or stolen it is recommended that the individual file Form I-90 to renew a lost or stolen green card.  Even in this case you may still apply for citizenship and provide a copy of your I-90 receipt notice as proof that your green card renewal is in process.

Exception: Individuals who are traveling or individuals who need to have a valid green card to prove that they are eligible to engage in lawful employment,  should apply to renew their green cards as soon as possible.

Remember that as a general rule, applicants are allowed to apply for citizenship even if their green card has now expired, but in certain cases it may be a good idea to apply for a green card renewal prior to applying for naturalization.

Conditional Green Cards

If you have received a conditional 2-year green card, you must first remove the conditions on your conditional permanent residence on Form I-751. Conditional residents may apply for citizenship on their third anniversary of becoming a resident, if they remain married to the same individual who petitioned for their green card.

For more information about citizenship please click here.

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Overview:

In this video attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses a new USCIS policy that says that individuals who use marijuana, may be barred from obtaining U.S. Citizenship, even if smoking marijuana is not an offense in that state. This includes individuals who work in the marijuana industry.

Under federal law, marijuana remains a controlled substance, and the possession, cultivation, and distribution of both medical and non-medical marijuana remains illegal, even though these activities are lawful in some states. Such conduct can result in very serious immigration consequences for non-citizens who are interested in applying for naturalization. That is because immigration is regulated at the federal level, and the federal rules apply.

A candidate for naturalization must demonstrate that they are a person of good moral character in the five years prior to filing for naturalization. A violation for the possession, cultivation, and distribution of marijuana within the five-year period prior to filing your application for naturalization, may result in conditional bar to good moral character and require the applicant to file for a waiver to remove the bar, or delay the process of applying for naturalization.

Please speak with your immigration attorney for more information about how this new policy may affect you. For more information please contact our office.

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