Articles Posted in Naturalization

 

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. 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 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 what’s ahead for U.S. immigration law in 2021.

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


Overview


As we enter the Biden administration, many of our readers want to know what’s possible in the world of immigration law. What might President Biden do within his first 100 days in office and how might his decisions impact immigration?

We anticipate that U.S. immigration policies will experience an overhaul under the Biden administration beginning on January 20th when he takes office. His administration will likely focus on undoing many of the harmful and restrictive policies passed during the last four years by President Donald Trump. We believe that litigation will slowly die down as the need to challenge President Trump’s policies disappears.

Biden’s policies in general will favor the expansion of temporary work visas for highly skilled professionals which we believe will benefit U.S. companies seeking to hire more foreign talent.

Biden’s transition to the presidency will also have the likely effect of encouraging many families to begin working on their immigration processes to legalize their status in the United States.

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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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