All About INS

March 30, 2011 § 3 Comments

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly the INS) is the official government agency that manages the entire immigration related matters in the United States.

The United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) were earlier known as the Bureau of Immigration and the Bureau of Naturalization (BCIS) since 1903. The INS was established on 10 June 1933 with its merger to administer matters related to established immigration and naturalization policy. The INS ceased to exist under that name on 1st March, 2003, when most of its functions were transferred to three new agencies within the newly created Department of Homeland Security, as part of a major government re organization after September 11 attacks of 2001.

How is the INS Referred to Today?

The administration of all immigration services, including permanent residence, naturalization, asylum, and other functions came under the the responsibility of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS), which existed only for a short time before changing to its current name, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

While applying for a visa or green card, immigration forms are to be filed either at the American Consulate or with the USCIS (formerly the INS) if the applicant is in the US. The USCIS (formerly the INS) is the authority that processes all the applications/petitions filed in the US.

The Application Process:

After you send the completed application/petition to the USCIS (formerly the INS) along with the correct fee and supporting documents, you will receive an Application Receipt Notice that has a 13-character application receipt number. This number generally starts with EAC, WAC, LIN, or SRC. You can track the status of your application using this number while the application.

If you want to check the status of your case with the application receipt number, you may visit the USCIS’s website, http://www.uscis.gov and select the link entitled “Case Status Online” and enter the application receipt number. If you do not have a receipt number, you can click “Processing Times” that you will find on the USCIS “Case Status Online” page to find out how long USCIS takes to process certain applications. Processing times differ according to the type of application you filed and the location of the USCIS Application Service Center (ASC) where your application was filed. If you do not receive any notice from the USCIS (formerly the INS) even after thirty days of having submitted your application, you can contact them at their toll-free telephone number and talk to their customer service representatives who will provide you with the necessary guidance regarding the application submitted.

Applicants and their representatives (lawyers, charitable groups, or corporations) who are in need of regular access to information about the multiple cases they submitted can create an account to get this information easily. The services provided by USCIS (formerly the INS) to both such account types are similar except for the fact that applicants’ representatives can have their own internal office tracking number with each receipt number when dealing with multiple cases.

In addition to this, a new program provides the option where you can receive a text message notification to your US mobile phone number whenever a case status update happens. Applicants and representatives can avail this facility to receive this notification. However, Standard Messaging Rates or other charges related to such these notifications may apply. Applicants and their representatives can also receive case status updates at their e-mail address.

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Renew Your Green Card

March 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

A United States permanent resident card (green card) is normally valid for ten years. On its expiry, you have to get it renewed by filing Form I-90, Application for green card replacement with the USCIS. Though those not renewing expired green cards will not be penalized, always ensure that you renew your card at the earliest. Form I-90 should also be filed if you want to change any biographic information on your green card i.e if your name has changed because of marriage. Form I-90 is also used when you lose your green card and need a replacement. However, you will not lose your permanent resident status if you do not renew your green card as permanent resident status does not expire.

Per US laws, you have to carry evidence of your current status (a valid, unexpired green card or temporary passport stamp). When you do not renew your expired or expiring card, you may find it difficult obtaining employment, getting other benefits and also while re-entering the US from abroad. If you are traveling , always apply for your new green card before you travel and have with you the temporary documentation you received. If you try re-entering the US with an expired green card, you might experience delay during the inspections process at the port of entry,

Your employers will also not accept an expired green card to verify employment authorization for new hires. You can use other documents that you will find on the Form I-9 (Employment eligibility verification form) such as social security card and driver’s license or have a temporary evidence of status (I-551 stamp) or even the receipt notice for your Form I-90, Application to replace permanent resident card.

After you have sent the completed I-90 application to the USCIS, you will receive an Application Receipt Notice with an application receipt number within 30 days of having sent your application. This notice is a proof that the USCIS received your application. You can monitor the progress of your application with this receipt number. You also will be informed about the dates for fingerprinting and subsequently, the date for your interview with instructions related to the supporting documents you are supposed to bring. On the whole, the green card renewal process approximately takes three months.

The advantage of having a valid green card is that, if eligible you can file the citizenship application, Form N-400 and enjoy the rights of a US citizen.

 

 

What Is Citizenship?

March 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

US Citizenship

To qualify for American citizenship, you should be at least 18 years or older and a permanent resident (Green Card holder).  You have to be a permanent resident for five years to be eligible to file for citizenship.  If your spouse is a US citizen, the permanent residency requirement for you is only three years. In such a case, you have to be in marriage to a U.S citizen and be living with that U.S citizen spouse for the past three years of your permanent residency for these criteria to be applicable.

You should have also resided in the US for a considerable period before filing the citizenship application.  If you are not married to a US citizen, you should have resided. for a continuous period of five years in the U.S  after becoming a permanent resident.  Whereas, if you are married to a U.S. citizen, you should have resided in the U.S. for a continuous period of three years after being given permanent resident status in the U.S.

If you are away from the U.S. for a long time, it will break the continuity of your residence in the U.S. if you are applying for US citizenship.  But this will not affect your return to the U.S. as a permanent resident.  For citizenship purpose, though an absence from the U.S. of less than six months will not break the continuity of residence, absence for a period of six months or more will break the continuity of residence.  If the break is between six months and one year, it can be excused if a reasonable explanation is provided, an overseas employment for instance.  If the break is for over one year, the continuity of residence can be preserved if suitable steps are taken before the expiration of a year overseas to preserve the residence and if you meet certain requirements.

These requirements alone are not sufficient to qualify for citizenship. You should also satisfy certain physical presence requirements.  You should have been physically present in the US for a certain period of time.  You should also have resided in your current state for at least three months. Current state is the state where you are filing your application.

Another requirement in the citizenship process is that you should not have broken any US immigration laws and should not have been ordered to leave the US.  Additionally, you should also prove at least 5 years of good moral character.  You should also take an English language test and a civics test.  Most applicants have to prove that they can read, write and speak basic English. You should also prove that you have basic knowledge of US history and government.

But some applicants will be exempted from taking this citizenship test based on their age and also if they have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, where it affects one’s ability to learn English and civics.  And finally, you should take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States.

As a US citizen, you will have the right to hold federal jobs and also the right to vote.  You can travel wherever and for however long you want.  You will also be protected even when you are abroad.  The State Department ensures you travel home safely and you can get assistance from the US consulate abroad.  Your spouse and children can also become US citizens through your status.  Though they have to file certain applications to document their status, the process will be less difficult.

The US Passport

March 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

What is a US passport ?

A US passport is an internationally recognized travel document that confirms the identity and nationality of the passport holder. A U.S. passport is required for one to enter and exit most foreign countries. The U.S. Department of State is the sole authority that issues or verifies United States passports.

How long is the passport valid?

If you are 16 years or older when you got your passport, it is valid for ten years. If you are 15 years or younger when you got the passport, then it is valid for 5 years.

Where do I Apply?

You can apply for a passport at nearly 9,000 facilities nationwide that include many Federal, state, and probate courts, post offices, some public libraries, and a number of county and municipal offices. For more emergency cases, additionally there are 13 regional passport agencies and one Gateway City Agency that are designated to serve individuals who are to travel within 14 days, or who need foreign visas for their travel. In such cases, appointments are required.

Can all immigrants apply for a US passport?

No. Only those who were conferred American citizenship can apply for a US passport. Note that immigrants applying for US citizenship should file Form N-400, Application for Citizenship.

Applying in Person:

You have to apply for your U.S. passport in person if you applying for the first time. In addition to this, you should also apply in person if

  • your passport expired and is not in your possession;
  • your passport has expired and you got it more than 15 years ago.
  • your earlier passport was issued when you were below 16 years old.
  • you had a current U.S. passport and that it is lost or stolen.

If you are below 14 years old, you should appear in person, and be able to provide legal consent of your parents or legal guardians. It means that you (the minor) must either be accompanied by both guardians OR one guardian who can provide the other guardian’s notarized statement of consent OR one guardian who can submit sufficient evidence of being the soul authority to apply for the passport..

What to Bring:

To apply in person, you have to provide the following:

  • The appropriate Application Forms
  • Current Proof of U.S. Citizenship
  • Current Identity Proof
  • Two Passport style photographs
  • Social Security Number
  • All the appropriate Fees

If you are below 14 years old, in addition to proof of U.S. Citizenship, you should also be able to provide proof of relationship to appearing parents/legal guardians.

US Citizenship Form N-400

March 13, 2011 § 5 Comments

Want to become a US citizen and enjoy the advantages? As a US citizen, you have the right to vote in the US federal elections. You can petition your family members for permanent stay in the US. You can also obtain citizenship for your children born abroad. Additionally, you have the right to enter and exit the US without any restrictions. These are a few of the many advantages you can enjoy as a US citizen. Having so many advantages of being a US citizen, it’s time to know the citizenship process.

You can become a US citizen either by birth or through naturalization. Persons born in the US are automatically citizens of the US and persons born to US citizens can also claim citizenship subject to certain conditions. Naturalization is a process where a person not born in the US becomes a citizen voluntarily. To get naturalized, you need to file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.

Citizenship Application Form N-400:

As mentioned earlier, N-400 is the citizenship form that needs to be filed for Naturalization. All the eligibility requirements for filing the citizenship form have to be met before applying. You need to be a permanent resident for at least five years; or, three years if married to a US citizen and living with the citizen spouse for the past three years.

You need to meet other requirements too. You need to be 18 years or above. Additionally, you have to fulfill the continuous residence and physical presence requirement. A prolonged absence from the U.S. will break the continuity of your residence in the U.S. for naturalization purposes, although it may not affect your ability to return to the U.S. as a permanent resident. You should have resided in your current state for at least 3 months. Your current state is the state where you are submitting the citizenship form for naturalization.

The N-400 citizenship form can be downloaded from the USCIS website for free. But considering the sophisticated process involved, many private websites help applicants in preparing the citizenship form by charging a nominal fee.

After you submit the citizenship form to the USCIS, you will get an Application Receipt Notice with a 13-character Application Receipt number, within 30 days. This Receipt Notice is the proof that USCIS has received your completed citizenship form and that it is being processed. With this number, you will be able to check the status of your case.

You will be then notified about the date you need to appear for fingerprinting. Meanwhile, national security background checks are conducted and finally you need to appear for an interview. In the interview, your English knowledge will be tested, as well as your knowledge of US civics.

If the immigration officials are fully satisfied, your case will be approved. If rejected, you will be notified as to how soon you can reapply using the same Form N-400 citizenship form. Approving or rejecting your case depends on the transparency and truthfulness of your case. So in the best interest of the applicant, it is strongly advised to be honest in all your disclosures.

Lost Your American Citizenship Certificate?

March 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

If you have lost your american citizenship certificate, you have to file Form N-565 to get a replacement of the certificate. You have to prepare and and mail the completed N-565 application package to the USCIS along with the submission fees and supporting documents (if any). Detailed information about the submission fees, mailing address and supporting documents can be found in the instructions page that comes along with the application. Make sure you do not make any mistake in the submission fee or send it to the wrong mailing address as your application will be sent back to you.

With the application, you have to send two color photographs of yourself and the supporting documents. The photograph has to be taken within 30 days of filing your N-565 application. If you are filing this form to get a replacement of a mutilated document, you should to attach the mutilated document and send it along with your N-565 application. If your supporting documents are in a foreign language, it should be accompanied by a full English language translation where the translator has certified it as complete and accurate.

After the USCIS receives your application, they will check for completeness, including submission of the required initial evidence and the appropriate submission fee. If you do not fill out the form completely, or sent the application without the required appropriate initial evidence, you will not establish a basis for eligibility and chances are that, the USCIS might return your application. In addition to this, if your application is not signed or not accompanied by the correct fee, the USCIS will reject it with a notice that the application is deficient. So make sure your application is complete and also that you submit the supporting documents along with the correct submission fee.

After you file your application with the USCIS, you can expect to receive an Application Receipt Notice that will have a 13-character Application Receipt number within 30 days of having filed your application. This notification is the proof that USCIS has received your N-565 application. You can use the 13- digit number on the notice to monitor the progress of application status. The USCIS might require additional information from you or evidence when you appear at their office for your interview. They may also request you to submit the originals of supporting documents if need be. Finally, if the USCIS officials find you eligible for the new document, your application will be approved and the new document issued. If your N-565 application is denied, the USCIS will notify in writing detailing the reasons for the denial. The whole replacement process on an average will take up to six months.

 

 

What Does the INS Do?

March 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly the INS) is the government agency that takes care of the entire immigration process in the US.

If you are applying to legally stay in the US, certain immigration forms/petitions have to be filed either at the American Consulate in your home country or with the USCIS (formerly the INS) if you are in the US. These applications are available on the INS website. The help of attorneys and other private websites is sought regularly as the forms can be sophisticated at times. All immigration related applications filed in the US will be processed by the USCIS

The Application Process:

After you select the appropriate forms, you have to complete it and mail it to the designated USCIS (formerly the INS) office along with the fee and supporting documents. As a confirmation for having received your application, the USCIS will send an Application Receipt Notice within thirty days that will have a 13-character Application Receipt number. This number normally starts with EAC, WAC, LIN, or SRC. You can have this notice as proof that you have applied. Furthermore, you can monitor the progress of your application with this number.

If you received this receipt number and wish to check the status of your case, you may visit http://www.uscis.gov and enter this number under the link “Case Status Online”. If you do not have a receipt number, you can find out how long USCIS takes to process such type of applications by clicking “Processing Times” that is listed on the USCIS “Case Status Online” page. But in this case, you can only know how long USCIS takes to process such applications and it may not be specific to your case. Application Processing times are categorized according to the type of application you filed and also related to the USCIS Application Service Center (ASC) where your application was filed. At times you will not receive any notification from the USCIS (formerly the INS) even after thirty days of having submitted your application. In such a case, you can contact them at their toll-free telephone line and talk to their customer service representatives who will guide you further.

Another facility related to checking status is also available for applicants and their representatives (such as lawyers, charitable groups, or corporations). Such persons who are in need of regular access to information about their multiple cases can create an account to get this information easily. The services provided by USCIS (formerly the INS) to both account types are similar except that applicants’ representatives can enter their own internal office tracking number with each receipt number to deal with multiple cases.

Moreover, there is a new program that provides the option where you can receive a text message notification to your US mobile phone number whenever an update to a case status happens. Applicants and their representatives can avail this facility to receive such text message notification. However, note that Standard Messaging Rates or other charges related to these notifications may apply for such text messages. Applicants and their representatives can also receive automatic case status updates through e-mail as well. These options prove handy to applicants as the processing time for applications differ.

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