Refugee Status in the US

May 31, 2011 § Leave a comment

Refugee Quotas:

Every year, the President of the United States will send a proposal to the Congress for the maximum number of refugees that can be admitted into the US for the upcoming fiscal year, as specified under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This number is also known as the “refugee ceiling“. Every year refugee advocates seek to raise the number whereas anti-immigration groups want to reduce it. Whatever their claims may be, once proposed, the refugee ceiling is normally accepted without substantial Congressional debate.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, there was a substantial disruption to the processing of resettlement claims with admissions falling to about 26,000 in the year 2002. All refugee claims were double checked for any suspicious activity and strict procedures were put in place to detect any possible terrorist infiltration to the country. Given the ease with which foreigners can otherwise legally enter the US, entry as a refugee is comparatively unlikely. The number of admitted refugees increased in subsequent years with the refugee ceiling for the fiscal year 2006 put at 70,000. These numbers however are still among the lowest in 30 years.

The applications submitted by individuals who have already entered the US are judged on whether they fulfill the US definition of a “refugee” and on many other criteria (including many bars that would prevent an otherwise-eligible refugee from receiving protection). There are two ways to apply for asylum while in the US

  • If an asylum seeker has been ordered for removal before an immigration judge with an Office that is a part of the Department of Justice, the individual can apply for asylum with the Immigration Judge.
  • If an asylum seeker is inside the US and has not been placed in removal proceedings, he/she can file an application with USCIS (formerly the INS), regardless of his/her legal status in the US. But if the asylum seeker does not hold legal immigration status and USCIS does not approve the asylum application, then the USCIS will order for removal proceedings. In such a case, a judge will consider the application. After the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act passed in 1996, an applicant must apply for asylum within one year of his/her entry or will be barred from applying unless the applicant can prove changed circumstances that are material to his/her eligibility for asylum or establish exceptional circumstances for the delay.

Though there is no right to asylum in the US, eligible applicants have a right to have the Attorney General make a determination as to whether the applicant can be admitted into the US as an asylee.

The applicant should have sufficient proof that he/she is eligible for asylum. To prove, the applicant must show that he/she has a well-founded fear of persecution in his/her home country because of either race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. The applicant should demonstrate that he/she has a subjective fear (or apprehension) of future persecution in his/her home country that is objectively reasonable.

Renew Your Green Card Or Apply For Citizenship?

May 25, 2011 § 4 Comments

According to US immigration laws, if your Permanent Resident Card (otherwise called the Green Card) has less than six months of remaining validity, you should get it renewed before filing the citizenship form (Form N-400). Remember that you will be required to submit a photocopy of your replacement Green Card when you apply for American citizenship.

You can initiate the renewal process by filing Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card with the USCIS. Whereas if your green card will not expire for at least another six months and you meet all the requirements needed to apply for citizenship, then you may directly apply for citizenship instead of renewing your green card.

Lost green card :

If you lost your Green Card, then you have to apply for a replacement card by Filing Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card (even though the card is not expired). However, in this case, you need not wait to receive the new card before filing for naturalization but have to wait until you receive the I-797 Receipt Notice for Form I-90 before you file the application for citizenship.

Once you submit the I-90 application package to the USCIS with the supporting documents (if any) and the filing fee, you will receive an Application Receipt Notice with a receipt number and other information related to the interview and fingerprinting. Once you receive the Receipt Notice for having filed Form I-90, you can go ahead and file your Form N-400 Application. You should include a copy of the Receipt Notice with the US citizenship application..

Renew your green card before travel :

Re-entry into the United States from abroad:

Always ensure that you apply for your new green card before you travel and have with you on any trip, the temporary documentation you received for having filed for a replacement. If you try to reenter the United States with an expired Green Card, you may experience unnecessary delay during the inspection process at the port-of-entry. So it is always recommended to travel after you file the I-90 application to get a replacement of your green card.

Obtaining employment:

As employers do not accept an expired Green Card to verify employment authorization for new recruits, you may use alternate documents listed on the Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification Form) such as a social security card and driver’s license, or provide “temporary” evidence of status, such as an I-551 stamp, or even the receipt notice for your Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card.

USCIS Proposes Significant Enhancements to EB-5 Visa Processing to Help America Win the Future

May 20, 2011 § 1 Comment

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today proposed significant enhancements to the administration of the USCIS Immigrant Investor Program, commonly referred to as the EB-5 Program—transforming the intake and review process for immigrant investors as part of the Obama administration’s continued commitment to improve the legal immigration system and meet economic and national security needs for the 21st century.

The Eb-5 programmakes 10,000 visas available annually to immigrant investors who invest in commercial enterprises that create at least 10 U.S. jobs. EB-5 investors may petition independently or as part of a USCIS-designated regional center.

“Congress created the EB-5 Program in 1990 to attract investors and entrepreneurs from around the globe to create jobs in America,” said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas. “We are dedicated to enhancing this program to ensure that it achieves that goal to the fullest extent possible.”

USCIS is proposing three fundamental changes to the way it processes EB-5 Regional Center filings. First, USCIS proposes to accelerate its processing of applications for job-creating projects that are fully developed and ready to be implemented. USCIS will also give these EB-5 applicants and petitioners the option to request premium processing service, which guarantees processing within 15 calendar days for an additional fee.

Second, USCIS proposes the creation of new specialized intake teams with expertise in economic analysis and the EB-5 Program requirements. EB-5 Regional Center applicants will be able to communicate directly with the specialized intake teams via e-mail to streamline the resolution of issues and quickly address questions or needs related to their applications.

Third, USCIS proposes to convene an expert Decision Board to render decisions regarding EB-5 Regional Center applications. The Decision Board will be composed of an economist and adjudicators and will be supported by legal counsel.

This proposal will be online until June 17, 2011, for public comment—providing stakeholders an opportunity to offer feedback on the proposed changes to the administration of the EB-5 Program

Travel Document

May 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

Form I-131 has to be filed while applying for a re-entry permit, refugee travel document or advance parole travel document, to include parole into the US for humanitarian reasons.

Advance Parole :

Is for applicants who have a pending Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status to Permanent Resident, and who want to travel before the Application is approved.

Refugee Travel Document :

Is for applicants who hold Refugee or Asylee status and who want to travel outside the US.

Re-entry Permit :

Is for Lawful Permanent Residents who will be outside of the US for an extended period of time, generally for one year or more. Applicants filing Form I-131 based on his/her pending or approved Form I-821 have to file your form I-131 with the USCIS Dallas Lockbox facility. It should also include a copy of the I-797 C, Notice of Action that shows if the application was accepted or approved.

If you are applying to renew the advance parole document, USCIS will accept and adjudicate Form I-131 filed up to 120 days before the date your current Advance Parole document expires.

All Refugee Travel Document applicants or one for a Reentry Permit should get fingerprinted at an Application Support Center (ASC) or if applying for a Refugee Travel Document (while outside of the US) at an USCIS facility overseas. Applicants aged between 14 and 79 years and applying for a Refugee Travel Document or Re-entry Permit should also be fingerprinted as part of USCIS biometric services requirements.

After you have filed the application, USCIS will inform in writing of the time/location of the biometrics appointment. Should you fail to appear to be fingerprinted or for other biometric services, it might result in a denial of the application.

All applicants for Re-entry Permit and/or Refugee Travel Documents aged between 14 and 79 years are required to pay the additional $85 biometric fee. The fee for advance parole or re-entry permit is $360 and for a Refugee Travel Document for an applicant age 16 or older is $135. For a child under the age of 16 years, it is $105. For applicants aged between 14 and 79, a biometric fee of $85 is required for a Reentry Permit and a Refugee Travel Document , unless the applicant resides outside of the U.S at the time of filing their form. However, biometric fee is not required for advance parole applicants.

The submission fee and biometrics services fee may be paid with a single check for $445 and it must be made payable to Department of Homeland Security.

The US Citizenship Application Fee

May 14, 2011 § 4 Comments

The U.S.Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the government agency that manages the entire immigration process in the United States.

While applying for a visa or green card, certain petitions/applications have to be filed either at the American Consulate abroad or with the USCIS if the applicant is in the US. These applications/petitions are available on the USCIS website. In addition, there also are many private organizations who have these forms available on their website and charge a fee for assisting their users in filling and filing the applications/petitions. The USCIS is the authority that manages these applications/petitions.

Form N-400, Application for Naturalization is the form that needs to be filed in order to get US citizenship. When the USCIS proposed a fee hike for immigration applications/petitions, there was deep concern that applications filed could decline. And the USCIS also proposed to revise the English and Civics test, and many feared that immigrants might be discouraged about upcoming revisions to the U.S. civics test.

The test change was aimed to gauge immigrants’ understanding of concepts in US civics and avoid habitual memorization. Some believed the fee hike for the Naturalization application would be a barrier to citizenship.

The USCIS did not revise the submission fee for the US citizenship application, though the fee was revised for many other petitions/applications.

The submission fee for the US citizenship application is $680 and this includes a $85 biometric fee. Applicants must send the fee with your application. They have to pay the fee with a check or money order drawn on a U.S. bank payable to the Department of Homeland Security. Ensure not to use the initials DHS or USDHS and also not to send cash.

Residents of Guam should address the fee payable to the “Treasurer, Guam,”whereas residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands should make the fee payable to the “Commissioner of Finance of the Virgin Islands.”

The $85 Fees for biometric services is separate from your application fee. If required, USCIS may also take your photograph and signature as part of the biometric services. One thing to remember that the application fee is not refundable even if you withdraw your application or if your case is rejected.

If you are applying for naturalization based on your own service in the Armed Forces of the United States, no filing fee is required.

Applicants 75 years or older, or filing on the basis of one’s service in the Armed Forces of the US, or if filing from abroad, need not send the biometric services fee for fingerprinting with his/her application.

Application that do not include the submission fee will be returned to the applicant thus delaying the entire citizenship process. So always ensure the application package has the application, the required supporting documents and the submission fee. Also make sure it is mailed to the correct USCIS address. Not paying due attention to these would result in unnecessary delay.

While submitting your US citizenship application, if you don’t think you can afford to pay the submission fee, you can ask for a “fee waiver” from USCIS. If USCIS grants your request, they will accept your US citizenship application without you having to pay a fee. If they reject your request, they will return your application to you. You will need to reapply and pay the fee.

Benefits Of Being A Green Card Holder

May 6, 2011 § 1 Comment

There are many ways to become a lawful permanent resident(green card holder) of the US. If you family member is a US citizen or a green card holder, they can sponsor you for a green card. You can also get one through the Diversity Visa lottery program that is conducted annually.You can also get a green card through employment.

Green card holders (lawful permanent residents) have the right to apply for government-sponsored financial aid for education. They need not pay the normal full tuition for university and college. This study is also called the”in-state” tuition or “resident” tuition. It is, in most cases is 3 to 4 times lesser than what other foreigners pay. Green card holders also have the permission to work in any company located in US territory regardless of job function, hours/week, etc. except for certain positions/companies that only hire U.S. citizens. There is no need for an employer to sponsor them either. It is mandatory in some jobs that security clearance is needed and only green card holders and US citizens have the right. Green card holders get more job opportunities.

A green card also gives your the permission to start your own business and create your own corporation. On retirement, you are eligible for Social Security benefits, if you worked for 10 years (40 quarters) before retiring. You can bring your spouse and unmarried minor children under 21 to the US and help them get permanent status. If you sponsored your family members for a green card, it will still hold good even if you lose your job or pass away.

With a work permit, the principle visa holder’s spouse and minor unmarried children under 21 years of age can stay in the US as dependents. Though you have a work permit, your children have to get student visas to study and work visas to work. But after they get a green card, they can stay in the US even after turning 21 years old and even if they get married.

In addition to these benefits, green card holders have access to security clearances, become eligible for government grants and are exempted from export restrictions. They can enjoy most legal rights under US law, except for voting rights for which one has to be a US citizens. Only green card holders are eligible to apply for american citizenship as being a green card holder is the main eligibility requirements when it comes to filing the citizenship form. It is not mandatory that all green card holders have to take US Citizenship. One can remain a green card holder forever.

Selective Service In The Naturalization Process

May 4, 2011 § 3 Comments

The Selective Service System is a means by which the US maintains information on those potentially subject to military conscription.

Men aged between 18 and 25 and living in the US must register with Selective Service. According to law, a man has to register within 30 days of his 18th birthday. Though late registrations are accepted, they will not be accepted after a man has reached 26 years of age. If you have not registered, you may be denied benefits or a job. You can register at any US Post Office and do not need a social security number for that. When you do get a social security number, inform the Selective Service. Furnish a copy of your new social security number card; ensuring you include your complete name, date of birth, SS registration number and current mailing address. Mail it to the Selective Service System, P.O. Box 94636, Palatine, IL 60094-4636.

Who Must Register for Selective Service?

• With few exceptions, all male US citizens and male aliens residing in the US and its territories have to register within the period starting 30 days before, and ending 30 days after, their 18th birthday.

• Parolees, refugees, and applicants for asylum are considered to be residents of the U.S. and therefore must register.

• Men who are handicapped who are able to function in public, with or without assistance have to register. A friend/relative can help such a handicapped man to fill the registration form if he is unable to do so himself.

• Members of the National Guard and Reserve Forces, not on full-time active duty, must register.

Who Is Exempt From Registration?

• Females.

• Non-immigrant aliens (men on visitor or student visas and members of diplomatic or trade missions and their families who were admitted lawfully) as they are residing in the US temporarily.

• Men who did not register due to unavoidable circumstances, such as being hospitalized, institutionalized, or incarcerated. However, such persons have to register within 30 days after their release.

• Armed Forces members on full-time active duty. This also applies to cadets and midshipmen at the US service academies. But, upon release from active duty, such persons have to register within 30 days if he is not yet 26 years of age and has not yet registered.

• Men cannot register after reaching age 26.

Selective Service registration is one factor that USCIS uses to assess whether an applicant has “good moral character”.

In addition to the above mentioned requirement, you must take the Oath of Allegiance as part of the American Citizenship process. When you take the oath, you

• Promise to renounce foreign allegiances.
• Promise to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the US.
• Promise to fight in the US Armed Forces, perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces, and perform civilian service in the US.

If you cannot serve in the military because of your religious beliefs, you can be exempted from the Armed Forces requirements. I n such a case, you have to send a letter with your naturalization packet requesting a modified Oath and also provide an explanation as to why you cannot take the Oath as written originally.

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