American Citizenship

July 1, 2011 § 2 Comments

Being conferred American citizenship is a tremendous honor and no easy accomplishment. There are major reasons as to why certain immigrants want to get the highest immigration status in the US. But there are other who, though eligible are satisfied just being a permanent resident.

Why American citizenship ?

The desire to get benefits, for oneself or one’s family, is a major reason immigrants give for taking the initiative towards naturalization. The desire to go for economic opportunities, to advance one’s position and to live in the greater comfort of the American way of life is another major motive behind going for naturalization.

The third reason why immigrants go for citizenship is to fight discrimination and ensure equal treatment. Only very few say they want to become citizens to qualify to vote. Voting and civic engagement may receive high priority as civic values, but they do not endorse high on the open-ended list of reasons for becoming a citizen.

The urge to unite with family or to help other family members who want to come to the United States.

What stops immigrants from going for citizenship

Some immigrants are not yet eligible. Some don’t have time. The cost involved while filing the application for citizenship is another major factor. Some do not meet the standard English requirements. And many do not know how to go about the process.

While filing the US citizenship application, one needs to pass an English and Civics test. It is language skill and not educational level, that is the barrier. Rates of naturalization are strongly related to one’s English language ability. The test is disproportionately a test of English ability. To have knowledge of US civics and government, one need not have a high school or college education. This knowledge ca n easily gained by persons of almost all educational levels.

Not having formal education is not the barrier to passing the citizenship test. The Cost (submission fee) is another factor that is a barrier in the naturalization process. Another significant reason for not pursuing naturalization is that many do not intend to remain in the United States forever. Ease of reverse migration and proximity to one’s home country allows immigrants to maintain their distinct culture and language to a greater extent.





Asylees becoming US citizens

June 4, 2011 § 1 Comment

As an asylee, you can adjust your status to a lawful permanent resident ( green card holder) of the United States one year after being granted asylum. Apart from this, you can also petition for your family members (spouse, minor children, and unmarried adult sons and daughters) for legal permanent resident status in the US. To apply to adjust status, you have to file Form I-485 with the USCIS.

You should prove that you have been physically present in the US for one year after having been granted asylum status and that you remain a refugee (with a “well-founded fear of persecution,” etc.). You should also have to prove that you have not resettled in any foreign country and also that you are not “inadmissible” or warrant a waiver of applicable grounds of “inadmissibility.”

While adjusting status, you have to file the following documents with the USCIS:

  • Form I-485 and appropriate fee
  • Form G-325
  • 2 passport size photographs
  • Fee for Fingerprinting
  • Evidence of asylee status (copy of I-94 and letter granting asylum or any decision by an Immigration Judge)
  • Birth certificate
  • Proof that you have been living in the US for the last year
  • Valid proof for change of name (if you have legally changed your name since getting asylee status.

Asylees need not prove that they are not “likely to become a public charge”. Even if you are receiving means-tested benefits such as public assistance or SSI, it will not prevent you from applying for legal permanent residence. You can also request a waiver of the filing fee while adjusting status if you can prove that paying the fee would result in financial hardship.

Once you have filed the I-485 form, you will receive an interview notice from the USCIS along with a medical examination form that you are required to complete per the instructions. If you had entered the US with fraudulent documents (such as a passport purchased on the black market), you should submit an application for a waiver of inadmissibility through Form I-602.

You will then have an interview that will primarily focus on eligibility for adjustment to permanent residence and not on the underlying asylum claim. However, not all asylees who file to adjust status will have interviews.

Citizenship :

As a lawful permanent resident, you can submit Form N-400, application for citizenship to become a US citizen after five years of becoming a permanent resident. Once Form I-485 is approved, the date of admission is one year before the date of approval of the adjustment of status application. It means the wait to apply for american citizenship is reduced to four years (generally is five years for other permanent residents). Citizenship is the highest immigration status in the US and it has many advantages when compared to being a permanent resident

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.

Disclosing Crime Details During The Naturalization Process

April 29, 2011 § 1 Comment

Form N-400, the citizenship application asks for information about the applicants criminal record. It is mandatory for applicants to report their entire criminal record to the USCIS. The application might be rejected should any applicant fail to do so. Applicants who are not sure if they are eligible for naturalization because of their criminal record should ensure they consult an immigration attorney who can properly advise

Conviction of murder or any other aggravated felony may make one permanently ineligible to file  the application for citizenship immaterial of how long ago the crime was committed. There are few other types of crimes that would result in temporary bars to citizenship. The details of the conviction are very important in making this determination. Quite common one is a DUI incident and that also have to be reported and it also depends in part on how long ago the offense was committed, whether the applicant has ever committed any other crimes, and whether there are any other factors which may lead USCIS to conclude an absence of “good moral character.”

Applicants should always be honest with USCIS about all arrests (even if they were not charged or convicted), convictions (even if their record was cleared or expunged), crimes they committed for which they were not arrested or convicted; and any countervailing evidence, or evidence in their favor concerning the circumstances of the arrests, and/or convictions or offenses that the applicant would want the USCIS to consider.

Even if it was a minor crime, you have to bring it to the notice of the USCIS official, else it may result in the denial of your case. Unless a traffic incident was alcohol or drug related, applicants need not submit documentation for traffic fines and incidents that did not involve an actual arrest if the only penalty was a fine less than $500 and/or points found on the applicant’s driver’s license.

Per immigration laws, applicants should make sure to enter the complete details of any incident that is branded a crime(including the verdict). The USCIS will always do a background check for all applicants with the FBI. So in the best interest of the applicant, it is strongly advised to put down the details transparently. Being transparent in all disclosures will make the naturalization process easier. Simple traffic violations are mostly not considered as crime, but there are some exceptions. To know more about them, one can get in touch with nearest USCIS office or the contact the USCIS at 1-800-375-5283.

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.

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