Physical Presence for US Citizenship

December 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

To be naturalized, before the date of filing your application, you should have resided continuously, after being lawfully admitted for permanent residence, within the US for at least five years. During the five years immediately prior to filing your citizenship form, you should have been physically present therein for periods totaling at least half of that time. In addition, you should also have resided within the State or within the district of the Service in the US in which you filed the application for at least three months.

You should have resided continuously in the US from the date of filing the application up to the time of admission to citizenship. During all the periods you should have been and still are a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the US Constitution.
Absence from the US for more than six months but less than one year immediately before filing for American citizenship will break the continuity of such residence, unless you can establish to the satisfaction of the Attorney General that you did not abandon your residence in the US during that period.
Absence from the US for a continuous period of one year or more shall break the continuity of such residence except that in the case you were physically present and residing in the US after being lawfully admitted for permanent residence for a continuous period of at least one year and thereafter, you

  • are employed by or under contract with the Government of the US or an American institution of research,
  • are employed by an American firm or corporation engaged in whole or in part in the development of foreign trade and commerce of the US, or a subsidiary thereof more than 50 percent of whose stock is owned by an American firm or corporation,
  • are employed by a public international organization of which the US is a member by treaty and by which you were not employed until after being lawfully admitted for permanent residence, no period of absence from the US shall break the continuity of residence if-

(1) before the beginning of such period of employment, but prior to the expiration of one year of continuous absence from the US, you established to the satisfaction of the Attorney General that your absence for such period is to be on behalf of the Government, or for the purpose of carrying on scientific research on behalf of an institution, or to be engaged in the development of such foreign trade and commerce or whose residence abroad is necessary to the protection of the property rights in such countries of firm or corporation, or to be employed by a public international organization of which the US is a member by treaty and by which you were not employed until after being lawfully admitted for permanent residence, and
(2) you prove to the satisfaction of the Attorney General that your absence from the US for that period has been for such purpose.

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The New Citizenship Test

September 29, 2011 § 2 Comments

Most naturalization applicants are required to demonstrate their proficiency in the English language by reading, writing and speaking. In addition, applicants have to take a civics test. On Oct. 1, 2008, the USCIS re-designed the citizenship questions and switched over to a new set of questions. If you had filed on or after October 1, 2008, you have to take the new test.

Previously, the citizenship test had many questions surrounding basic historical facts of the US. Many of these questions were re-designed and now it just requires more than just a one-word answer for you to prove your knowledge on the subject. Topics in the civics section were expanded and the questions re-designed. The new test was aimed at leading citizenship aspirants to a deeper and better understanding of US history and government.

During the interview, the immigration officer will speak to you in English and will ask you questions related to the citizenship application package you submitted. You have to just prove that you can understand what the interviewer is asking, and answer in simple English. You will be dictated three sentences and you should be able to write at least one sentence correctly and possibly more if the officer is not satisfied with your writing skills. Remember that there are no standard sentences and it is the interviewer’s discretion what to ask and will generally base his/her decision on your level of education and background.

Apart from English, your knowledge in US history and government will be tested. The interviewing officer does not expect you to have in depth knowledge. However, you should demonstrate that you understand the system of the US government, how it works, how and why the United States was founded and about the important events in US history. This test will be oral and the interviewer will ask ten questions from the given bunch of hundred questions. If you can answer at least six out of ten questions correctly, you will be considered to have passed the test.

There are free study materials and public libraries also have the resources/study materials to help you prepare for the test. If you have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment where that impairment is affecting your ability to learn English and Civics, you may be exempted from taking the test. You have to file Form N-648 requesting an exception and this form has to be filed along with the citizenship form, N-400. If you qualify for a waiver of the English proficiency requirement, you should be prepared to bring an interpreter with you for the interview.

Filing Form N-648

September 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

While applying for American citizenship, one of the requirements is that you have to establish an understanding of English language and prove that you can speak, write and read words in normal usage. It is also required that you have basic knowledge and understanding of fundamentals of US history. The citizenship test comprises of these both.

Some applicants, because of their age and other medically determinable physical or mental impairment are exempted from taking these tests. If you fall under this category and want an exception from the English and US civics test because of your physical or age-linked disability or mental deficiency, you have to file Form N-648 with the USCIS. It is mandatory that a licensed medical doctor or licensed clinical psychologist complete and sign this form. This form has to be filed along with the citizenship form, N-400. Finally,it is up to the USCIS to make a decision if you qualify for an exception to the tests.

A few provisions are there in the Rehabilitation act of 1973 and if you fall under those, you need not file Form N-648. Sign language interpreters, time extension for testing and off site testing come under the provisions. But note that illiteracy will not be considered while requesting an exception from the English and Civics tests. You have to fill Part three of the Form N-400 while applying for American Citizenship, indicating your request.

“Medical doctors, doctors of osteopathy, or clinical psychologists licensed to practice in US including territories like Guam, Puerto Rico, territories of CNMI and the Virgin Islands” are the ones authorized to fill the N-648 form. While filling the form, the medical professional takes up the responsibility for the genuineness of the information entered in the form. The medical professional has to certify all parts of the Form N-648 except for the applicant attestation and interpreter’s certification.

In addition, the medical professional should also ensure that the form is complete and accurate as the USCIS will reject incomplete forms. The information in the form has to be in such a manner that it is easily understood even by a lay man. The medical professional filling this form has to submit a lengthy assessment of the applicant’s physical and developmental disability or mental impairment. Medical diagnostic report or records have to be included in the application package.

As mentioned above, the medical professional and the applicant both have to attest the Form N-648, taking full responsibility for the genuineness of the information given in the form. There is no submission fee and it has to be mailed along with the Naturalization application. If there is any false information provided in the form, affidavit or other supporting documents or if the applicant presents any such document, he/she will be fined or imprisoned for not more than 10 years or both.

Crimes That Can Prevent You From Getting US Citizenship

August 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

You have to meet many eligibility requirements to qualify for American citizenship. One important requirement is that you should be a person of good moral character. If you commit certain crimes during the five years prior to filing the citizenship form or even if you lie during their naturalization interview, you will not be considered to be of “good moral character” and your case will be denied.

A few of the behaviors that show lack of good moral character are drunk driving or being drunk most of the time, illegal gambling, prostitution, telling lies to gain immigration benefits, failing to pay court-ordered child support, committing terrorist acts, persecuting someone because of race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or social group.

Certain crimes will bar you from becoming an American citizen and if you commit those, you probably will be removed from the country. These crimes are generally known “bars” to naturalization. Crimes that come under “aggravated felonies” are murder, rape, sexual abuse of a child, violent assault, treason, and illegal trafficking in drugs, firearms, or people and will result in permanent bars to naturalization.

Persons exempted or discharged from serving in the US Armed Forces and those who deserted from the US Armed Forces are also permanently barred from American Citizenship. The chances of citizenship getting denied is more if you behave in other ways that show you do not have good moral character. There are other crimes that result in temporary bars. Temporary bars prevent you from becoming a US citizen for up to five years since you committed the crime.

While filing the citizenship form, it is very important that you are transparent in disclosing any crime that you committed. Even if the crime was removed from your record or you committed a crime before your 18th birthday, it is mandatory that you report it. If you try to hide such information, citizenship will denied and will also lead to your prosecution. So always be transparent and truthful with the information you provide in your application.

Immigration process, at times can be sophisticated. You can avail the services of a licensed immigration lawyer for any assistance. You can get in touch with your local bar association for assistance in finding a qualified lawyer. Some states certify specialists in US immigration law. However, it is up to decide whether to hire a particular attorney. If you do not have enough money to hire a lawyer, you have some low cost or free assistance options. You can get help from:

  • A Recognized Organization : To qualify, the organization should have adequate knowledge and experience to offer services to those seeking. Such organizations are recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). They charge or accept a very minimal fee for such assistance.
  • An Accredited Representative : Such persons,connected to BIA “recognized organizations” too offer services and charge a minimal fee for the services they render.
  • A Qualified Representative : These persons offer free services. They should have sufficient knowledge in US immigration laws and the rules of practice in court. Law school students and graduates and people with good moral character who have a personal or professional affiliation come under “qualified representatives”.
  • Free Legal Service Providers : There are many attorneys and organizations available to represent immigrants in proceedings before Immigration Courts. Attorneys and organizations help immigrants without accepting any fees only in immigration proceedings. Some may not be able to help you with non-court-related issues such as visa petitions, naturalization, etc.

Initiative To Promote US Citizenship

June 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

The USCIS has started a campaign that focuses on promoting United States Citizenship. The campaign is aimed at urging the 12 million odd permanent residents (green card holders) in the US to become citizens. The importance of the campaign is highlighted by the fact that, perhaps for the first time the USCIS has launched a paid advertising campaign to promote American citizenship.

This campaign consists of advertisements on radio, TV, print media and Internet with messages in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and English. It is mainly targeted at major US states where there are many green card holders,California, New York, Florida and Texas, for instance. The initiative emphasizes mainly on the awareness of the rights, responsibilities, and importance of being a US citizen. It also throws light on the free naturalization preparation resources available to green card holders.

At present, there are 12.5 million green card holders in the US, and in that a size able 8 million Green Card holders are eligible to file the citizenship form. Mainly, green card holders want to live and work in the US permanently, and they can do that with a permanent resident status itself. This is the main reason why eligible green card holders do not run for citizenship. However, others things they are not aware of is that, citizenship gives them the benefit of voting, getting a US passport to travel without restrictions, obtain better jobs. Studies also reveal that people who become citizens earn more money too. It is an important step and a proud moment in fully integrating into a new society as a US citizen. You can vote, serve on a jury and get more involved in the political process.

Per USCIS, last year more than 700,000 green card holders applied to become US citizens, a significant 25% increase from the previous year. Green Card holders living in the US for 5 years, show good moral character as well as having the ability to pass an English and civics tests can apply for Naturalization. These alone aren’t enough to qualify. There are many other eligibility requirements that one needs to fulfill in order to qualify. USCIS’ main aim through this campaign is to increase awareness of the rights, responsibilities, and importance of US citizenship. USCIS is also keen in increasing the understanding of the naturalization process and requirements and create awareness of available citizenship preparation resources. Another point the USCIS wishes to drive is to educate eligible permanent residents about the steps they need to take while applying and preparing for the naturalization process.

The campaign advertisements have professional actors characterizing immigrant stories that focus on the diverse backgrounds of immigrants (past and present). The stories also make prominent, many of the motivating factors green card holders have stated as common reasons for going for US citizenship.

From the early 1900s, the government has been focusing on promoting an awareness of citizenship among immigrants to get naturalized. The present initiative continues and builds upon those efforts and supports the mission of the USCIS. Since July 2009, USCIS has reached out to more than 32,000 green card holders and potential naturalization applicants at nearly 560 naturalization information sessions through USCIS field offices, local community groups and immigrant-serving organizations.

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.

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.

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