Home > Naturalization and Citizenship >

Posted on December 22, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced effective immediately, naturalization applicants must file Form N-400 Naturalization Applications at the USCIS Lockbox in either Phoenix or Dallas. The filing location depends on where the applicants resides.     Naturalization applicants who live in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Territory of Guam, or the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands must file Form N-400 application to the USCIS Phoenix Lockbox.   USCIS Phoenix Lockbox: P.O. Box 21251 Phoenix, Arizona, 85036   Naturalization applications who reside in Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands must file Form N-400 application to the USCIS Dallas Lockbox.   USCIS Dallas Lockbox P.O. Box 660060 Dallas, Texas 75266  

For more information, please visit the USCIS Web site. 

 

Posted on August 20, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Our client, a 92-year-old citizen of Yugoslavia, who had been a permanent resident of the U.S. since 2000 is going to take her naturalization oath on Friday, August 19, 2009. After 92 years of being a citizen of Yugoslavia, she was ready to apply for U.S. citizenship a few months ago. Her daughter, a U.S. citizen, was aware of the naturalization requirement that includes an English and civics test. To qualify for naturalization, applicants must satisfy certain requirements. The requirements to naturalize include, but are not limited to, proficiency in English literacy and knowledge of U.S. history and government. There are exceptions to this requirement however, and we established that our client was eligible for the medical disability exception.   If a naturalization applicant is eligible for a medical disability exception, he or she can be exempted from the English and civics test requirement. The applicant must submit Form N-400 Naturalization Application along with Form N-648 Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Prior to submission Form N-648 must be completed by a medical physician, certifying that the applicant has a medically diagnosed condition that has impaired functioning so severely that it has rendered the applicant unable to learn or demonstrate knowledge of English and/or U.S. history or government.  

Our 92 year old client had a heart attack and a stroke six years ago. On Form N-648, her physician provided information indicating that the stroke left her with progressive irreversible neurological and brain damage causing decreased cerebral function, which includes forgetfulness and difficulty learning or remembering. This diagnosed mental impairment had rendered our client unable to learn English and knowledge of U.S. history and government. At the naturalization interview, the immigration officer accepted her request for a Disability Exception and exempted her from the requirement to demonstrate English language ability and knowledge of U.S. history and government. Our client’s naturalization application was approved, and a visiting federal judge (who is a friend of the family) will be administering the naturalization oath to her.

Posted on June 26, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

A recent Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) decision addressed the actions of a foreign national who simply claimed on a passport application that she had been born in Texas. In this decision, the BIA emphasized the fact that the Immigration and Nationality Act (the Act) strictly forbids anyone who is not a United States citizen from claiming, in any way, that he or she is a citizen.   This BIA decision serves as a strong reminder to anyone not a United States citizen that they should be very cautious not to claim, in any way, that they were born in the United States. Be aware that signing any document that says you are a citizen is the same as saying out loud that you are a citizen.   Always remain mindful that, not only is making a false representation of citizenship strictly prohibited by the Act, if you do falsely claim United States citizenship, you will be permanently barred from the United States. There are no waivers to this bar.  

Continue reading to see the decision.

Continue Reading…

Posted on June 24, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

For many naturalized citizens, service in the United States military was the key to earning that citizenship. In fact, approximately 1,000 foreigners have earned their United States citizenship through military service since the Department of Defense initiated the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program after the 9/11 attacks.   The MAVNI pilot program expands upon a current Defense Department program that provides citizenship opportunities to those serving in the military who also hold green cards. In contrast, MAVNI provides a fast-tracked path to citizenship to those serving in the military who have been in the United States legally for two years or more, possess language or medical skills that are in high demand, but do not hold green cards.   Similar programs were initiated during World War II and the Korean War. These programs were crucial in fast-tracking immigrants toward citizenship following their service in the military.  

For more information on the Department of Defense, please visit www.dod.gov.

Posted on May 12, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The Los Angeles Times reports that more than 1 million immigrants became U.S. citizens last year, the largest surge in history, hastening the ethnic transformation of certain states’ political landscapes with more Latinos and Asians now eligible to vote.

Almost one-third of these new citizens reside in California, with Florida recording the second-largest contingent, and Texas in third place, with about 8% of the total. This could have a profound impact on the political future of those states, and could eventually change the composition of the state governments, as well as the services provided by the states. Here are excerpts from the article:
 

Mexicans, who have traditionally registered low rates of naturalization, represented the largest group, with nearly one-fourth of the total. They were followed by Indians, Filipinos, Chinese, Cubans and Vietnamese. Several polls show that Latinos and Asians are more supportive than whites of public investments and broad services, even if they require higher taxes. Nationally, nonwhite voters overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy, while most whites voted for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a recent study by the Pew Research Center showed. And there were more nonwhite voters last year — Latino registered voters increased by 3 million compared with 2004, said Antonio Gonzalez, president of the Southwest Voting Registration Education Project in Los Angeles. The surge in new citizens will accelerate by several years the California electorate’s shift from majority white to nonwhite, according to Dowell Myers, a USC demographer. Although that shift won’t be completed until 2026, Myers and others said, Latinos, Asians and African Americans are already joining with progressive whites to elect ethnically diverse candidates. “As we have more Asian American and Latino voters, our electorate will begin to look more like the face of the public at large,” said Mark Baldassare of the Public Policy Institute. “From the standpoint of representative democracy, few things could be more important than this.” Those demographic and political trends will continue to marginalize Republicans unless the party makes major changes in its tone and policies toward immigrants, said Allan Hoffenblum, a Republican political consultant in Los Angeles. “The reason the Republican Party is in such dire straits is its inability to successfully reach out and change its image among Latinos and Asians,” he said. “The image is too shrill on immigration. It’s an image of an intolerant cult.” But Gonzalez said Latinos and other immigrants still had far to go, noting that 8 million of them have not yet claimed citizenship although they are eligible. “The test is going forward,” he said. Indeed, new citizenship applications have already dropped significantly. In the Southern California district, for instance, applications plunged to 58,433 last year from 253,666 the previous year, U.S. immigration statistics show.

Most experts say that a 69% increase in application fees to $675 was one reason for the steep decline. The Obama administration is proposing $206 million in funding for immigration services that could help reduce the fee by about $50, and activists are hoping for more, said Rosalind Gold of the National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund.

Posted on February 11, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News reports that the citizenship of hundreds, possibly thousands, of people who insist they are U.S. citizens is being called into question because they were delivered by midwives near the Texas-Mexico border. Here are excerpts from the article:

The federal government’s doubts come as many try to meet a June 1 deadline to obtain U.S. passports so they can freely cross the border. Up until that deadline, a driver’s license and birth certificate will do.

People delivered by midwives have documents such as birth certificates and medical records. But the agency that grants passports is challenging the credibility of those papers, citing a history of some midwives fraudulently registering Mexican-born babies as American.

The questioned passport applications include those of children of Mexican women who crossed the border to give birth in the United States.

The government has “effectively reduced to second-class citizenship status an entire swath of passport applicants based solely on their being of Mexican or Latino descent and having been delivered by midwives in nonhospital settings in Southwestern border states,” according to a federal lawsuit against the State Department filed last year in McAllen. Immigration attorneys and the American Civil Liberties Union hope to have the case certified as a class action.

If the lawsuit is not resolved before June 1, families “will have to choose if you’re going to live in Mexico or you’re going to live in the U.S. You won’t be able to cross,” said Lisa Brodyaga, the attorney who filed the lawsuit.

Posted on September 23, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Upon satisfying certain requirements, lawful permanent residents of the United States may file applications for naturalization allowing them to become U.S. citizens. One of the requirements is that the applicant have knowledge of the English language, and knowledge of U.S history and government (civics).  

Effective October 1, 2008, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin administering a new naturalization examination. The new test will follow the same format as the old test, which essentially asks ten questions. Six of the questions must be answered correctly. The only difference is that the reading and writing portions of the new test will be related to the civics content rather than to everyday English. Individuals who filed their naturalization applications before October 1, 2008, may chose to be given the old test — as long as the examination interview (test day) is scheduled before October 1, 2009. See www.uscis.gov/newtest to view the new test questions.

Posted on August 11, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

USCIS today announced the most recent projected time delays for processing naturalization applications. The time periods range from approximately five months in San Antonio and Harlingen, Texas to eleven months in Dallas, and up to 14.9 months in Charlotte, North Carolina. At least this is an improvement over earlier predictions of 16-18 months.

You can read the USCIS Press Release here.

Posted on July 8, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

This has become an old story by now, but as we get nearer to the November election (will it ever get here?) the story is taking on more urgency. USCIS is not able to process citizenship applications quickly enough, and as a result there is a very good chance that thousands of would-be U.S. citizens will not be able to vote for their next president.

An unprecedented surge in U.S. citizenship applications has applicants waiting more than twice as long as normal for approval. According to the USCIS, the Dallas office was working in mid-June on naturalization petitions filed 11 months earlier. Other offices take as long as 14 months.

Conspiracy theorists say that the current Republican administration is deliberately delaying citizenship for immigrants they fear will vote Democratic in the next election. It’s possible there’s some truth to that, but I think the larger problem is that USCIS simply doesn’t have the resources to handle this flood of applications.

Still, it’s going to be a shame if we have to tell these law-abiding people trying to do the right thing and participate in their chosen country’s political process that government red tape will prevent them from voting.

Posted on March 23, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

According to a New York Times article, a lawsuit filed this month in a federal court in New York by Latino immigrants seeks to force immigration authorities to complete hundreds of thousands of stalled naturalization petitions in time for the new citizens to vote in November. Here are excerpts from the article:

The class-action suit was brought by the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund on behalf of legal Hispanic immigrants in the New York City area who are eager to vote and have been waiting for years for the federal Citizenship and Immigration Services agency to finish their applications. The suit demands that the agency meet a nationwide deadline of Sept. 22 to complete any naturalization petitions filed by March 26. Latino groups hope to summon the clout of the federal courts to compel the Bush administration to reduce a backlog of citizenship applications that swelled last year. According to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, more than one million citizenship petitions were backed up in the pipeline by the end of December, the majority from Latino immigrants. Despite protests over the delays from lawmakers, Latino groups and immigrant advocates, the immigration agency is currently projecting wait times of 16 months to 18 months to process the petitions. “The reality is that large numbers of Latinos will not be able to vote in the elections because of these delays,” said Cesar A. Perales, president of the defense fund. “Now the world will know that the Latino community expects the Bush administration to get this done on time.”  The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, asserts that the agency violated immigrants’ due process rights by routinely failing to finish their applications within a 180-day time period that Congress has set as a standard. It also asserts that the Bush administration did not follow regulatory procedures in November 2002 when it ordered the Federal Bureau of Investigation to deepen its background checks of citizenship applicants.  A fee increase, raising naturalization costs 80 percent to $595, went into effect on July 30. Legal immigrants were also spurred to seek citizenship by worries about the divisive debate over immigration and by citizenship campaigns by Latino groups. “It is astonishing the government should be so unresponsive to immigrants who have enthusiastically taken all the steps to become Americans,” said Janet Murguía, president of the National Council of La Raza, a Latino group that supported the suit.

Posted on March 12, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

A spouse of a deceased US citizen may file a petition on his/her behalf and qualify as an immediate relative. Certain eligibility requirements must be met before filing the petition: The widow was married to the US citizen for at least two years; The deceased spouse must have been a US citizen at the time of death; The US citizen and widower were not separated at the time of the citizen’s death; The widow has not remarried at the time of filing. The widower must self-petition on Form I-360, and submit supporting documentation establishing the deceased spouse’s citizenship, and evidence illustrating the relationship between the deceased spouse and widower. This may include a marriage certificate, divorce decrees of earlier spouses, the US citizen’s birth certificate or naturalization certificate and death certificate. The widower need not be residing in the United States to file the petition. If the widower is outside the U.S., the petition will be filed at the Immigration Service’s overseas offices or at the U.S. consulate with jurisdiction over the alien’s place of residence.

To learn more please call us at 214-999-9999.

Posted on February 29, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Generally, Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR’s) may be eligible for naturalization upon meeting the naturalization criteria. In order to qualify, an individual must satisfy the following: 1. Must be an LPR; 2. Must be over 18 years of age; 3. After becoming an LPR, must have continuously resided in the U.S. for five years; 4. Must maintain residence for three months in the state where the application is filed; 5. Must have basic English language skills and knowledge of U.S. history and government. If an LPR does not want to wait five years to apply for naturalization, the LPR may apply for naturalization after three years if he or she is married to a U.S. citizen. If the LPR is married to a U.S. citizen, the continuous residence requirement is three years only if the U.S. citizen spouse has been a citizen for three years and the parties have been married for three years and continue to be married at the time of naturalization. An LPR need not be living with the U.S. citizen spouse after filing the naturalization application, but must continue to be married at the time of naturalization. Although the continuous residence requirement may be changed from five years to three years (if married to a U.S. citizen), the other requirements must still be met to qualify for naturalization.

If you want to learn more about naturalization and the continuous residence requirement based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, please call us at 214-999-9999.

Posted on February 27, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Did you know that you may claim citizenship if you are under the age of 18 (or were under 18 when the following requirements were met), and either of your parents are U.S. citizens, but you were born abroad? You may apply to the Immigration Service for a certificate of citizenship. In order to be issued a certificate of citizenship the following requirements must be met: 1. At least one parent is a U.S. citizen either by birth (acquired citizenship) or naturalization (derivative citizenship); 2. The child must be under 18 years of age; 3. The child is in the United States pursuant to a lawful admission, or outside of the U.S in the legal and physical custody of the citizen parent and is temporarily present in the U.S. pursuant to a lawful admission and is maintaining lawful status; and 4. The U.S. citizen parent must have been physically present in the United States for at least five years (at least two years of which were after the parent reached 14 years of age); or the child’s grandparent must meet the five year physical presence requirement.

If you met these requirements before your 18th birthday, regardless of your age now, call us at 214-999-9999 to learn more about how to apply for a certificate of citizenship.

Posted on February 24, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The New York Times has reported that many members of the U.S. military are seeing their citizenship applications delayed, despite government promises that they would be given expedited treatment. The article is lengthy, and interesting. Here are excerpts:

Despite a 2002 promise from President Bush to put citizenship applications for immigrant members of the military on a fast track, some are finding themselves waiting months, or even years, because of bureaucratic backlogs. One, Sgt. Kendell K. Frederick of the Army, who had tried three times to file for citizenship, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq as he returned from submitting fingerprints for his application. About 7,200 service members or people who have been recently discharged have citizenship applications pending, but neither the Department of Defense nor Citizenship and Immigration Services keeps track of how long they have been waiting. Immigration lawyers and politicians say they have received a significant number of complaints about delays because of background checks, misplaced paperwork, confusion about deployments and other problems. The long waits are part of a broader problem plaguing the immigration service, which was flooded with 2.5 million applications for citizenship and visas last summer — twice as many as the previous year — in the face of 66 percent fee increases that took effect July 30. Officials have estimated that it will take an average of 18 months to process citizenship applications from legal immigrants through 2010, up from seven months last year. But service members and veterans are supposed to go to the head of the line. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush signed an executive order allowing noncitizens on active duty to file for citizenship right away, instead of having to first complete three years in the military. The federal government has since taken several steps to speed up the process, including training military officers to help service members fill out forms, assigning special teams to handle the paperwork, and allowing citizenship tests, interviews and ceremonies to take place overseas. At the same time, post-9/11 security measures, including tougher guidelines for background checks that are part of the naturalization process, have slowed things down.

Over all, 312,000 citizenship or green card applications are pending name checks, including 140,000 that have been waiting more than six months, immigration officials said. This month, immigration authorities eased background-check requirements for green cards, saying that if applicants had been waiting more than six months, they could be approved without an F.B.I. check, and approvals could be revoked later “in the unlikely event” that troubling information was found.

Posted on February 13, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Citizenship and Immigration Services has come up with a means of expediting certain green card applications. While it makes good sense to me, many people are objecting to the new procedure based on national security concerns. In a nutshell, CIS is proposing to approve applications if they have been pending more than six months and are awaiting only the FBI background check. The reason for the change is that some FBI checks are taking literally years to complete. Here are excerpts from an article about this in the New York Times:

Searching for ways to reduce a huge backlog of visa applications, immigration authorities have eased requirements for background checks by the F.B.I. of immigrants seeking to become permanent United States residents, federal officials said Monday.

If an immigrant’s application for a residence visa has been in the system for more than six months and the only missing piece is a name check by the F.B.I., immigration officers will now be allowed to approve the application, according to a memorandum posted Monday on the Web site of the federal Citizenship and Immigration Services agency.

The memorandum states that “in the unlikely event” that the F.B.I. name check turns up negative information about an immigrant after a residence visa has been granted, the authorities can cancel the visa and begin deportation proceedings.

Under the new policy, which was first reported by the McClatchy news service, immigrants applying for the permanent visas, which are known as green cards, will still be required to complete two other security checks: an F.B.I. criminal fingerprint check and a search in a federal criminal and anti-terrorist database known as Interagency Border Inspection Services.

The policy is intended to speed processing for tens of thousands of immigrants with no criminal records who are living in the United States and have been waiting for years for green cards because their names turned up matches in the F.B.I’s records. Often an immigrant’s name hits a match, immigration lawyers said, because the F.B.I. files include a vast range of names, including those of people mentioned in criminal investigations, even if they had no role in a crime. F.B.I. agents must investigate each name match by manual searches of voluminous records.

Some critics said the agency would be cutting security corners and bending federal law.

“They are knowingly granting a benefit to a person who may be a national security threat or a serious criminal,” said Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations for NumbersUSA, an organization that favors reduced immigration.

“These are people who are asking permission to stay in this country permanently,” Ms. Jenks said, “and we have a right to make sure we know who they are. If it takes a few extra months, so be it.”

Posted on January 29, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News ran an article today detailing a problem that I and many other interested people have been complaining about for quite some time — the inexcusable delays in granting citizenship to qualified immigrant applicants. Some of us who are quick to attribute sinister motives to politicians note that a majority of new citizens vote Democratic, and the current administration is Republican. And of course this just happens to be an election year. So the fewer new citizens, the fewer votes for Democratic candidates? The article is well worth reading in full. Here are excerpts:

The unprecedented 1.4 million surge in U.S. citizenship applicants won’t translate into an equal number of new voters come November’s presidential election because of a processing backlog.

But U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials said Monday that the agency is hiring more staff and pressing the FBI for more efficient background checks and that delays of weeks just to open mail are behind them.

“Anytime we have a surge in citizenship, it is a good thing,” said Emilio Gonzalez, director of the agency’s Dallas office. “We are working as best we can.”

Mr. Gonzalez and his agency have been assailed by critics who charge that the Republican administration wants to suppress the votes of new citizens likely to vote for a Democrat.

“If they don’t have the opportunity to vote in this election, they will have many other opportunities to vote in other elections,” Mr. Gonzalez said.

The processing delays vary from city to city, though the biggest backlogs are in Los Angeles, New York and Miami, said Mr. Gonzalez and Michael Aytes, associate director for the agency’s domestic operations.

In Dallas, the backlog isn’t as serious, with 30,000 applications pending in November, Mr. Aytes said. The number of applicants here increased 49 percent in the last fiscal year compared with the previous year. In San Bernardino, Calif., the increase was 1017 percent; in Los Angeles, 101 percent.

Just the same, Mr. Aytes acknowledged, some applications with checks enclosed had taken more than six weeks just to be opened, including some sent via Federal Express.

Some 57 percent of Hispanic registered voters call themselves Democrats or say they lean toward the Democratic Party, while 23 percent align with the Republican Party, according to a recent Pew Hispanic Center survey.

Posted on January 18, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Testimony before Congress this week on “Naturalization Delays, Causes, Consequences and Solutions” by Emilio T. Gonzalez, Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, contained bad news for applicants. Under the section titled “Where Does this Take Us?” Director Gonzalez said this:

This surge will have a serious impact on application processing times for the next couple of years. As a result, based on our response plan, most customers will wait much longer to have their applications completed. As we have reported, the average processing time for naturalization applications has increased from the current average of seven months or less to approximately 18 months. Family-based adjustment-of-status applications increased from the current average of six months or less to 12 months. Our two-year response plan will help us accomplish reducing processing times to six months by the third quarter of Fiscal Year 2010.

Posted on December 7, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Generally, a lawful permanent resident (LPR) must have continuous residence in the United States for five years (or 3 years if married to a U.S. citizen) in order to be eligible for citizenship. Continuous residence in the United States does not mean that an LPR cannot leave the country for the entire five years (or three years if married to a USC) in order to qualify for citizenship. On the contrary, LPR’s can travel freely without the hassle of obtaining a visa from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. However, LPR’s must make sure they do not face the problem of abandoning the continuous physical presence requirement.

An LPR may be deemed to have disrupted the “continuous residence” requirement if the LPR travels out of the United States a few times a year, or if an LPR is outside of the country for over six months. If an LPR continuously maintains a residence in the United States but is physically outside of the United States for over a year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may decide that the continuous residence has been abandoned. If an LPR has not properly maintained the continuous physical residence requirement, and the DHS determines that an LPR has abandoned his or her residency, DHS can refuse an LPR back into the United States.

Attention all frequent-flyer residents: Make sure your trips abroad are for short periods of time. Please note that the continuous physical residence requirement is one requirement that must be satisfied to qualify for citizenship. There are other requirements that must be met in order to establish citizenship eligibility. Please contact us if you would like to begin your citizenship process.

Posted on July 18, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Today’s Dallas Morning News reports that there has been an 80% increase in citizenship applications  during the first half of 2007, with nearly twice as many applications filed this June as were filed last June. Here are excerpts from the article:

Citizenship applications began increasing in the Dallas area last year, as legal and illegal immigrants worried about the rising public debate and legislative proposals targeting them. By January, applications surged on word of pending fee increases for applications – from $400 to $675 at the end of July.

Last month, there were more than 3,200 applications locally, compared with 1,699 in June 2006. As of June 30, about 16,200 people had filed this year for citizenship here, compared with 9,000 at the same time a year ago.

The rise is being aided locally by campaigns on local Spanish-language radio and TV and citizenship drives sponsored by Latino political groups.

The Spanish-language television and radio giant Univision revved up efforts with a campaign called “Ya Es Hora,” or “Now is the Time.” The campaign began in Dallas at the end of April.

Campaign organizers, including the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, are touting the benefits of U.S. citizenship to the hundreds of thousands of legal permanent residents in the U.S.

Posted on June 22, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

As more and more individuals in the United States apply to become lawful permanent residents, or green card holders, it is vital that each person know the rights and responsibilities that come with obtaining LPR status.

The benefits to becoming an LPR include:

You may live anywhere in the United States, and you may stay there as long as you want.

You may work at any job, for any company, anywhere in the U.S., or you may choose to not work at all.

An LPR may travel freely inside and out of the United States whenever you wish.

You may apply to become a U.S. citizen after you have held your green card for a certain length of time.

In many cases, your spouse and children under the age of 21 may also be eligible to obtain green cards as accompanying relatives.

Although you may have a green card, you should be very careful about certain things. The first and foremost is international travel. Even though you may travel freely, extended periods of time spent outside the U.S. may indicate to Immigration Services that you have abandoned your green card.

If you plan on spending over six months outside the U.S. at any given time, it is advisable for you to apply for a re-entry permit. This is issued to permanent residents or conditional permanent residents who wish to remain outside the U. S. for a prolonged period of time, but for less than two years. A re-entry permit usually enables a permanent resident, who traveled abroad for a period of time of more than one year but less than two years, to avoid the risk of not being allowed to come back the U.S. on the ground that the alien abandoned his permanent residence status. A re-entry permit can also serve as a passport for a permanent resident who wants to travel outside the United States, but cannot get a passport from his country of nationality.

A permanent resident who wishes to become a U.S. citizen must show that he is a person of good moral character. Arrests, criminal convictions, or engaging in certain bad acts such as failing to pay child support or being a habitual drunkard will prevent a person from becoming a citizen.

All LPRs are bound by all of the laws of the United States, the States, and localities. You are required to file your income tax returns and report your income to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and your State IRS. You are expected to support the democratic form of government and cannot attempt to change the government through illegal means. If you are a male, age 18 through 25, you are required to register with the Selective Service.

One of the most important privileges of democracy in the United States of America is the right to participate in choosing elected officials through voting. As a Permanent Resident you can only vote in local and state elections that do not require you to be a U.S. citizen. It is very important that you do not vote in national, state or local elections that require a voter to be a U.S. citizen when you are not a U.S. citizen. There are criminal penalties for voting when you are not a U.S. citizen and it is a requirement for voting. You can be removed (deported) from the U.S. if you vote in elections limited to U.S. citizens.

Becoming a permanent resident of the United States is a wonderful thing, however, all LPRs should remember that they must maintain their status at all times. Your status in the United States is not guaranteed and certain actions may cause you to lose your green card status or be deported from the United States.

If you have any questions regarding permanent residency or any other immigration topic, please contact Kraft & Associates today.

Posted on June 7, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

An article today on the Web site of the New York Times warns that the proposed immigration reform bill now pending in the U. S. Senate may be in trouble. Here are excerpts:

WASHINGTON, June 7 –The Senate refused at midday to shut off debate on the immigration overhaul bill and move toward a vote, leaving the fate of the legislation uncertain and setting up another, all-important procedural vote this evening.

The move to end debate was rejected by 63 to 33, so the bill’s backers fell 27 votes short of the 60 needed to invoke what is known as cloture and set up a yes-or-no vote on the legislation itself.

The result was a setback not only for the bill’s supporters but also for President Bush, who has made a comprehensive immigration bill one of his top legislative priorities.

Nevertheless, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, scheduled another, make-or-break cloture vote for this evening. If that vote also falls short, Mr. Reid is expected to shelve the bill, meaning that changes in immigration law might not be considered again for many months.

The midday move to end debate failed chiefly because a significant number of conservative Republicans wanted more time to offer amendments to make the measure more to their liking.

Some 12 hours before the noontime cloture vote, the bill’s supporters suffered a setback when the Senate voted to put a five-year limit on a new guest worker program that would be created under the legislation. By a vote of 49 to 48 shortly after midnight, the Senate approved the limit, in the form of an amendment by Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota.

The temporary worker program is an important element of the “grand bargain” on immigration forged in three months of negotiations by a small group of senators from both parties.

If the Senate votes this evening to end debate, the bill will have cleared a major hurdle — but by no means the last one. The House has yet to take up its version of the immigration legislation, and the issue has deeply divided the representatives. Many conservatives want to do more to restrict immigration and to toughen border enforcement. Many liberals, including members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, want to do more to protect immigrants’ rights and promote family-based immigration. The Senate bill, which embodies a fragile compromise strongly supported by the president, would offer most of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States the chance to obtain legal status. It calls for the biggest changes in immigration law in more than two decades.

Supporters contend that it would address the problem of millions of illegal aliens without giving them amnesty; that it will further secure the nation’s borders, and that through its guest-worker program it will help immigrants and American employers. Its opponents have argued that there are far too many deficiencies in its nearly 400 pages.

Posted on June 5, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Every year, thousands of lawful permanent residents, or green card holders, in the United States apply for citizenship. The vast majority of cases are completed within one year. Each citizenship applicant, however, must undergo certain security clearances (fingerprints and name checks) before the applicant can obtain U.S. citizenship. The purpose of this clearance procedure is to demonstrate that the applicant does not have any criminal issue that would render the person ineligible for U.S. citizenship.

According to an April 25, 2006, USCIS memo, approximately 99% of all background and name checks are resolved within two months. The remaining 1% may take several months, or even years, before the background and name checks are completed.

There are remedies available to permanent residents who have been waiting months or years for the results of their background checks. Section 336(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act permits naturalization applicants to file a writ of mandamus in federal court to force a decision on a naturalization case if 120 days or more have elapsed following the naturalization interview and there is still no decision on a case.

For several years, filing a writ of mandamus was a good option to those experiencing delays in their naturalization case. However, the use of the mandamus is now limited in practice. The April 25, 2006, memo also states that USCIS will not schedule an interview until background checks are completed. The writ of mandamus can only be filed if a decision has not been reached in a case within 120 days of the citizenship interview. Obviously, USCIS is trying to eliminate the one tool used by naturalization applicants who are stuck in the background check process by changing when the naturalization interview occurs.

Regardless of when your interview takes place, there are still several things that can be done to speed up a case that has stalled. Our office can file a writ of mandamus on your behalf if you have already attended a citizenship interview. If you have been waiting several months for an interview, you can contact your congressman to see if he or she will assist you. Our office can also conduct inquiries directly with USCIS, and we can contact immigration liaisons who work directly with immigration officials, to find out the reason for delay on a particular case.

If you are experiencing delays in your case, please contact us today. We can help you get the results you are looking for.

For more information about immigration news, immigration laws, immigration policies, proposed immigration laws, border enforcement, green cards, citizenship, employment visas, family visas, naturalization, and other immigration subjects, please visit Immigration Law Answers and DFW Immigration Law Blog.

Posted on May 30, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

1. What are the basic requirements that I must meet before I can apply to become a U.S. citizen?

In order to apply for citizenship (often called naturalization) you must meet all of the following requirements:

Be a lawful permanent resident of the United States (green card holder);

Be 18 years of age or older;

Have been a permanent resident for at least five years (only three years if married to a U.S. citizen);

Be a person of good moral character;

Have been physically present in the U.S. for at least half of the five years;

Not have been absent from the U.S. for more than one year. Absences of more than six months, however, create a presumption that you have abandoned your permanent residency; and

Have a basic understanding of written and spoken English and U.S. history.

2. Am I eligible to obtain dual citizenship?

Maybe. The United States allows citizens of other countries to hold dual citizenship. You also need to check the laws of your home country to make sure that it allows dual citizenship as well.

3. How long does it take to become a U.S. Citizen?

It depends. Current processing times are between 9 and 12 months for a final decision to be made and for an oath ceremony to be scheduled. Each applicant, however, must go though fingerprinting and background checks. These background checks my take several months, or even years, to complete.

4. Can I live overseas after I become a citizen?

Yes. The United States does not place any restrictions on U.S. citizens wanting to live abroad, and you do not run the risk of losing your citizenship.

5. What are the filing fees associated with an application for citizenship?

The current filing fees are $330 for the citizenship application and $70 for fingerprints. Immigration Services has issued a new fee schedule that goes into effect on July 30, 2007. On that date, the total for fingerprints and filing fees will be $675.

6. What should I do if I cannot attend my oath ceremony?

If you are unable to attend the oath ceremony, you should return the “Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony” that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) sent you, along with a letter explaining why you cannot attend the ceremony. Your local office will reschedule and send you a new “Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony” to advise you of your new ceremony date.

7. Does my child automatically become a U.S. citizen after I am naturalized?

In most cases, your natural or adopted child is a citizen if the following are true:

The other parent is also naturalized, or you are the only surviving parent (if the other parent is deceased), or you have legal custody (if you and the other parent are legally separated or divorced).

The child was under 18 when the parent(s) naturalized.

The child was not married when the parent(s) naturalized and the child was a permanent resident before his or her 18th birthday.

8. What are some of the benefits of becoming a citizen?

A: Naturalized American citizens have many rights, including the right to vote, to hold public office (except that of the Vice-President or President), to extend U.S. citizenship to their children, and to obtain visas for immediate relatives.

9. If I don’t speak English fluently can I take the exam in another language.

It depends. The English language requirement is only waived for persons meeting the following criteria: If you are over the age of 50 and have been a permanent resident for 20 years or more, or if you are over the age of 55 and have been a permanent resident for 15 years or more.

10. What can I expect from the history exam?

The U.S. government wants you to be knowledgeable about U.S. history and government structure. The questions range from U.S. history to naming current government officials. While there are 100 possible questions that may be asked, you will likely be asked only 10 or so. The test may be given orally or in writing.

Posted on March 19, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News had an interesting article this morning about the significant increase in the number of people applying for citizenship in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. According to the article, the number of citizenship applications received by Immigration Services has increased by over 78% when compared to this time last year.

Currently, there are about eight million people in the United States who qualify for citizenship. Last year, 702,000 people became naturalized citizens. Mexicans made up last year’s largest group of new U.S. citizens.

Many groups believe that this surge in citizenship applicants is due in large part to the attention immigration law has received in the past year. The chance that citizenship filing fees going up soon has been an incentive for many people to go ahead and begin the citizenship process. In addition, there has been speculation over the last year that there could be a change in immigration law. This has prompted many people to begin their applications in the event that an unfavorable law be issued.

The upcoming elections have also prompted many to apply for their citizenship, as only U.S. citizens are allowed to vote.

The general requirements for becoming a naturalized citizen of the U.S. include:

* An ability to read, write and speak English. Exceptions include persons who have resided in the United States for 15 years or more and are 55 or older, or who have resided in the U.S. for at least 20 years and are at least 50 years old.

* Good moral character.

* Lawful admission into the U.S. for permanent residence (green card).

* Continuous presence as a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. for at least five years before filing with no single absence from the U.S. of more than one year.

* Renouncement of any foreign allegiance or foreign title.   

Finally, the citizenship process used to be which something which was relatively straightforward and easy to process. As the number of applicants increase, however, Immigration Services has become much more strict in determining who is eligible for U.S. citizenship. Minor errors or missing documents, which would have been overlooked in the past, are now used as a basis for denying the application. Should you need any assistance in your citizenship application, or if you are unsure if you are eligible for citizenship, please do not hesitate to contact Kraft & Associates.

For more information about immigration news, immigration laws, immigration policies, proposed immigration laws, border enforcement, green cards, citizenship, employment visas, family visas, naturalization, and other immigration subjects, please visit Immigration Law Answers and DFW Immigration Law Blog.

Posted on March 19, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Earlier this month, Senator Barak Obama (D-IL) and Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) introduced the Citizenship Promotion Act of 2007. This bill, if enacted into law, would authorize Immigration Services to request and receive appropriations that would make up the difference between current fees charged to citizenship applicants and the necessary resources needed to fund the Service.

The basic provisions of the Citizenship Promotion Act are as follows:

* Prevent Immigration Services from increasing the naturalization fees until Congress develops an oversight mechanism that would keep the USCIS from implementing unreasonable fee increases — as the agency now is proposing.

* Improve the administration of the citizenship tests for English, U.S. history and government. The bill would require that the tests be administered uniformly nationwide, there be no extraordinary or unreasonable conditions placed on applicants taking the tests, and the age, education level, time in the United States, and efforts made by citizenship applicants would be taken into account when administering the tests.

* Establish a national citizenship promotion program, the “New Americans Initiative,” to conduct citizenship outreach activities and make grants to non-profit organizations to help lawful permanent residents (LPRs) become U.S. citizens, help non-profit agencies conduct English language and citizenship classes for LPRs, and carry out outreach activities to educate immigrant communities to assist people to become citizens and assist with the application process.   

* Decrease the citizenship application backlog by encouraging the Attorney General to complete background checks within a reasonable period of time and without sacrificing national security.   

* Ensure that low-income eligible LPRs whose communities suffer the ill effects of the digital divide would have an equal chance to apply for citizenship as do other eligible LPRs.

Posted on March 6, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

In July 2002, President George W. Bush signed an executive order specifying that foreign nationals who serve in the United States armed forces during a period of hostility would be eligible for expedited U.S. citizenship. The period of hostility began on September 11, 2001, and ends on a date that has yet to be specified by the President.

According to the White House, this executive order has allowed non-citizens to immediately become U.S. citizens. So far, more than 13,000 foreign-born members of the armed forces have applied for U.S. citizenship since the order took effect.

For those foreign nationals who are stationed overseas, the Immigration Services now allows naturalization ceremonies to be held at U.S. military bases, embassies, and consulates around the world. This makes it easier for the foreign-born military personnel to obtain their citizenship quickly.

Under current immigration laws, non-citizens must serve in the U.S. military for at least one year before they are eligible to apply for citizenship. This new executive order, however, will remove the three year service requirement. Additionally, the filing fees associated with an application for naturalization will be waived for those meeting the above-mentioned requirements.

A survey released in May 2006 indicated that there are more than 68,000 foreign-born serving in the armed forces, and this represents approximately 5% of the total on active duty.

Posted on February 22, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Associated Press is reporting today that the Department of Homeland Security is expected to announce that the new passport requirements for reentry into the United States, due to become effective in 2008, will not apply to children aged 15 or younger. Children will need a certified copy of their birth certificates, but not a passport.

There may be another exemption for children aged 16 through 18 if they are traveling with school, religious, cultural, or athletic groups and under adult supervision.

Posted on December 28, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

MSN Travel has a good online article about passport usage, passport protection, and the new  laws that require a passport for almost any type of travel that takes you out of the United States. The article begins:

At first glance, a U.S. passport is just a little booklet, about the size of a pocket notebook, a slim binding of heavy, baby-blue paper. But with this tiny document, you can visit almost any nation on Earth, earning approving nods from customs officials and collecting exotic stamps, one border post at a time. With a few notable exceptions–such as Cuba and North Korea–a U.S. passport is respected in almost every harbor and airport on the globe.

And recently, with the tightening of Homeland Security, your passport isn’t just a ticket to places–it’s your ticket back. If you’re finally taking that romantic trip toEurope or you’ve bought tickets for an Asian adventure, your passport is mandatory for travel to most foreign countries. And beginning on Jan. 23, 2007, the document will become even more essential for zipping around North America. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative will require that anyone who takes a flight to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean must have a passport or other approved identity card.

Posted on December 1, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

According to an Associated Press story in today’s Dallas Morning News, Citizenship and Immigration Services has released a new civics test for immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship. There are 144 revised questions. Excerpts from the story:

The draft questions will be tried out on immigrant volunteers in 10 cities early next year. Gonzalez was not ready to give specific dates. Applicants must verbally answer six of 10 questions right to pass the civics portion of the test. The questions will be tried out early next year in Albany, N.Y.; Boston; Charleston, S.C.; Denver; El Paso; Kansas City, Mo.; Miami; San Antonio; Tucson, Ariz.; and Yakima, Wash.

The government wants the citizenship test to require a better understanding of America’s history and government institutions. It expects to spend about $6.5 million to make the changes, said Alfonso Aguilar, director of the citizenship office.

The redesign is aimed at making sure applicants know the meaning behind some of America’s fundamental institutions, said Chris Rhatigan, an agency spokeswoman.

The questions will go into use in the pilot cities before advocacy groups get a chance to point out any problems or concerns. After the questions are tested, the agency plans to spend a year examining results and reviewing the questions with groups with expertise and interest in the tests.

Another possible question would delve into the history of the Civil War. Applicants are now asked, What was the Emancipation Proclamation?

Current applicants need to know that it freed the slaves. In the future, however, prospective citizens will need to have a deeper understanding of the Civil War and name one of the problems that led to it.

Immigration advocates want to ensure that the new test does not make becoming a citizen more difficult, while groups that want to control immigration want to ensure newcomers are not simply memorizing information.

My guess is that about half of native-born U.S. citizens would fail the proposed test.

Posted on November 30, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News had an interesting story this week about immigrants who can become citizens by enlisting in the U.S. military. This is an enticing path to citizenship because the process is accelerated. There is some controversy however in having so many non-citizens in the military branches. The article begins:

They come from Mexico, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Colombia, Cambodia and a hundred other countries across the globe to find the promise of America. Increasingly they enlist to fight, and sometimes die, in America’s wars.

About 69,300 foreign-born men and women serve in the U.S. armed forces, roughly 5 percent of the total active-duty force, according to the most recent data. Of those, 43 percent – 29,800 – are not U.S. citizens. The Pentagon says more than 100 immigrant soldiers have died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, President Bush and Congress, citing long-established wartime powers, streamlined the process by which immigrants in the armed forces could become naturalized citizens.

As of October, more than 25,000 immigrant soldiers had become U.S. citizens as a result. Another 40,000 are believed eligible to apply. And roughly a third of noncitizens in the all-volunteer military come from Mexico and Central America.

“Latinos are very patriotic and see military service as a way to show their appreciation to America and to prove they can be ‘real Americans,’ ” said Dr. Jorge Mariscal, director of Chicano Studies at the University of California at San Diego.

But he questions the attention that military recruiters give Latino immigrant neighborhoods.

“The efforts of recruiters tends to undermine community efforts to get these kids better civilian educational opportunities and pushes them into low-echelon enlisted positions with a higher risk of seeing combat,” he said. “Until the playing field is level, we’re only going to create a class of combat soldiers drawn from immigrants and the working class.”

Conservative critics fear that increased reliance on an immigrant-based military may create security problems and turn the U.S. armed forces into a “green-card army” where citizenship becomes just another recruiting tool.

“Service to the country is good. But my concern is that by taking in too many noncitizens into the military, we separate service and duty from citizenship,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors stricter immigration controls.