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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 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 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 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 May 20, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Today’s Dallas Morning News editorializes in favor of the proposed compromise immigration bill. Here is the editorial:

Good Starting Point

But immigration plan will need some work

The fact that the Senate will return to immigration this week is a political miracle of sorts. Sharply divergent points of view – and we mean really sharp – have stalled the debate for an entire year.

Thanks, however, to brutal negotiations involving the White House and dedicated senators from both parties, the Senate will start with a bipartisan bill. Deserving of Texans’ thanks for renewing the debate are President Bush, who has kept the issue alive in speeches, and lead Senate negotiators Ted Kennedy and Jon Kyl.

As an editorial board that has pushed hard for immigration reform, we think this bill is a good place to begin – but with the understanding that major work is still to be done:

The selling points

Border security: The plan doesn’t wink at ratcheting up border security. The addition of 18,000 border agents and 70 new radar towers will help take the lawlessness out of the southern border. So will the resources to detain 27,500 aliens a day.

We have never been wild about a border fence, but the 370 miles of fencing and 200 miles of road barriers should satisfy those who think a wall will reduce the flow of illegal immigrants. In fact, border hawks should like that many security measures must be in place before a new temporary worker program starts.

Enforcing the worksite: One of the best parts is the new electronic identification system. Employers will know if they are hiring legal workers. There’s too much uncertainty today when it comes to worker IDs. The situation in Cactus, Texas, proved that.

Unlike the current system, all workers must prove they are here legally. Under the new system, employers would run their info through a new national verification database. If those on the job aren’t legal, the employers are fined and the workers are fired.

Pathway to citizenship: Mr. Kyl, a Republican, has reversed course and acknowledged that there’s no way to correct our immigration problems without giving the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living here a chance to earn citizenship. More power to the man for stepping forward, knowing many will scream amnesty.

It’s not.

Illegal immigrants seeking citizenship must pay a $5,000 fine, possess a job, undergo a background check and wait eight to 13 years before becoming a citizen. They don’t jump to the head of any line. In fact, they can’t earn citizenship until all current applications are approved or rejected.

They can eventually earn citizenship, though, and that’s crucial to getting immigrants to come out of the shadows.

What needs work

Temporary workers: 400,000 foreign workers could qualify for employment visas annually. That essentially matches the number of foreign workers who come here illegally each year.

There’s a catch, though, that could make the provision unworkable. Temporary workers could earn three two-year work visas. In between each two-year stint, they would have to return home for one year.

The risk with the return-home requirement is that some workers may go underground and stay here. We would prefer that senators amend the bill to match the House plan, which has no return-home provision for temporary workers.

At the least, senators should amend it so more exceptions can be granted to workers in high-demand industries. That would minimize the temptation for some workers to go underground.

Green cards: Fortunately, temporary workers could earn a green card after their work stints end. But that could become a mirage if the Senate doesn’t include enough cards that let workers stay here legally. (Green cards allow for legal permanent residency, not citizenship.)

The Senate would be foolish to ignore reality. Temporary workers with good jobs probably will stay here, even if they can’t get a green card. So it’s important to have enough cards to go around in order to know who is actually here.

This proposal represents an improvement over the status quo, but it’s not the endgame. We urge Texas Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn to address these shortfalls this week.

The next few months will be like crawling through broken glass, as Frank Sharry of the National Immigration Forum aptly put it Friday. But Washington must grit its teeth and work through the pain if the nation is to finally fix our broken immigration system.STILL NOT SOLD? Why border hawks should like the Senate plan:

* 18,000 new border agents

* Ends “catch and release” of illegal immigrants

* 70 new radar towers

* Resources to detain 27,500 illegal immigrants a day

* An electronic verification system for all employees

* Illegal workers lose their jobs

* Employers face big fines

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 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.