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.