Category Archives: Citizenship

Update on Russian Ban on U.S.-bound Child Adoptions

Just days ago, the Russian Supreme Court issued a letter providing guidance to regional courts. The letter clarifies that families that have had their preliminary court date prior to January 1, 2013 will be able to assume physical custody and obtain the necessary documents from Russian authorities to exit the country. This will be the case even if the 30 day waiting period expired after January 1, 2013. To date, 25 families have obtained visas to leave the country and some have travelled home with their children.

At the same time, other families in-country have experienced delays and have been unable to obtain necessary paperwork from Russian authorities. It is hoped that the Russian Supreme Court letter will help families move forward. Families who fall into this category should contact the U.S. Embassy in Russia, if they have not already done so. They should also keep in close contact with their adoption service providers who are still permitted to process these transition cases and who have more real-time information.

USCIS Redesigns EAD and Citizenship Certificates

USCIS today announced the launch of an enhanced Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and a redesigned Form N-560, Certificate of Citizenship, with new features to enhance security and deter fraud.

As part of USCIS’s ongoing efforts to enhance the integrity of the immigration system, the state-of-the-art technology incorporated into the new documents will deter counterfeiting, obstruct tampering, and facilitate quick and accurate authentication. The agency anticipates that more than 1 million people will receive the new documents over the next year.

EAD_2011_design

CitCert_2011_design

Born Abroad to a U.S. citizen? You may have a claim to U.S. Citizenship yourself.

An often neglected tool in the Immigration Benefit Arsenal is the examination of a possible Claim to U.S. Citizenship, by a foreign national born abroad to a U.S.-Citizen-parent.

Such Children (even once they reach adulthood) are entitled to be documented as American citizens, IF the citizen parent meets certain so-called “transmission requirements” which could occur in the following circumstances:

  • Child born in wedlock to two U.S. citizens
  • Birth abroad to one citizen and one alien parent in wedlock
  • Child born out of wedlock to a U.S. citizen mother
  • Child born out of wedlock to a U.S. citizen father

Please read more about this at my Citizenship Site.   Note that there are special procedures for active members of the U.S. Armed Services, their dependents, and other civilian DOD personnel. You should contact your local Personnel Services Battalion passport agent on base, per DOD policy.

Reminder: New Citizenship Test as of Oct. 1

USCIS reminded the public that beginning Oct. 1, all citizenship applicants must take the new naturalization test, regardless of when they filed their Application for Naturalization (Form N-400).

To learn more about U.S. citizenship and the naturalization test, go to www.uscis.gov/citizenship.

USCIS Implements New Naturalization/Citizenship Test

Following about 2 years of testing, USCIS has revised and implemented a new Test, as part of the Naturalization process.

The revised test, with an emphasis on the fundamental concepts of American democracy and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, will help encourage citizenship applicants to learn and identify with the basic values we all share as Americans.

According to USCIS, the redesign process was to ensure that naturalization applicants have uniform, consistent testing experiences nationwide, and that the civics test can effectively assess whether applicants have a meaningful understanding of U.S. government and history. Following a basic U.S. history and civics curriculum, the new test now serves as an important instrument to encourage civic learning and patriotism among prospective citizens.

Which Test Do I Take?

An applicant who:

* Files the Application for Naturalization, Form N-400, BEFORE October 1, 2008, and is scheduled for his or her naturalization interview ON or AFTER October 1, 2008 up until October 1, 2009, can choose to take the old test or the new test.
* Files the Application for Naturalization, Form N-400, ON or AFTER October 1, 2008, will take the new test.
* Is scheduled for his or her naturalization interview ON or AFTER October 1, 2009, regardless of when he or she filed the Application for Naturalization, Form N-400, will take the new test.

USCIS considers an application properly “filed” when Form N-400, is received by the appropriate USCIS location with signature, correct fee, and the form is completed according to instructions.

Note: If an applicant fails the English and/or civics test during the first examination, the applicant will be required to take the same version of the test, old or new, when the applicant is retested, even if the retest is scheduled on or after October 1, 2009.

The relevant study materials, etc. can be obtained from the USCIS website directly.

U.S. Army Institutes New Non-Citizen Recruiting Program For Foreign Healthcare Professionals

This year, in February, the U.S. Army started a new recruiting pilot program for foreign healthcare professionals. Titled “Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest” (“MAVNI”), the new pilot program allows certain non-citizens who are legally present in the United States to join the Army and apply immediately for expedited U.S. citizenship, without first obtaining lawful permanent residence.

MAVNI will initially recruit about 300 healthcare professionals (doctors, dentists, psychiatrists, nurses, and others) nationwide. Aside from the healthcare workers, MAVNI is set to recruit about 500 persons who speak certain critical foreign languages.

The MAVNI pilot program is scheduled to end on December 31, 2009, or whenever the Army meets its projected recruiting needs.

MAVNI allows certain non-citizens who are already legally present in the United States to enlist. The Office of the Secretary of Defense set the immigration eligibility criteria for the program. Anyone who currently holds asylee, refugee, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), or one of numerous non-immigrant statuses (E, F, H, I, J, K, L, M, O, P, Q, R, S, T, TC, TD, TN, U, or V) may be eligible.

A non-citizen must have held one of those legal statuses for at least two years; having changed between these statuses during the two-year period will not bar enlistment. In addition, if the person holds a non-immigrant status (E, F, H, I, J, K, L, M, O, P, Q, R, S, T, TC, TD, TN, U, or V), he or she cannot have had a single absence from the United States of more than 90 days in the past two years (multiple absences are apparently fine, as long as no single trip exceeded 90 days).

Persons whose status is not listed in the eligibility criteria cannot enlist under this pilot program. Thus, those holding B visa or other visitor status—including those who entered on the Visa Waiver Program—are not eligible. Undocumented immigrants, non-citizens in overstay, and those who have violated their status are not eligible.

MAVNI applicants need not be Lawful Permanent Residents (aka “Green Card” holders) prior to naturalizing under this Pilot Program.  Under current provisions of the wartime military enlistment statute, anyone serving honorably in the United States Armed Forces is eligible to naturalize, regardless of immigration status. Wartime military naturalization applicants pay no fees for filing their naturalization applications. No minimum period of honorable service is required prior to filing for wartime naturalization, and applicants are exempt from the residency and physical presence requirements that apply to other naturalization applicants.

Persons interested in MAVNI, should contact their local U.S. Army Recruiter for more details.

MAVNI enlistees are not ordinarily eligible for U.S. citizenship under the regular naturalization statutes; because they do not have Lawful Permanent Residence (LPR) status, they are only eligible to apply for US citizenship under the wartime military naturalization statute. This statute allows for revocation of U.S. citizenship if the enlistee does not complete five (5) years of honorable military service.

Health Care Professionals:

  • Applicants must fill medical specialties where the service has a shortfall
  • Applicants must meet all qualification criteria required for their medical specialty, and
  • the criteria for foreign-trained DoD medical personnel recruited under other authorities

  • Applicants must demonstrate proficiency in English
  • Applicants must commit to at least 3 years of active duty, or six years in the Selected Reserve

Professional Medical Specialties To Be Recruited Under the Army MAVNI Pilot Program

Regular Army Medical Corps
60P Pediatrician
60W Psychiatrist
61F Internal Medicine
61H Family Practice

Dental Corps
63A General Dentist
63M Oral Surgeon

Nurse Corps
Army Nurses: All specialties

Army Reserve Medical Corps
60C Preventive Medicine
60J Obstetrician/Gynecologist
60K Urologist
60N Anesthesiologist
60S Ophthalmologist
60T Otolaryngologist
60W Psychiatry
61G Infectious Disease Officer
61F Internal Medicine
61H Family Practice
61J General Surgeon
61K Thoracic Surgeon
61M Orthopedic Surgeon
61Z Neurosurgeon
62A Emergency Medicine
61L Plastic Surgeon

Dental Corps
63A General Dentistv 63F Prosthodontist
63B Comprehensive Dentist
63N Oral Surgeon

Nurse Corps
66H Medical Surgical Nurse
66H8A Critical Care Nurse
66F Nurse Anesthetist
66E Operating Room Nurse
66N Generalist Nurse

Specialist and Medical Service Corps
65D Physician Assistant
72A Nuclear Medicine
67F Optometry
72B Entomology
71A Microbiology
73B Clinical Psychologist
71E Clinical Laboratory
64A Veterinarian

Enlisted Individuals with Special Language and Culture Backgrounds:

  • Applicants must possess specific language and culture capabilities in a language critical to DoD
  • Applicants must demonstrate a language proficiency (see below)
  • Applicants must meet all existing enlistment eligibility criteria
  • Applicants must enlist for at least 4 years of active duty

(Services may add additional requirements)

Enlisted Army Military Occupational Health Care Specialties Available to MAVNI Enlistees with Language Skills

68A Biomedical Equipment Repairer
68D Operating Room Specialist
68E Dental Specialist
68G Patient Administration Specialist
68H Optical Laboratory Specialist
68J Medical Logistics Specialist
68K Medical Laboratory Specialist
68M Nutrition Care Specialist
68P Radiology Specialist
68Q Pharmacy Specialist
68R Veterinary Food Inspection Specialist
68S Preventive Medicine Specialist
68T Animal Care Specialist
68V Respiratory Specialist
68W Health Care Specialit
68W1 Combat Medic

Languages Specifically Sought

  • Albanian
  • Amharic
  • Arabic
  • Azerbaijani
  • Bengali
  • Burmese
  • Cambodian-Khmer
  • Chinese
  • Czech
  • Hausa
  • Hindi
  • Hungarian
  • Igbo
  • Indonesian
  • Korean
  • Kurdish
  • Lao
  • Malay
  • Malayalam
  • Moro
  • Nepalese
  • Persian [Dari & Farsi]
  • Polish
  • Punjabi
  • Pushtu (aka Pashto)
  • Russian
  • Sindhi
  • Sinhalese
  • Somali
  • Swahili
  • Tamil
  • Turkish
  • Turkmen
  • Urdu
  • Yoruba

Legal Name Change on Your N-400? Be Prepared to Wait…

Applicants for Naturalization (acquiring U.S. citizenship by means other than birth) have the opportunity to request a legal name change as part of their N-400 application process.

While this may be of great convenience or importance to the Applicant, doing so will likely delay the adjudication of your N-400 by an extra 2 to 3 months.

The Applicant will likely complete most the formal application process (including fingerprinting, security checks, and in-person interview), but the application itself will not be given final approval, until the name change and related matters have been completed.  This results in a delay of the Oath Ceremony, possibly by several months.

Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative Deadline Approaches

The U.S. State Department is reminding travellers to apply for their travel documents (or to make sure their current documents comply) that will be required at all land or sea border crossings as of June 1, 2009.

Under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) U.S. citizens will be required to present a government-approved document that denotes both citizenship and identity when entering the United States.

The U.S. Passport Book and the U.S. Passport Card are the “best evidence” documents that denote both citizenship and identity. A list of other government-approved documents is available at www.getyouhome.gov/.

The Passport Card is a wallet-sized document. A Passport Card costs $45 for an adult and $35 for a child under age 16. When applied for in conjunction with a passport book or by a previous passport holder who is eligible for renewal, the charge for the Passport Card is only $20. Current passport holders, who are eligible to renew, can apply for a passport card by mail.

Please note that the Passport Card is valid only for entry to the United States at land border crossings and sea ports of entry when traveling from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean region, and Bermuda. It is not valid for international air travel.

Information on how and where to apply for a U.S. Passport Card is available at travel.state.gov.

Update on Naturalization Test Changes

USCIS hat implemented some changes to the format and content of the American Government/History examination which most applicants for U.S. citizenship must successfully complete. These Naturalization Test changes are effective October 1, 2008.

Do You Know Which Test Materials to Read for the Interview? The following guidelines will determine whether naturalization applicants will take the current test or the redesigned version:

  1. If an applicant applies BEFORE October 1, 2008 and is scheduled for his or her naturalization interview BEFORE October 1, 2008, he or she will take the current test.
  2. If an applicant applies BEFORE October 1, 2008 and is scheduled for his or her naturalization interview AFTER October 1, 2008, he or she can choose to take the current test or the redesigned version.
  3. If an applicant applies AFTER October 1, 2008, he or she will take the redesigned version.
  4. If the nationalization interview is scheduled AFTER October 1, 2009, regardless of when he or she applied, he or she will take the redesigned version.

For the writing test, a USCIS Officer will dictate to the applicant using sentence(s) from one of the standardized test forms. The sentences are constructed from words included on the English writing vocabulary list. Applicants are required to write 1 sentence out of 3 correctly (same as the current test). During the writing test, the applicant is provided a form with blank lines to write the dictated sentence(s). The USCIS Officer instructs an applicant to write down exactly what he/she says.

For the reading test, a USCIS Officer will use sentence(s) that appear on one of the standardized test forms and will ask the applicant to read the sentence(s), which are constructed from words included on the English reading vocabulary list. The applicant must read 1 sentence out of 3 correctly (same as the current test).

Update and Guidance on Naturalizations for U.S. Service Members

Just earlier this month, USCIS issued some internal guidance on the Naturalization of service members of the U.S. Armed Forces.  The special naturalization provisions are essentially governed by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008.

These amendments provide certain immigration benefits for any qualifying spouse or child of a member of the Armed Forces. Primarily, the amendments loosen the requirements of “continuous residence” and “physical presence” in the United States where a spouse or child of a member of the Armed
Forces is involved, accompanying and residing with the service member.

Under certain conditions, a spouse or child may count time residing abroad with the service member as residence and physical presence in the United States.  This legislation also prescribes that such a spouse or child may be eligible for overseas proceedings relating to naturalization, as previously only permitted for an eligible member of the Armed Forces.

In general, “continuous residence” concerns the maintenance of the applicant’s residence in the United States over a period of time required by a statute, where “residence” is determined by the applicant’s principal actual dwelling place in the United States.

“Physical presence” refers to the number of days the person must physically be in the United States.  Unless specifically exempt, an applicant for naturalization must generally satisfy both “continuous residence” and “physical presence” requirements and must have resided in the State or USCIS district having jurisdiction over his or her place of residence for a minimum of 90 days preceding the filing of the application.

In the context of this Act, the required period of continuous residence within the United States is reduced from five years to three years and accordingly the required period of physical presence is reduced from 30 months to 18 months for any LPR who is the spouse of a U.S.  citizen.

There is no requirement of any prior period of residence or specified period of physical presence within the United States for any LPR spouse of a U.S. citizen who is an employee of the United States Government (including a member of the Armed Forces) or recognized nonprofit organization who is stationed abroad in such employment for at least one year.

Essentially, this Act, extends naturalization benefits available to Service Members to their dependents, including spouses and children.