One of the most pressing questions that prospective permanent residents here in the US often ask is, "When Can I Start Working?" Within the context of family-based adjustment of status cases--which is what this is discussion is limited to--this topic is rife with misunderstanding. Many people, to their detriment, misunderstand the difference between applying for adjustment of status and being authorized to work.
Many people are aware that DAPA and Expanded DACA are currently on hold due to pending litigation. What people may not know is that DAPA and the expansion of DACA are only parts of President Obama's 2014 Executive Action on immigration. The Executive Order is actually comprised of a series of initiatives to reform the immigration system. Not all of the initiatives have been blocked or put on hold. One of the more prominent pieces of the package that received less attention but remains very important to a lot of people-the expansion of the provisional waiver-remains intact. In fact, USCIS just recently released a copy of the proposed rules and is requesting comments.
The concept of good moral character ("GMC") is one of the most important principles of immigration law and practice. Good moral character can arise in a number of scenarios, including applications for citizenship, permanent residence, as well as potential forms of relief. When GMC is a fundamental requirement, the failure to demonstrate it will likely be fatal to an application. Even when it is not strictly required, good moral character can nevertheless influence whether an application is approved or denied, especially where the adjudicator is vested with a large degree of discretion. For purposes of naturalization, we know that good moral character is a requirement that must be satisfied, especially GMC during the statutory period of five (or in some cases, three) years. However, there are some instances in which an applicant may never make a showing of good moral character and others where certain conduct may only pose a conditional bar, but not permanent bar, to good moral character.
In a recent podcast, we touched briefly on the English Waiver criteria that USCIS requires before exempting an applicant from the English portion of the Naturalization test. Unfortunately, this special exemption only benefits a relatively small population of permanent residents who have lived here for a considerable period of time, which means a minimum of fifteen years. What about the sizeable group of green card holders who earnestly want to become citizens but due to their personal circumstances and background lack the test-taking proficiency and requisite aptitude for civics that ordinary applicants are expected to have? This special set of applicants have studied very diligently but may not be able to learn, recognize and answer the questions as adroitly as a reasonably healthy and well-educated candidate with more opportunities in life. For example, it is not necessarily fair to expect an elderly person with no formal schooling to comprehend and answer questions as competently as a 25 year old college graduate with no issues. In all fairness, should they be held to the same standard? Fortunately, USCIS does carve out a little-known provision that allows USCIS officers discretion when administering the test for applicants whose circumstances deserve special consideration.
It is very common to confuse the physical presence requirement with the continuous residence requirement for naturalization. The two concepts, while related and seemingly similar, are actually different and must be independently satisfied in addition to the other eligibility requirements for US citizenship. Failure to meet both tests can, unfortunately, be fatal for an application and result in a denial as well as loss of filing fees.