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Citizenship and Naturalization Archives

New Immigration Policy on Long Trips Affects Citizenship Applications

USCIS recently revised their Policy Manual on Naturalization to further address the legal effect of absences outside the US. This guidance particularly affects green card holders who have traveled outside the United States for more than one year and who are now applying for citizenship. The government's Policy Alert reminds the public that absences outside the US for one year or more automatically breaks the continuity of residence, one of the fundamental requirements for citizenship. This is true even if the individual possesses a re-entry permit, since the permit only preserves the individual's permanent residence (in general, a green card holder who travels outside the US for one year or more, uninterrupted during a single trip, will be deemed to have abandoned his/her residence here.) If such an individual wishes to apply for naturalization, he/she must wait a minimum of at least 4 years and 1 day.

You Can Be Denied Citizenship For Bad Acts

Late last year, USCIS adopted two significant policy changes pertaining to Good Moral Character for naturalization petitions. (Every applicant must demonstrate Good Moral Character in order to become a US Citizen.) The first one, which we previously covered, pertained to drunk driving convictions and how two or more convictions raised a rebuttable presumption against a finding of good moral character. The second change is equally troubling and concerns unlawful bad acts which can militate against and render someone ineligible to naturalize. In its new policy guidance, the agency has gone ahead and fleshed out examples recognized by caselaw that can constitute a disqualifying "unlawful act." Some of them include but are not limited to:

Filing for Citizenship After 3 Years If Separated

Under certain circumstances, a lawful permanent may apply for naturalization after only three years versus the requisite five years that is normally required. In order to qualify, the applicant must demonstrate that he/she has been a green card holder for at least three years and been married and living with a US Citizen spouse for at least three years. The policy manual refers to this requirement as the marital union requirement. In this climate, where adjudicators have been scrupulously examining everything on a micro level, satisfying these criteria can be problematic, especially when the couple are not physically together.

Citizenship Denied for Two or More DWI Convictions

Not too long ago, Attorney General Bill Barr issued an important decision regarding good moral character determinations within the context of cancellation of removal. Under Matter of Castillo-Perez, the Attorney General held that two or more drunk driving convictions create a rebuttable presumption that an applicant does not possess good moral character. USCIS has now officially adopted and incorporated this principle into its own Policy Manual, specifically Volume 12 which pertains to Naturalization matters. According to the USCIS Policy Alert, the new policy regarding DUI good moral character determinations will apply to any cases filed or pending on or after October 25, 2019.

Can I Travel Out Of The Country After Applying For Citizenship?

One of the most common questions that our citizenship clients ask is whether there are any travel prohibitions after they have filed for naturalization. At the risk of oversimplifying matters, the short answer is that applicants are allowed to travel outside the US even after their N-400 applications are lodged. That being said, individuals need to remain cognizant of the eligibility requirements for naturalization, some of which extend up and through to the time of the interview. In some cases, conduct after an application is filed can seriously impact the application and ultimately form the basis of a denial. When it comes to international travel, remember that an applicant must not only satisfy the physical presence requirement, but also the continuous residence requirement.

Immigration Filing Fees Going Up

Last week, the government announced a series of proposed fee increases that are staggeringly steep. At the moment, the proposal is undergoing a public comment period, but unless there is some sort of litigation to block the changes, applicants may have to dig deeper to defray these costs when they go into effect later this year/early next year. Here are some of the applications that will be going up:

New Residence Rules for People Born Abroad Claiming Citizenship Through Parent

During his administration, President Trump has repeatedly proclaimed his intentions on ending birthright or automatic citizenship for those born within the United States. To be clear, birthright citizenship is still intact, but the latest USCIS policy memo pertaining to residency for citizenship arguably represents an encroachment. Policy Memo PA-2019-05, issued on August 28 of this year, received much attention in the media regarding changes to the way USCIS will now adjudicate citizenship petitions for children of US government employees and armed forces members. Under the new policy, as elaborated in the memo, children of US government employees and armed forces members residing outside the United States will no longer be considers "residing in the United States" for purposes of citizenship applications filed under section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Section 320 is a part of the law that grants citizenship to certain children under the age of 18 who did not acquire citizenship at birth but who are residing in the legal and physical custody of a citizen parent pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residence. (In these cases, the child applies for a Certificate of Citizenship, as opposed to filing to become a citizen through the naturalization process.) The upshot of the new rules, effective October 29, 2019, is that these children born abroad must now pursue applications for citizenship under a different section, notably section 322, which is more cumbersome and requires the child to complete the naturalization process before the age of 18. Because this is an extremely complex area, some news outlets may have exaggerated and oversimplified its impact, though there is no dispute amongst most immigration attorneys that the new guidance discriminates against armed forces families and threatens to damage morale.

False Claim to Citizenship Does Not Need To Be Knowing to Trigger Deportation

A deeply jarring decision from the Board of Immigration Appeals came out late last month pertaining to the issue of false claims to US Citizenship. Under Section 237(a)(3)(D)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, "an alien who falsely represents, or has falsely represented himself to be a citizen of the United States for any purpose or benefit under this Act (including section 274A) or any Federal or State law is deportable." What makes this case, Matter of Zhang, 27 I & N Dec. 569 (BIA 2019), interesting is that the Board held that a false claim need not necessarily be made knowingly in order to render an individual deportable. Here, Mr. Zhang purchased a naturalization certificate without having undergone the examination, and it was questionable as to whether he knowingly or unknowingly tried to circumvent the process. On appeal, Mr. Zhang maintained that he in good faith believed that he was a US citizen and argued that the government bore the burden of demonstrating that he made the false claim willfully or knowingly.

Citizenship Test Will Be Changing | N-400 Test Changes

Green Card holders interested in becoming United States Citizens should be aware that USCIS is planning on revising the civics test as part of a new decennial review and revision process. Under this plan, the citizenship test will be reviewed every ten years and if necessary, revised to ensure accuracy, timeliness, as well integrity. The test was last revised in 2009.

Are You Already a US Citizen? | N-400 Issues in New Jersey

The vast majority of lawful permanent residents aspiring to become United States Citizens will need to undergo the naturalization process. But in some cases, an individual may already be a citizen through application of the law pertaining to either automatic acquisition or derivation. In those instances, a person will need to apply for proof of citizenship by either applying for a US Passport or a Certificate of Citizenship via Form N-600. Unfortunately, the law regarding acquisition of citizenship can be incredibly complex. Depending on when certain conditions are/were fulfilled will determine which set of rules apply. A recent Third Circuit case, Dessouki v. Attorney General, illustrates just how fact-sensitive some of these determinations can be.

PROFESSIONAL RECOGNITION

    • Avvo Rating 10.0 | Superb
    • Client Distinction Award martindale.com | 2016 Martindale-Hubbell Client Distinction Award
    • New Jersey State Bar Association | Paris Lee Chair - Immigration Section 2015-2016
    • Nationally Recognized | Newsweek Nationwide Showcase | Top Attorneys 2013
    • New Jersey Chapter | American Immigration Lawyers Association | Angie Garasia | Chapter Chair 2015-2016
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