Lee & Garasia, LLC
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Citizenship and Naturalization Archives

DWI Convictions May Bar Citizenship and Cancellation of Removal

In yet another ominous sign of the erosion of judicial independence, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker recently certified a case to himself that may have a significant impact on foreign nationals charged with Drunk Driving or Driving Under The Influence. The case is Matter of Castillo-Perez, and this case is particularly important given the issues that the Attorney General will be deciding-possibly overruling previous BIA precedent. According to the certification, the Attorney General is directing the parties to address the following questions:

Divorce Prior to Oath Ceremony Can Result in Denial of 319 Citizenship Application

USCIS recently clarified that lawful permanent residents applying to naturalize on the basis of marriage to a US Citizen must not only demonstrate "living in marital union" with their spouse three years immediately prior to filing, but also that termination of the marriage at any time prior to the Oath of Allegiance renders an applicant ineligible under section INA 319(a). We have seen this second provision being strictly applied to deny naturalizations applications where the applicant divorces after passing the examination but prior to the oath ceremony. Practically speaking, this may not affect residents in states that administer the oath the same day as the interview, such as New Jersey. In general, however, most states regularly schedule the oath ceremony many months after the applicant has passed the examination. This gap can, in some cases, be quite long, especially if background checks are being conducted, an officer needs to look into something, or on occasion, neglects to finish reviewing the file. In the interim, an applicant's marital situation may rapidly deteriorate and the couple may seek a quick dissolution. Unfortunately, if this occurs prior to the oath, the applicant has technically fallen outside the boundaries of INA 319, the section of the law that allows green card holders to apply after only three years marriage to a US Citizen (versus the normal requirement of five years permanent residence prior to becoming eligible). This is one reason why applicants are expected to review and complete a questionnaire on the day of the oath verifying that certain information has not changed, ie., address; arrests; trips outside the US; and in this case, marital status.

Citizenship Test Changes | USCIS To Use Digital Tablets for Reading and Writing

On October 3, 2018, USCIS issued a public bulletin regarding the incorporation of digital tablets into the naturalization reading and writing process. Our office began seeing implementation of tablets a few months back, and this announcement not only confirms that this practice is here to stay but that technology will assume an even greater role in the process than ever before. Previously, citizen applicants were asked to review and digitally sign their applications on iPad or ipad-like devices. Now under this expansion, the use of pen and paper is essentially being phased out and discontinued. Pen and paper may be used "on a case-by-case basis," but by and large, both the reading and writing components of the N-400 examination will now be conducted on digital tablets:

Cheating and US Citizenship | Reasons for N-400 Denial

Most people are aware that a criminal record may complicate and sometimes pose a bar to citizenship. However, having a clean record does not necessarily ensure that a naturalization application will be approved. Interestingly, there are several types of acts or conduct that USCIS may consider conditional bars to citizenship if they occur within the "statutory period" under evaluation (five years prior to the N-400 application, for most applicants). Under the Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA") and Code of Federal Regulations ("CFR"), officers are entitled to evaluate and determine whether certain specified acts, offenses, activities, or circumstances reflect poorly on or militate against an applicant's "good moral character," which is a fundamental requirement for citizenship.

Government Pushing To Take Away People's US Citizenship | Denaturalization Campaign

Over the last few weeks, we have witnessed a sustained effort by the government to implement President Trump's agenda on immigration. Besides organizing a relentless push to ferret out and detain illegal immigrants, the enforcement branch of DHS appears to be slowly co-opting the benefits division. This is reflected in the two recent USCIS policy memoranda quietly released in July. In addition to this, the thehill.com reported recently that there is now a concerted effort to organize a task force of attorneys to review the cases of naturalized US Citizens who may have lied on their applications and start denaturalization proceedings against them. It is unclear just how many applications will be reviewed but it is possible that nearly 17 million cases approved from 1990 to 2016 may be reverified.

Problems for Citizenship | Citizenship and Naturalization Lawyer in NJ

In an earlier post, we previously discussed some permanent bars to citizenship, the most prominent of which were murder (which should be no surprise) and aggravated felonies, arguably the most virulent type of crime for immigration. But these are not the only kind of issues that can imperil a naturalization application or worse, jeopardize an individual's status. There are other factors outside of the permanent bars to good moral character that, if present, warrant thorough consultation with an immigration attorney. Three worth mentioning are false claims to US citizenship; unlawful voting; and acquisition of permanent residence through fraud, mistake, or error.

2017 Rule Change for Citizenship Through Military Service

The Department of State released two significant policy changes that will impact the ability of lawful permanent residents to naturalize through military service. The two new policies pertain to security screening and honorable service certifications necessary to pursue expedited naturalization. Under the new rules, all lawful permanent residents must complete an extensive background investigation and receive a favorable military security suitability determination ("MSSD") before entry in the active, reserve, or guard service. Prior to this, green card holders were able to enter into initial military training as long as a background check had been started (and they had cleared all other screening requirements), but not necessarily completed. The second change is perhaps even more consequential, especially with respect to those individuals looking to naturalize through military service under Section 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

When Can Victims of Abuse and/or Extreme Cruelty File for Citizenship?

One of the most frequently misunderstood provisions of naturalization is the timing eligibility. While the vast majority of lawful permanent residents must apply after five years continuous residence, the immigration law also provides that some spouses of U.S. Citizens may apply after only three years. In general, the permanent resident spouse must demonstrate, among other things, that he/she has been a resident for three years; been physically present within the United States for at least half that time; and been living in marital union with the US citizen spouse for at least three years before filing. What happens though if a lawful permanent resident is abused by his/her citizen spouse? Or what if someone is granted lawful permanent residence after demonstrating that he/she has been the subject of abuse through a Violence Against Women ("VAWA") petition (filed on the I-360)? How does the immigration law treat these classes of people with respect to when they apply for naturalization?

Certificate of Citizenship Is Different From Certificate of Naturalization

On June 2, 2017, the Board of Immigration Appeals issued a precedent decision concerning the government's authority to administratively cancel a Certificate of Naturalization. The gist of Matter of Falodun, 27 I & N Dec. 52 (BIA 2017), is that the government need not institute judicial proceedings to cancel a certificate of citizenship, as it is required to do with respect to someone who is a US citizen through naturalization. Under section 342 of the Immigration and nationality Act (INA), the government may administratively cancel a certificate of citizenship that has been illegally or fraudulently procured. Simply put, someone holding a certificate of citizenship is not necessarily entitled to the same safeguards that someone holding a certificate of naturalization enjoys.

Supreme Court Case on Acquisition of US Citizenship For Children Born Out-of-Wedlock

The Supreme Court of the United States just recently issued an important decision regarding the acquisition of US Citizenship by children born abroad. In Sessions v. Morales-Santana, the high court ruled that the disparity in criteria applicable to those claiming US citizenship through an unwed citizen father as opposed to an unwed citizen mother was unconstitutional and violated the 5th Amendment's right to equal protection under the law. While recognizing the historical and gender-based notions that undergirded the different rules at the time, the Court held that no important governmental interest was served by perpetuating antiquated laws based on stereotypical notions that unwed fathers are less likely to assume responsibility for children born out of wedlock, thereby, as the obsolescent view goes, vitiating the connection between the foreign-born child and the US. As a consequence, the Court did not find a justifiable reason to continue allowing those claiming US citizenship through an unwed mother to show only one year of her continuous physical presence in the US, but those asserting citizenship through an unwed father to demonstrate, as per the general rule, ten years physical presence of the father in the US, at least five of which were after the age of reaching the age of 14. (The current physical presence rule, applicable to children born on or after November 14, 1986, is five years, two of which need to be after the age of 14.) In the case at hand, Mr. Morales-Santana's claim of acquisition through his unwed father had been denied because his foreign national father left the US without having lived here for five years after turning 14: in fact, he left only 20 days short of his 19th birthday, a fact that disqualifies him under 8 USC 1409(a) but would not under section 1409(c) which is the statutory exception that applies only to out-of-wedlock children born to unwed mothers.

PROFESSIONAL RECOGNITION

    • The National Advocates | Top 100 Lawyers
    • Rated by Super Lawyers | Angie Garasia | 5 Years
    • 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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Lee & Garasia, LLC
190 State Route 27
Edison, NJ 08820

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