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.
In recent years, many of the most commonly filed immigration forms underwent substantial revisions. These include the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative; I-129F Petition for Fiance; I-485 Application to Adjust Status; and N-400, Application for Naturalization. Rather than simplifying what is often an arcane process, the forms arguably obfuscate and complicate things even more. Soon, it is very likely that the N-400 will be changing again. Unfortunately, some of the proposed revisions and requirements will make the process more onerous and confusing, especially to a layperson who might be attempting to file pro-se.
Following up on the heels of our last post, the Third Circuit of Appeals issued two precedential decisions affirming a denial of US citizenship to two different parties who had acquired their permanent residency through false statements or fraud. The two cases were decided by two different panels but interestingly, arrived at the same conclusion. The two cases are Saliba v. Attorney General and Koszelnik v. Secretary of Homeland Security. Although the facts are different, the gist of both cases is that the immigrants in question secured their green cards by affirmatively providing false information on their permanent resident applications. One party represented that he was a citizen of Lebanon when he wasn't, and the other omitted the fact that he had an A number and had actually been in court proceedings when applying for their green cards. Both gentlemen's lies were not caught at the green card stage and they subsequently applied for naturalization more than five years later. In both cases, the Court denied their petitions, predicating their decisions largely on the notion that even though the applicants were permanent residents, they were nevertheless not "lawfully admitted" as permanent residents, as required by 8 U.S.C. 1429.
Every year there is a Presidential election, USCIS generally experiences a surge in N-400 applications for naturalization. 2016 will likely prove no different. If anything, there may be unprecedented numbers of lawful permanent residents applying to become US Citizens, especially given what is at stake for our country. For some, the prospect of Republican candidate Donald Trump in office has stirred up fears of anti-immigrant sentiment, increased enforcement and a moratorium on immigration. Others are motivated by the perennial, unfounded rumor that is easier to become a citizen during an election year. Whatever a person's reasons, there are certain deadlines that one needs to be mindful of if he/she wishes to vote this year. In New Jersey specifically:
Check out our latest video on Youtube on the concept of Good Moral Character ("GMC"). Some people are often surprised to learn that GMC does not only mean not having an arrest record. GMC is a very broad, expansive term that can change depending on the context. Here's the transcript:
A new White House Campaign to make the final steps to citizenship easier for legal immigrants, may add millions of voters in time for next year's presidential election. Currently, according to recent statistics, there are approximately 8.8 million legal immigrants in this country who are eligible to become American citizens. The citizenship campaign is part of the Executive Actions campaign that President Obama announced in November of last year.
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.
While most permanent residents are not eligible to file for US Citizenship until they have had their green cards for five years, some individuals may apply after three years under Section 319(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. In order to be eligible under this section, the applicant must demonstrate that he/she:
Under most circumstances, anybody who files an N-400 application for naturalization would want to see it through to its end. In order to become a citizen, the applicant must attend an interview at the local district office where he or she will be tested for basic proficiency with the English knowledge as well as knowledge of American civics. In general, very few matters should take precedence over a scheduled interview but in some cases, it is just not possible to attend an interview or there is some exigent circumstance that needs to take priority.