Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Commandment #5 of Applying for Naturalization: Thou Shall Prepare Well for the Interview

There are some key points that applicants should consider as they prepare for their naturalization interview before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

An applicant for naturalization must meet certain requirements.  Apart from ensuring qualification - preferably before application, the applicant must prepare well.  What is a nervous applicant to do? Here are some thoughts to help along the way. 
  • Read the N-400 Naturalization Application carefully.  It's important that the applicant understand what exactly is it that they signed and submitted to USCIS. Obviously this is best done before submitting the application.  For non-native English speakers, some of the language used in the N-400 application can be a bit confusing and intimidating.  The interviewing officer will read most of those questions verbatim.  Add to that some of the legal language peppered throughout the questionnaire, and your head can be spinning in no time. Reviewing the questions in advance will help the applicant, and the interviewing officer, to move the interview along that much more quickly.
  • Know and understand what the Oath of Allegiance really says.  An applicant for naturalization must show that he or she is attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and will be required to take the Oath of Allegiance.  If the applicant doesn't know what the oath actually says, then a question might arise as to whether the applicant really understands what he or she is doing.
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

  • Lastly, before heading out the door, the applicant should review carefully the list of documents needed to ensure that he or she is bringing the documents required. Any delay, even for a simple document, is many times measured in months - not weeks.  Below you will find a document checklist and a sample interview notice.  
This may very well be my last entry for this year.  If it is, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous and amazing New Year.  Cheers.    

Monday, December 13, 2010

Country of Refuge: Cancellation of Removal for Non-LPRs

Recently we began a series on the strengths and benefits of our immigration law and policy. Today we'll briefly touch upon Cancellation of Removal for Non-Lawful Permanent Residents (Non-LPRs).  Cancellation of Removal for LPRs will be discussed in a different post.

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the Attorney General has discretion to grant various forms of relief from removal. One of these forms of relief is Cancellation of Removal for Non-LPRs under section 240A(b) of the INA. This section provides that a foreign national seeking cancellation of removal for non-permanent residents must establish four statutory requirements: 

  1. Physical presence in the United States for a continuous period of ten years; 
  2. Good good moral character during that period of time; 
  3. No convictions for certain criminal offenses; and 
  4. Exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to the applicant's spouse, parent, or child, who is a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident.
There are only three decisions published by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) to guide adjudicators in deciding whether an applicant can demonstrate that a qualifying relative would suffer exceptional and extremely unusual hardship: Matter of Recinas, Matter of Andazola, and Matter of Monreal.  These cases will be discussed in detail in a different post under the heading of "hardships" and "waivers".

One can argue whether the standard to show eligibility under the Cancellation of Removal provisions is too high or whether more quotas should be made available, but to those that qualify - obtaining this benefit is literally a life-saver. I have been very fortunate in my years practicing immigration law to have assisted several clients to obtain their lawful permanent resident status through Cancellation of Removal.  Take for example the case of a foreign national in removal proceedings who has a seriously ill U.S. citizen child and has no other form of relief available. If this person is removed the child would not be able to obtain the medical care needed in their home country. Without the availability of Cancellation of Removal as a form of relief, many would be removed every year from the United States to face dire and extreme hardships.  Fortunately, thanks to our generous and humanitarian immigration provisions, qualifying applicants don't have to face such hardships.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The United States as a Country of Refuge: A Short Introduction

From the early settlers, to modern-day immigrants, the United States continues to be a country of refuge. Although I heartily acknowledge, as an immigration attorney, that our system has many flaws that need to be addressed through advocacy, legislation, and litigation - the strengths and benefits of our immigration system are many times ignored in the heated debate over immigration.  In the next series of posts we'll touch upon several of the positive factors of our immigration law and policy.  

On the eve of the vote on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act ("DREAM Act"), it is important to keep things in perspective.  I for one, am a very strong supporter of this measure for many reasons that are outside the scope of this entry. A good place to start would be to acknowledge that the United States admits more legal immigrants as permanent residents than all other countries in the world combined.  In 2008 for example, a total of 1.1 million individuals became LPRs in the United States as noted in a 2010 Report by the Congressional Research Service on U.S. Immigration Policy on Permanent Admissions. According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, estimates of the Legal Permanent Resident Population in 2009 are in the 12.5 million range. 

Stay tuned for future posts discussing what specific elements of our immigration law and policy make the United States a country of refuge.