Friday, December 23, 2011

Commandment #6 of Applying for Naturalization: Thou Shall Go Back to Your Roots

Not remembering important information can complicate an applicant's naturalization application.  This is especially true when dealing with issues of eligibility.  That's why having a copy of one's  "A file" has become increasingly more important. The "A file" is basically a person's record maintained by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Once created, it contains all immigration records for that particular person.  Recently I wrote about the Five Benefits of Having a Copy of Your "A File" from USCIS or the Immigration Court through a FOIA Request.   I encourage readers to review that post for some practical information.

Take for example the case of an applicant who obtained Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status through an employment-based petition.  The answers to the questions that USCIS may have can get complicated when considering the passage of time, promotions, employers with subsidiaries, change of ownership, and other factors.  Some questions could be:
  • What was the original title for the position?
  • What were the duties?
  • What were the minimum requirements for the position?
  • Did the position require the supervision of any workers?
  • Who signed the petition?
USCIS wants to ensure that all eligibility requirements were met at the time of adjudication.  However, since in all likelihood at least five (usually more) years have passed since the original petition was filed with the U.S. Department of Labor and USCIS, the applicant should have at least reviewed those old files to refresh his or her memory.

Applicants should come to the interview prepared to address potential concerns that the adjudicating officer may have.  If the applicant obtained LPR status through employment, then the applicant should bring documentation showing that the applicant continues to work for the same company. This evidence could include tax returns, W-2s, pay stubs, and a letter of employment.  If the applicant is no longer employed by the sponsoring company, then the applicant should come prepared to show the time he or she was actually employed by the company.     

The general rule of thumb is that if an applicant has changed to a different employer (or changed spouse's for that matter) within one year of obtaining their LPR status (based on that relationship), they should come prepared to show the legitimacy of the employment or marriage relationship. The closer the severing of the relationship is from the time of LPR grant, the more likely it is that questions will be asked.  It's important to keep in mind that an application for naturalization gives USCIS a fresh opportunity to review the applicant's file in its entirety - not just the naturalization or citizenship application.