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For many immigrants, going through the naturalization process to become a United States citizen, is the culmination of many years navigating and complying with the United States immigration system. The final step in the naturalization process before being sworn in as a United States citizen, is an interview with a USCIS officer. This blog post describes what to expect at your naturalization interview.

What Documents to Bring to the Interview

Several weeks before your citizenship interview, you will receive an interview notice in the mail. This notice will tell you the date, time, and place of your interview. On the day of your interview, you should bring this interview notice with you. You should also bring your green card and your driver’s license. If you have applied to renew your green card (or applied for a replacement because you have lost your green card), you should bring your renewal receipt notice with you to the interview. Finally, you should bring your current passport, and any old passports that you still have in your possession.

statue-of-liberty-1219633-201x300On April 30, 2019, President Trump issued a memo outlining several significant new restrictions on individuals seeking asylum in the United States. The memo orders the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to come up with regulatory rules implementing the policies laid out in the memo by July 29, 2019. If these rules are enacted, it would make it much harder for asylum seekers to to be granted asylum in the United States.

Asylum is a form of legal protection, that allows individuals to remain in the United States indefinitely, who have faced past persecution, or will face persecution in the future, because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Generally, an asylum seeker must formally apply for asylum within one year of entering the United States. There are two ways that individuals may apply for asylum. First, if the individual has not yet been put into immigration court, they may file their asylum case with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. If the individual is in immigration court, they must file their application with the immigration court. Under current law, all asylum seekers are eligible for work authorization after their case has been pending for 180 days. For more information on the asylum process, please visit our website.

In his April 30 memo, President Trump outlines four changes to the asylum process. First, asylum seekers would be charged a fee to apply for asylum. Currently, it is free for individuals to apply for asylum. Second, the United States would charge asylum seekers a fee if they wished to apply for work authorization. Under current policy, it is free for asylum seekers to initially apply for work authorization. However, asylum seekers are charged a fee if they wish to renew their work authorization. Third, asylum seekers who illegally entered the United States would no longer be eligible for work authorization until their asylum cases are approved by either USCIS or an immigration court. Fourth, USCIS and immigration courts would be required to adjudicate all asylum claims within 180 days of being filed.

ysidro3_t800-300x150On November 9, 2018, President Trump issued a broad Presidential Proclamation drastically changing when individuals who enter the United States through Mexico may apply for asylum. The new restrictions are scheduled to last 90 days, at which point the President has the authority to renew the restriction

Under current U.S. law (and in compliance with numerous international treaties that the U.S. is a party of), all individuals who enter the United States (either legally through an official port of entry, or illegally), are entitled to apply for asylum within a year of entering the United States. Under President Trump’s proclamation, all asylum seekers who cross into the United States across the U.S./Mexico border must apply for asylum at an official point of entry. Individuals who cross the U.S./Mexico border illegally (without going through an official point of entry), will be barred from applying for asylum.

The new policy has some important limitations. First, it only applies to individuals who cross into the United States along the U.S./Mexico border. Individuals who legally enter the United States through another avenue (such as an airport), still have the right to apply for asylum within a year of entering the United States. These individuals can continue to file for asylum by filing an asylum application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or in immigration court (if they are served a Notice to Appear in immigration court.

united-states-flag-1423259-300x223On September 22, 2018, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), announced a proposed rule that would deny green cards to almost all immigrants who accept public benefits while in the United States. The public will have 60 days to provide comments on the proposed rule. After the sixty day comment period is over, the final rule will be published, and will go into effect 60 days later.

Starting with the Immigration Act of 1882, the United States has had a policy of denying green cards to potential immigrants who are likely to become “public charges”. Under current law (INA § 212(a)(4)), any immigrant who is “likely at any time to become a public charge”, is inadmissible to the United States. In determining whether an individual is likely to become a public charge, USCIS and the U.S. Department of State, are supposed to examine the potential immigrant’s: (1) age; (2) health; (3) family status; (4) assets, resources, and financial status; and (5) education and skills.

Under the current rule dating back to 1999, immigrants who rely on certain public benefits are automatically deemed to be public charges, and therefore, inadmissible to the United States. Individuals are deemed to be public charges if two things are met. First, individuals must accept cash public benefits such as welfare. Under the current rule, public benefits that are not cash benefits such as food stamps and Medicare, do not make an individual inadmissible to the the United States. Second, the cash benefits an immigrant receives must account for 50% or more of the immigrant’s total income for the individual to be considered a public charge.

On May 17, 2017, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, issued an order to prevent immigration judges from administratively closing immigration court cases in most circumstances. The Attorney General’s decision will have a major impact on many immigration courts, as well as many immigration cases.

Administrative closure is a procedure regularly used by immigration judges to temporarily halt immigration proceedings. When a case is administratively closed, an immigration judge removes the case from the active docket. Cases are usually administratively closed so that an immigrant can obtain an immigration benefit that is not available while an immigration case is active. Examples of this include adjusting status to a lawful permanent resident (Form I-485), or filing an I-601A waiver. Generally, either the immigrant or the Government may move to administratively close a case. Once a case is administratively closed, the case can be re-opened by a motion of either the Government or the immigrant.

On January 4, 2018, the Attorney General directed the Board of Immigration Appeals to refer Matter of Castro-Tum (27 I&N Dec. 271 (A.G.2018)) to the Attorney General, so that he could review and rule on the decision. In Mater of Catro-Trum, an immigration judge ordered a case administratively closed over the objection of DHS. In his decision, the Attorney General held that immigration judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals, do not “have the general authority to suspend indefinitely immigration proceedings by administrative closure”.  Id. at 271. Instead, the Attorney General found that a case may only be administratively closed where either: (1) a previous regulation; or (2) a court settlement allows. Id.

white-house-1225488-300x185Since the Trump Administration announced an end to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) on September 5, 2017, members of Congress have been negotiating a path forward to keep Dreamers from being deported. In recent weeks, as March 5 has gotten closer (the day that “DACA” is slated to end), members of both parties of Congress, have floated various plans to address the end of DACA. While many plans have been discussed, the White House has been silent on what needed to be in any DACA related legislation for President Trump to sign a bill into law. On January 25, 2018, the White House finally laid out what President Trump wants in any immigration bill addressing the end of DACA, in a one page policy memo. In return for protecting Dreamers, the Trump Administration wants widespread changes to U.S. immigration law, which would lead to a dramatic decrease in legal immigration.

A Path to Citizenship for Dreamers

The White House has stated that it is open to providing legal status to 1.8 million foreign nationals in the United States without legal status. This figure would include  Dreamers as well as close to a million other individuals (though the White House has not indicated who these individuals would be). The Trump Administration not only is willing to provide these individuals with legal status, but is also willing to provide them with a potential path to citizenship. Under the White House’ plan, these individuals would be able to become citizens after a period of 10 to 12 years, if certain eligibility requirements are met (which the administration has not yet laid out).

hunters-race-408744-300x200Until very recently, USCIS routinely waived in-person interviews for employment based adjustment of status cases. Instead, USCIS only conducted interviews in about 5-10% of all employment based adjustment of status cases. On August 28, 2017, USCIS announced that it would be dramatically expanding its use of interviews in employment based adjustment of status cases. Under the new guidelines, USCIS announced that beginning October 1, 2017, all employment based adjustment of status applicants would have to complete an in-person interview. The new guidelines apply to all applicants who have had (or have filed) a Form I-140 petition after March 6, 2017.

How will Form I-140 Petitions be Adjudicated?

The new interview guidelines do not change how USCIS adjudicates Form I-140 petitions. USCIS service centers will continue to adjudicate Form I-140s. Form I-485s filed concurrently with Form I-140s will continue to be filed with the service centers. Once the underlying Form I-140 is approved, an interview will be set up with a local USCIS field office.

Photo of HaitiOn November 20, 2017, Acting Secretary of  the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke, announced the termination of Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) for Haitians living in the United States. The decision to end TPS for Haitians will affect approximately 60,000 Haitians currently living in the United States.

TPS is a program overseen by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), which allows citizens of particular countries, to temporarily remain in the United States, because of poor conditions in their home countries. In general, DHS has the authority to designate countries for TPS based on three factors: (1) war or other armed conflicts; (2) Natural disasters; or (3) other extraordinary conditions. During the time period where a country is designated for TPS, its nationals already in the United States, who meet all the eligibility requirements,

2F180A5A-1DD8-B71B-0BFE39F9778DF6D3-large-300x200On October 31, 2017, eight people were killed in a terrorist attack in New York City. Because the suspect originally came to the United States through the Diversity Visa Immigrant Program, there has been a lot of discussions regarding the future of the Diversity Visa Immigrant Program. Most prominently, U.S. President Donald Trump, has called on Congress to repeal the program.

Since the attack, there has been a lot of false reporting on what exactly the Diversity Visa Immigrant Program is. This blog post is intended to provide a brief overview of what exactly the Diversity Visa Immigrant Program is.

The Diversity Visa Immigrant Program is designed to allow a certain number of individuals to immigrate each year from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Under Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, a certain number of visas (currently set at 50,000 visas a year) is set aside for the program. Under the program, the visas are distributed among six regions. In addition, no more than seven percent of the visas issued each year may go to nationals of the same country. Further, citizens of countries with high rates of immigration to the United States, are not eligible  to apply for a visa through the program. (Please see the attached link for a list of countries where citizens are not currently eligible.)

474805022-300x129Earlier today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, announced that the Trump administration will begin phasing out Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (“DACA”). The decision to begin to unwind DACA will affect approximately 800,000 individuals (also known as “Dreamers”), who have benefited from DACA.

The Obama administration announced the implementation of DACA on June 15, 2012. Under DACA, children who came to the United States without valid immigration status were given the ability to stay in the United States without being deported. These individuals were also eligible to apply for work authorization, allowing them to work in the United States.  In order to be eligible for DACA, individuals had to have:

  • Come to the United States before their 16th birthday;