Articles Posted in Citizenship & Nationality

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Time to apply? Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Syrians in the US! The USCIS has just announced that Syria will now be a designated country for temporary protected status. Due to the political instability in Syria, Syrians who are now in the United States will soon be able to apply for TPS which will allow them to be granted employment authorization and for extensions of the TPS designation is extended for Syria. The initial TPS designation will be for 18 months. USCIS has instructed applicants NOT to submit applications yet but applications may be prepared now in anticipation of more guidance next week. Remember that TPS is not automatic and applicants will have to show their eligibility, and background checks will still be conducted of all applicants. Those who will be found ineligible are those who have multiple convictions or other factors but certain noncriminal and non-security grounds can be waived. If you are interested in applying for TPS, call Fong & Aquino for a consultation. —ecf

Eliz Taylor.jpegWith today’s passing in Los Angeles of Hollywood film star, Elizabeth Taylor, the sometimes-sentimental immigration lawyers at Fong & Aquino want to examine the question of citizenship. Miss Taylor was born in London, England in 1932 to US citizen parents. So: was she a citizen of the US? or the UK? or was she a dual citizen?

Under the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution, the general rule is that “all persons born … in the United States [and in certain territories] are citizens of the United States.” This rule has been a part of American law since 1868. This aspect of the fundamental rule of the Constitution is today under attack by radicals who do not want the children of undocumented aliens to become citizens. However, Elizabeth Taylor was born in England, so we do not yet have our answer.

Miss Taylor was born in 1932, the daughter of two US citizen parents who were living in England. As a general proposition, a child born in wedlock, outside the USA, to two US citizen parents, automatically acquires US citizenship at birth. Immigration and Nationality Act §301.

Although there is much in the storied history of Dame Elizabeth and her renunciations and reacquisitions of US citizenship which would not apply to most people, this general rule still applies. Because the UK uses essentially the same rule about place-of-birth as we do, Dame Elizabeth had both US and UK citizenship.

The rules are different, however, if say:
– only one parent was a US citizen at the time of the child’s birth, or
– the child is born out of wedlock to a US citizen mother and foreign father, or
– the child is born out of wedlock to a US citizen father and foreign mother, or
– the child is born at a time when other technicalities of the rules had to be met first.

The rules of acquisition of citizenship are quite complex. For example, a child born out of wedlock in, say, Japan, on 1 January 1953, to a US citizen father and a foreign mother acquires US citizenship if: (a) the father was physically present in the US (or a US possession) for at least ten years prior to the child’s birth, five of which were after the age of fourteen. Honorable US military service, employment with the US government or intergovernmental international organization, or as dependent unmarried son or daughter and member of a household of a parent in such service or employment, would be included, and (b) the child’s paternity can be established before the child’s 21st birth day, by the legitimation law of the father’s or the child’s residence or domicile.

Now: take another child, born in the same hospital, on the same day, but let’s suppose that this other child was born out of wedlock to a US citizen mother and a foreign father. This child automatically acquires US citizenship if: the Mother is physically present in the USA (or a US possession) continuously twelve months at any point prior to the child’s birth.

To make matters worse, the US Congress has periodically changed the rules that are in effect. Many of the rules about aqcuisition that were in effect for a child born in, say, 1940 are NOT the rules that were in effect in 1950. And other changes took effect in 1952, and again in 1986.

There are many people who are, or who can claim, US citizenship and may not even be aware of it. For those seeking more information about transmission and acquisition of US citizenship, the immigration and nationality attorneys at Fong & Aquino will be glad to answer your questions.

And to Miss Elizabeth Taylor: thanks for your contribution to film. You will be missed. –jcf

Japan: an 8.9 earthquake has rocked Japan today, marking the most powerful earthquake in Japan’s recorded history. This quake is the fifth most powerful in the world since 1900, says the U.S. Geologic Survey. Tokyo reports massive aftershocks. Narita Airport, Sendai Airport remain closed, although Haneda Airport has reopened already. The immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino who practice in business immigration, family-based immigration, removal defense and appellate work extend sympathy and concern to all our Japanese clients and those with family and friends abroad who are affected by this devastating disaster.

Over the years, the immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino have worked proudly in the Japanese immigrant community, having represented multinational executives and managers for some of Japan’s largest corporations, professors providing invaluable research and teaching in top U.S. universities, professional employees working in companies based in Little Tokyo and in Japanese American non-profit organizations, and of course, countless individuals and families of Japanese descent.

With early reports of the death toll, the true damage the earthquake has caused remains unknown at this moment. We do know that this earthquake may cause tsunamis powerful enough to engulf or wash over small islands in the Pacific causing more damage and posing continued danger to those in the Pacific. For clients wishing to return to Japan in the weeks to come, please call the attorneys at Fong & Aquino for guidance on how to check the US Department of State for travel warnings and other restrictions. —ecf

flag+liberty.jpegThe USA naturalizes about 680,000 new citizens per year, at ceremonies across the USA and around the world. For many immigration law clients of Fong & Aquino, US citizenship is their goal. For many, US citizenship is the culmination of a life-long dream.

In 2009, just under 75% of all newly-naturalized persons resided in ten states (in descending order): California, New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Virginia, Massachusetts, Washington, and Maryland. The leading metropolitan areas were:
* New York, Northern New Jersey, Long Island: 15%
* Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Ana: 11%
* Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach: 7.3%

 

The top countries of origin for the newly-naturalized citizens were (in order):
* México
* India
* Philippines
* China
* Vietnam

For 2010, the USA naturalized 675,967 new citizens. –jcf

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Just last night, Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) filed a new version of the DREAM Act in an effort to get the 60 required votes to pass the Senate where a vote may occur as early as Monday.

This new version of the DREAM Act includes the following provisions:

  • Excludes from eligibility those with certain criminal convictions, such as for offenses punishable by a maximum term of more than 1 year (felony) or 3 misdemeanors
  • Requires all applicants to provide their biometric data to DHS, to submit to background checks and medical examination, and to register for military selective service
  • Requires applicants to pay all taxes
  • Sets the cut-off age to those who are less than 30 years-old on the date of enactment
  • Provides a “safe harbor” from removal only to those applicants who present a prima facie case of eligibility
  • Extends the good moral character requirement back to the date the alien entered the United States rather than the date of enactment of DREAM
  • Expands the applicable grounds of inadmissibility to include the health-related, public charge, smuggling, draft dodging, and unlawful voting grounds
  • Expands the applicable grounds of deportability to include public charge, unlawful voting, and marriage fraud grounds
  • Excludes those who participated in persecution
  • Clarifies that no one can apply before 1 year after enactment
  • Requires applicants to demonstrate eligibility by a preponderance of the evidence
  • Eliminates repeal of the in-state tuition ban
  • Defines institution of higher education to include only U.S.-based programs
  • Requires those who subsequently apply for adjustment to meet the English language and civics requirements typically required for naturalization
  • Expands the circumstances where disclosure of confidential information about DREAM applicants is required for homeland security or national security purposes
  • Creates conditional nonimmigrant status for 10 years, followed by 3 years of LPR status prior to application for naturalization

The attorneys at Fong & Aquino urge you to to show support for the DREAM Act by calling your member of Congress today. —ecf

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Major news for relatives of legal permanent residents who have been patiently waiting for their petitions to become current. The Department of State reported in the September 2010 visa bulletin that applicants who are spouses or children of greencard holders (filed as late as January 1, 2010) can now be processed for greencards. This is true for applicants from all countries except Mexico and the Dominican Republic, whose priority dates aren’t far behind either: January 1, 2009.

What is a a “priority date,” you ask? A “priority date” is a legal term of art that can be exceedingly hard to explain (especially in a blog), but I’ll try. Let’s start with basics. There is a quota on how many immigrants can come legally to the country per year. Imagine the quota like it is a long line of people lining up for a greencard. The people at the front of the line are those whose relative petitions were filed earliest, ie those with the earliest “priority date.” A priority date is established on the date that your petition is received by the USCIS. Of course, the earlier your priority date, the sooner you can later ask for greencard status. Generally, priority dates always move forward, but these dates can also go backwards, and if applications aren’t received by USCIS before this “retrogression” happens, applicants are back to the waiting game.

In the past month, the (F2A) priority date in the the family-based second preference category (ie for spouses and children of greencard holders) advanced from March 2009 to January 2010! This has made an incredible difference to those who have been waiting to be reunited with their spouses and children, rather than expecting a year or more of wait, this category of new immigrants can now start processing their greencard applications. If you would like assistance in making sure that your application can be made as quickly as possible, contact the attorneys at Fong & Aquino before those dates start floating backwards again. –ecf

Elin Nordegren broke her silence today and gave her side of the story today telling the world how shocked and embarrassed she was by Tiger’s infidelity. She also defended the marriage, saying that the marriage was real, not orchestrated for the cameras and sponsors.

In our practice at Fong & Aquino, we have seen many marriages, like Elin and Tiger’s which were entered into for love, completely genuine marriages and yet within years (sometimes a lot sooner), the marriage goes awry. For those immigrants whose conditional greencards were based on marriages to US citizens, these men and women find themselves in a situation like Elin, telling their stories to the USCIS, actually defending themselves from deportation, that even though their marriage didn’t survive the test of time, it was not a marriage of convenience for immigration purposes.

If a marriage fails anytime before someone naturalizes, a person who immigrated through marriage will later be summoned by the USCIS for an intense and very uncomfortable interview in order to maintain their permanent residency – even at the time of applying for citizenship. Such interviews can even occur years after the marriage and divorce, so recounting the facts of a relationship and providing the documentation to verify the facts of the courtship, the wedding or civil ceremony, then detailing the timeline of marriage, separation and divorce is more than just burdensome, it’s sometimes impossible. attorneys at Fong & Aquino have defended clients in such interviews, which can take several hours! Not to mention the legal briefing and the administrative review that can take months to years in the most complicated cases.

We have counseled couples and immigrants who face this difficult situation, sometimes their marriages have ended because they had to escape physical or emotional abuse, other times, the marriage failed because of infidelity or even financial distress. If you need help telling your side of the story to USCIS, call the attorneys at Fong & Aquino for a consultation. Maybe we can help. –ecf

The attorneys at Fong & Aquino have helped hundreds of legal immigrants seek citizenship over the years. Whether we have worked with you at a naturalization drive, through labor unions, or in our own offices, citizenship is the ultimate goal of most immigrants. Today, the government announced that cash assistance to elderly and disabled immigrants who were granted entry based on humanitarian reasons may lose benefits unless they have naturalization applications pending. Many of those affected are people who were granted asylum or refugee status.

Most immigrants are eligible for naturalization after a 3 or 5 year period after their initial residency period begins. Many immigrants delay applying for naturalization because they fear the English or history exams. While the naturalization exam can seem daunting, the government allows for applicants to re-take their exams if they fail the first time. Some immigrants who are long term residents may even take the examination in their native language, but many immigrants simply put off the naturalization process because it has become intimidating or costly. However, in most cases, an immigrant who truly desires to naturalize and is eligible to do so can make an application and be successful with the right type of support and preparation. Today’s announcement by the administration poses yet another reason for immigrants who have been putting off their citizenship application to call and find a qualified immigration attorney to help them with the process. Fong & Aquino encourages those eligible for naturalization make an application and realize their dreams of finally becoming US citizens. —ecf

Although the controversial Arizona immigration law will still go into effect tomorrow, portions of the law have been blocked by the Federal District Court Judge Susan Bolton. Judge Bolton has issued a preliminary injunction to “put on hold” the proposed part of the law that would require Arizona law enforcement to determine whether a person is here in the country legally or not. Mistaken arrests of US citizens have already been made since the law’s proposal.

The Court ruled in favor of the preliminary injunction primarily on federal preemption grounds, as our nation’s immigration law is a matter of federal jurisdiction. This means that immigration law is governed and enforced by the federal government, not by individual states in the union. It is expected that Arizona will appeal, allowing the Ninth Circuit to review the issue as the nation’s debate over immigration continues to roar. –ecf

butterfly cocoon.jpgOn the occasion of Pride Month, the US Department of State has announced a change in policy regarding the way that sex and gender reassignment are noted on US passports. The immigration Fong & Aquino, long-time advocates for gay and lesbian immigrants, receive questions regularly about how gender is reflected on official documents.

Effective today, a US citizen applying for a US passport may present a letter from a physician that the applicant has had “appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition,” and the new passport will be issued reflecting that new gender. A short-term passport can also be issued be those who are still transitioning.

If you have any questions about obtaining a US passport, please contact us. –jcf