Controlled Substances and Naturalization

Naturalization is the process by which individuals not born on United States soil become American citizens. The process requires a long application process in order to satisfy certain general requirements. One of these requirements is that the applicant prove, through his or her application, that he or she is a person of good moral character. The good moral character requirement is somewhat vague and ambiguous and is consequently dependent on the interpretation of the USCIS officer who reviews an application. Nonetheless, some activities will universally impact the determination of an applicant’s good moral character in a negative way. One of those activities is the violation of federal controlled substances laws. Recently, USCIS issued new policy guidance explaining how the infringement of federal controlled substance laws affects naturalization determinations. Generally, violations of federal controlled substance laws, including marijuana-related offenses, will prevent a naturalization applicant from establishing that he or she has good moral character. This is so even if the controlled substance was possessed, used or distributed in a state where that substance is legal, such as marijuana in the District of Columbia.  Though some states have elected to decriminalize marijuana in one form or another, marijuana remains an illegal, controlled […]
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Naturalization Concerns: Continuous Residence, Tax Returns and State Benefits

Naturalization can be a long and anxiety-producing process. In putting together your application and waiting for approval from the government, you may have many questions and concerns. For instance, what if you have been moving around a lot and not maintaining a continuous residence? Or, what if you have failed to file your tax returns? Or, what if you have been receiving state healthcare benefits? Ultimately, these three issues are worth thinking about, and we explain why below. The residence requirements for naturalization do not require that an applicant live in the same residence during the five-year period of residency required for naturalization. Consequently, moving around, from house to house, should not affect a naturalization application. That being said, an applicant should begin to operate as much as he or she can out of a single address. He or she should file tax returns out of that address, stay there as much as possible and have identification changed to list that address. Illustrating that the applicant has a continuing, permanent address will make him or her appear more stable and established as an applicant, which can only help an application with the government. It is possible for an applicant to […]
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Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship

There are two requirements for a Canadian looking to renounce his or her U.S. citizenship. Such an individual must voluntarily, and with the intent to relinquish U.S. citizenship, execute the following steps: (1) appear in person before a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer, in Canada, at a U.S. Embassy or consulate; and (2) sign an oath of renunciation. This process requires the renouncing party to abandon all the rights and privileges associated with being a United States citizen. It is a very serious process requiring a very earnest decision that cannot be taken back. If approved by the consulate, renunciation is irrevocable. For those individuals who are inclined toward renunciation of U.S. citizenship, the process is fairly straightforward. There are four basic steps to follow. The first step is to complete and return forms DS-4079, DS-4080 and DS-4081 to the Department of State.  Secondly, the individual looking to renounce citizenship must contact a U.S. Consulate in Canada and request an appointment for an interview. The renouncing individual will need to bring copies of completed forms and scanned copies of documents to the appointment at the consulate, including a U.S. passport, evidence of U.S. citizenship, a valid Canadian passport, evidence of […]
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Featured Client of the Month: Peter Hapak

Peter Hapak is a long-standing client of Berardi Immigration Law. Peter’s relationship with Berardi Immigration Law began when he decided it was time to settle permanently in the United States due to many of the opportunities available here. He decided to apply to become a Legal Permanent Resident of the United States after spending years working in the U.S. on a work visa as a photographer. With the assistance of our firm, Peter’s petition for a green card was approved. This allowed Peter to further pursue his career in the United States with greater flexibility and ease.  After many years as a green card holder, Peter decided it was time for the next step: citizenship. After our team’s professional and successful handling of his green card application, Peter decided once again to work with the team at Berardi Immigration Law. We were able to successfully handle Peter’s nuanced case and navigate the various questions he had relating to the process, his application, and any concerns along the way.  Applying for any type of immigration benefit can feel stressful and leave applicants on edge. Peter’s favorite part about working with Berardi Immigration Law was the constant updates he received from our […]
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Civics Test Update: Don’t Let the Civics Test Stop You From Becoming a U.S. Citizen

If you are a foreign national seeking to become an American citizen, the naturalization process can be a mixture of stress and excitement. One of the last steps to complete before naturalizing to a citizen is the civics test. Passing the civics test is required to become a citizen. A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer will ask a set of up to 10 civics questions. You must answer at least six of these questions correctly. While this may sound difficult, the good news is that USCIS has published all 100 possible civics questions online for review.  One difficulty that you may face when preparing for this exam is the fact that answers to some of the questions will periodically change based on elections. Questions that vary include identifying U.S. Senators, U.S. Representatives, the President, the Vice President, the number of justices on the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice, state Governors, the political party of the President, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. USCIS publishes up-to-date material regarding these civics test updates that foreign nationals should use to prepare for the civics exam.  As a result of the 2018 election, the answers to some questions have or […]
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USCIS Updates Policy Regarding ‘Living in Marital Union’ for Naturalization Applications

On Friday, October 12, 2018, USCIS issued an alert that it will be updating policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual to clarify the married and living in marital union requirements under section 319(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).  In general, all naturalization applicants filing on the basis of marriage to a U.S. citizen must continue to be married from the time of filing the application until the applicant takes the Oath of Allegiance. In addition, statutory provisions require the applicant spouse to have been married and “living in marital union” (living together) with his or her U.S. citizen spouse for at least three years immediately before he or she filed the naturalization application.  While the law requires the applicant spouse and the U.S. citizen spouse remain married until the time the applicant naturalizes, the new policy memo states that the living in marital union requirement is only required until the time of filing the application. The new guidance supersedes any prior guidance.  The highlights of the policy are as follows: The policy clarifies that the applicant spouse and his or her U.S. citizen spouse must have been living in marital union for at least three years immediately […]
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USCIS Modernizes Administration of Naturalization Test Through Use of Digital Tablets

USCIS announced that as a part of its ongoing modernization efforts, English reading and writing tests during naturalization interviews will now be administered on digital tablets. This change was unveiled on October 1st. While tablet usage is not completely new to USCIS processes, this step greatly expanded the use of this technology. Previously, digital tablets were used mainly to sign or verify certain parts of applications. In certain circumstances, paper tests are still available for use, determined on a case-by-case basis.  Applicants should note that eligibility requirements and subject matter of the naturalization test has not changed. The only change is regarding how the test is administered. Immigration Services Officers (ISO) will instruct applicants on how to use the digital tablets and styluses before administering the tests. ISOs will give the following instructions prior to the commencement of a test: For the reading test, a sentence will appear on the tablet and the ISO will ask the applicant to read it. For the writing test, several lines will appear on a tablet, replicating the appearance of a piece of blank paper. The ISO will read the sentence aloud and ask the applicant to write it on the tablet. Despite this […]
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