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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New Policy Proposal by Trump Administration Targets Legal Immigrants

A new policy proposal is expected to be released shortly by the Trump Administration that would make the process of obtaining citizenship or green cards more difficult for applicants that have used public benefits like the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Several news sites are reporting that the new policy is designed to limit naturalization for immigrants living legally in the U.S. Significantly, the proposed policy shift does not require congressional approval, because it would most likely be implemented through a redefinition of “public charge.” Under current immigration policy, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) considers the likelihood that someone might become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence when determining admissibility. An individual that is likely to become dependent on the government is identified as a public charge, and is inadmissible for entry, or unable to adjust their status to become a lawful permanent resident.  Where a public charge historically identified individuals that would primarily depend on the government for public cash assistance and income maintenance or long-term institutionalization, the expected revisions would expand to include individuals and families that have used Obamacare, CHIP or SNAP. Prior […]
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Delving Into Derivative Citizenship

Derivative citizenship is the term used to describe citizenship that is obtained by someone who is under the age of 18 whose parents naturalize. Obtaining citizenship in this manner is automatic. The requirements can vary depending on which year naturalization occurred.  Derivative citizenship is distinguishable from acquisition of citizenship. Acquisition of citizenship occurs when the child of a U.S. citizen born abroad gains citizenship, whereas derivative citizenship occurs when a parent of a foreign national minor naturalizes.  The regulations regarding derivative citizenship have altered significantly over the years. For example, the requirements in 1934 were significantly different from those in 1978. Determination of whether someone is eligible for derivative citizenship is based on the date of the last act. Currently, the Child Citizenship Act (CCA), which is included in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), governs law on the derivation of citizenship.  The CCA went into effect on February 27, 2001. This law is in effect for children born or adopted today or at any time since February 28, 1983. The current law allows foreign-born, biological and adopted children of U.S. citizens to obtain U.S. citizenship when they enter the U.S. as lawful permanent residents. In order for a child […]
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Citizenship for Children Born Abroad to U.S. Citizens

The qualifications determining whether a person born abroad can acquire U.S. citizenship vary based on each situation. Derivative citizenship is governed by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This can be broken up into four main categories: birth abroad in wedlock to two U.S. citizen parents; birth abroad in wedlock to a U.S. citizen and an alien; birth abroad out-of-wedlock to a U.S. citizen father; and, birth abroad out-of-wedlock to a U.S. citizen mother.  Birth Abroad in Wedlock to Two U.S. Citizen Parents A person who is born to a U.S. citizen mother and U.S. citizen father acquires U.S. citizenship at birth, so long as one of the parents has had a residence in the U.S. prior to the person’s birth. Birth Abroad in Wedlock to a U.S. Citizen and an Alien  A slightly different criteria applies when a person is born abroad to a U.S. citizen and foreign national who are married. The U.S. citizen parent must have physically resided in the U.S. for a certain period of time. The amount of time required is governed by statute.  Birth Abroad Out-of-Wedlock to a U.S. Citizen Father Under the new section of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the following criteria […]
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Naturalization as a Lawful Permanent Resident

While there are several options available to obtain citizenship through naturalization, the most common path to obtain citizenship is for a green card holder who has resided in the U.S. for five years.  While there are certain exceptions, USCIS states the general eligibility requirements for this method of naturalization are as follows. A permanent resident must: • Be green card holder of at least five years; • Be at least 18 years old at the time of filing; • Have lived within the state for at least three months prior to the application; • Have continuous residence in the U.S. as a green card holder for the proceeding five years; Continuous residence means that the applicant maintained residence within the U.S. for five years. USCIS highlights the fact that extended absences out of the U.S. may disrupt the applicant’s continuous residence. Absences that are longer than six months but less than one year may disrupt continuous residence, unless the applicant can prove otherwise. Absences that are longer than one year may also disrupt continuous residence. Exceptions may be granted for this requirement for certain types of overseas employment. • Be physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months […]
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