Articles Posted in Citizenship

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On Tuesday, August 25th, a D.C. federal court ruled the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) unlawfully imposed service duration requirements for foreign military recruits seeking to obtain citizenship. According to U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle, the DOD does not have the authority to set naturalization eligibility standards.

Judge Huvelle’s ruling is based on the Immigration and Nationality Act, which governs immigration proceedings. According to Judge Huvelle, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) holds sole authority under the act to determine whether foreign members of the military have served honorably when adjudicating citizenship applications.

The immigration statute does not explicitly define what “served honorably” in the military means. However, the DOD does not have the authority to define the term for USCIS according to the court’s opinion. Judge Huvelle explains that the statute contemplates a role for the Department of Defense, which is limited to certifying a foreign military member’s honorable service. However, the department cannot rewrite the statute to define standards for N-426 certificates.

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On December 13, 2019 USCIS expanded its policy guidance regarding unlawful acts that may prevent an applicant from meeting the good moral character (GMC) requirement for naturalization.

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), an applicant for naturalization must establish GMC. The commission of, or conviction or imprisonment for, an unlawful act, during the statutory period for naturalization, may render an applicant ineligible for naturalization should the act be found to adversely reflect on moral character. The statutory period is generally five years for permanent residents of the United States, three years for applicants married to a U.S. citizen, and one year for certain applicants applying on the basis of qualifying U.S. military service.

Previously, the USCIS Policy Manual did not include extensive information about unlawful acts. The update to the Policy Manual provides additional examples of unlawful acts, more detailed instructions for USCIS adjudicators, and further identifies unlawful acts that may affect GMC based on judicial precedent.

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual to clarify that violation of federal controlled substance law, including for marijuana, remains a conditional bar to establishing good moral character (GMC) for naturalization even where that conduct would not be an offense under state law.


Since 1996, several states have enacted laws to decriminalize the cultivation, possession, distribution, and use of both medical and non-medical (recreational) marijuana in their jurisdictions. However, Federal law continues to classify marijuana as a “Schedule I” controlled substance whose manufacture, cultivation, possession, or distribution may lead to criminal[1] and immigration consequences.  This guidance, contained in Volume 12 of the Policy Manual, is controlling and supersedes any prior guidance on the topic.

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On September 21, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security proposed new regulations related to public charge grounds of inadmissibility. The proposed regulations expand U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grounds to deny permanent resident applications based upon a green card applicant’s use of public benefit programs such as food assistance and section 8 housing vouchers.  The regulations will also apply to individuals seeking nonimmigrant visas and change of status applicants.

Background on Public Charge:

When reviewing Permanent Residence applications, USCIS determines whether applicants are likely to become a public charge or primarily dependent on the government for subsistence. Applicants found likely to become a public charge may be denied lawful permanent resident status.

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On June 1, 2014, USCIS limited the validity period for all Forms I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, to one year from the date of submission to USCIS. Applicants must also submit Form I-693 to USCIS within one year of the immigration medical examination. USCIS also will provide additional ways to submit Form I-693. As outlined in policy alert PA-2014-005, this updated policy applies to any Form I-693 supporting a benefit application that USCIS adjudicates on or after June 1, 2014.

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House Republicans released a draft of principles on immigration reform as House GOP members gathered for their retreat to discuss their position on a range of issues.

Here is a synopsis of the draft on Immigration Reform:

Reforms to Employment-Based Immigration

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In October 2013, CA Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 60, allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for CA driver’s licenses. When the law takes effect January 1, 2015, California will be the ninth state (along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) to allow undocumented immigrants to drive legally.

Under the law, the CA Department of Motor Vehicles is required to issue driver’s licenses to an undocumented immigrant who can prove his or her identity, has established CA residency, and passes the requisite driving exams. Officials have estimated that 1.4 million individuals will apply for licenses under the law.

Details about how the new licenses will look and the exact process for obtaining them are still unknown. However, Federal law does require the card to have some distinguishable letters. For example, the front of the licenses may read “DP” for “driving privilege” before the license number rather than the “DL” used on traditional licenses. Additionally, language may be added to the back of the license stating limitations, such as that the holder may not use it for federal identification purposes.

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On January 3, 2014 the California Supreme Court granted a California license to practice law to an undocumented immigrant. Sergio Garcia, 36, is from Mexico and has lived in the United States for years. He first entered California when he was less than two years old, returned to Mexico at 9, and illegally re-entered the United States at the age of 17. He attended Cal Northern School of Law and passed the California Bar exam. However, he has not yet been granted a visa due to the long backlog of applicants (his father has resident status and filed for a visa on his son’s behalf in 1994).

Garcia challenged a 1996 law barring undocumented immigrants from receiving professional licenses from government agencies or with the use of public funds. The federal government argued the California courts were funded by public money, thus precluding him from being granted a license. Meanwhile, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a series of immigrant rights bills in October, including one allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain law licenses. This law took effect January 1, 2014. On January 3, the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of Garcia, determining he “possesses the requisite good moral character to qualify for a law license.”

Two similar cases are pending in Florida and New York. The Obama administration has made it clear that it will oppose Bar entry to undocumented immigrants unless each state’s Legislature passes its own laws allowing it. This position is surprising considering the Obama administration has shielded from deportation those who were brought to the United States illegally as children, graduated from high school, and have a clean criminal record.

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At a time when the prospects of the House taking up immigration reform legislation any time soon do not look promising, a new poll finds a solid majority of Americans favor a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

“Today, 63% of Americans favor providing a way for immigrants who are currently living in the United States illegally to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements, while 14% support allowing them to become permanent legal residents but not citizens,” states a new report from the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute. The report found the number of Americans supporting a pathway to citizenship is even higher when the question mentions certain requirements immigrants must meet in order to qualify.

The results show Americans have remained consistent on the issue for the past year; the institute found the same number (63 percent) in March and August.

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The USCIS has published a form entitled “Important Information for New Citizens” that provides a list of some of the top rights and responsibilities assumed by all U.S. citizens, including the right to freely express oneself and the responsibility to uphold the Constitution. The publication also provides a summary of the actions to be taken upon becoming a U.S. citizen. The next steps include the following:

• Applying for a U.S passport

• Updating your Social Security record

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