MLFA Funded CLCMA Changing the Game | Citizenship Through Naturalization

A video series featuring CLCMA attorneys discussing topics of interest to the American Muslim community during COVID-19 and beyond.

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Hi my name is Kate Brady and I’m the immigration department head at the constitutional law Center for Muslims in America this webinar today is going to be on naturalization to become a United States citizen I’m going to walk you through the nuts and bolts of this and then we’re also going to talk about some of the exceptions and some frequently asked questions and how that intersects with the work that CLCMA does in our impact litigation and then I’m going to give you a little bit of an insight into what we do as an organization so generally the qualifications for citizenship are listed in the Immigration and Nationality Act sometimes we abbreviate that as I na and to start with applicants must be over the age of 18 to apply for naturalization there’s some other ways that minor children who are not born in the US would be citizens but we’ll get into that in our other webinar on derivative citizenship so I hope you take a look at that as well the first thing is that you have to be a green card holder or a lawful permanent for the five years immediately of this filing that means that you could have been a resident for twenty years but we’re really going to look at the last five years and that’s the statutory period of time that really makes a difference during that period of time you have to have had continuous residence that does not mean that you never stepped foot outside of the United States but you break your continuous residence when you’ve been out of the United States for one year and at that 365th day you fall under a different section of the law if you are more than 180 days there may be a presumption that you’re abandoning your residence and there’s some ways that you can make evidence that that has not happened we’ll talk about that a little when we talk about the evidence you should submit you should also live within the jurisdiction of the USCIS office for at least 90 days so if you’re moving you may need to wait an additional 90 days to file because you need to have that proof when you go to your interview that you within their jurisdiction so other than continuous business there is a physical presence requirement so these are a little bit and the physical presence requirement means that you need to have been in the United States 50% of the time within the preceding statutory time for here we’re talking about that means you need to have been in the u.s. at least 913 the five years in your application and you pain that fifty percent of time between now both ceremonies so you cannot be at two hundred and or nine hundred and fourteen days and then step out for a long period of time which might slip you back under the fifty percent again the time period that’s most important is the time period immediately preceding your application you also need to be able to demonstrate that you can read write and speak English and the to have a knowledge and understanding of the US history and civics there are some exceptions and we will talk about that the reading and writing our tests during the interview and the speaking English is really if you could have that come with the officer and again there’s another test on that civics during your interview you must be a person of good moral character this is an area that has a lot of discretion with USCIS and there’s not really a statutory definition so it’s one of those things that’s hard to explain but one of the reasons why you would be found not to have good moral character for sure is if you had any criminal conviction within that statutory period I always recommend that somebody wait until they have cleared the the statutory period past their conviction before they make that application the most common one that I run into is being married to a United States citizen and that actually means that you only have to show a three-year statutory period and for both of these applications you know the five year or the three year you actually get a bonus of 90 days prior to that time where you can make your application so at four years of nine months or two years and nine months military members also have an expedited naturalization if they are lawful permanent resident and they’ve had one year of honorable service in the Armed Forces refugees also have a bit of a bonus they have a look-back period so admitted as a refugee and then having been a lawful permanent resident that needs to be a total of five years some exceptions for residing abroad they’re a little bit varied and we’re not going all of those and so I’m gonna leave that for another time if you have a situation where you’ve been residing abroad and want to discuss it please do give us a in query and we can talk about that so that civics and english-language issue sometimes has a waiver under these exceptions if you’ve been a lawful court when t years and you’ve reached at least the age of 50 or if you’ve been a resident for 15 years and been 50 and have reached the agent you may have an Ender in your native language from English to your native language to take the civics test and you will not have to demonstrate English language if you are age 65 and have been a local permanent resident for 20 years there is special consideration for the civics and most often what I’ve seen is both the English language and the civics have been waived so if you have that and you are able to bring an interpreter if they need to be fluent in both the native language and it will be sworn by the officer who’s giving the citizenship applicative applicants interview and also it does not have to be a paper to find interpreter we do prefer that it not be maybe a minor child but if it is somebody who is 16 17 18 that could also be okay the officer whatever uncomfortable with your interpreter so in addition to those exceptions there are also some accommodations and disability exceptions these are not about having the right amount of years as a lawful permanent resident or how old you are but this is physical or medical or mental health and for this you will have to look at whether or not the person is either an exception or an accommodation to be an exception you need to have a doctor or a psychologist give a medical certification on that form 6:48 but for an accommodation this could be something along the lines of a person is visually impaired or hearing impaired and so they are still going to have tests but they will have it modified maybe they will have a sign language interpreter or somebody who is visually impaired might begin to read in English or if they have to be able to write they might be able to have an enhancement to that this is a case-by-case situation the exact same medical condition but the operative medical examiner may not be able to give you that same exception so once you’ve gotten to the point where you’re ready to apply you make that application it’s a very long one it’s very calm flex and it’s about 21 pages at this point one of the cool things I think that you can do within your naturalization is you can make a request to change your name it’s part of the application and then what happens is at the end if you’re approved you will be sworn in and have your name changed at the exact same time in front of a judge you will get your certificate in your new name and you’ll also have a court order saying that your name has been changed the application can be filled out online or by mail and the preference is that it be done online the fees can be done that way and also you can upload your supporting documents which are going to be a copy of both sides of your green card your passport since becoming a trustee and these are the things that would show that you have maintained your physical presence in the u.s. things about your recent taxes your continuous residence those are important if you think you’ve been out of the United States too long and as I said people are sometimes going to have criminal records if you have that that is also a supporting documentation that needs to happen you need to see the arrest report and the court documents that is something you need to go and get those from the organization’s from the police and from the court those reside just as in every other application there’s usually a biometrics appointment so you get your receipt notice and then soon after that there will be a biometrics appointment where you’re asked to come for a specific day and time they will take your photo and they will take your fingerprints that photo is the women is most likely to end up on your naturalization certificate I always tell people like what you look that day because you’re probably not going to get another chance and then you will be interviewed in person this website down here is a pretty good guide from USCIS if you have other general questions that might walk you through what to expect but it is a complex and long application and that’s why it is important if you think you have a situation that is different that you do try to get a consultation with an attorney because all of those questions that must be answered and some of them are clear and some of them may not be so clear things like listing all your trips outside of the United States for more than 24 hours during whichever statutory period applies to you that sometimes trips people up because they are not sure if they need to do things like if they went on a cruise or if they went to you know Hawaii some people don’t understand we don’t consider that outside of the US even though you went on a very long plane ride so that could trip some people up you need to be very accurate about your marital history including if you have issues with primary nulled or it wasn’t very long those still need to be listed and you need to be as accurate as possible about divorce information which should be something you can find in your court documents or whatever legal document terminated your marriage you should list all your children your adult children and your stepchildren that can be very important later if you want a petition for them because if you did not list them they might wonder why and if you had that relationship prior to naturalization they should have been on that form this is a big one for our organization group affiliations and this is big because there are a lot of organizations that are either charitable or military or that you belong to while you were a student that are under scrutiny from the US government and this question is about ever in the US and abroad and so this question trips up a lot of people if USCIS is a reason to make trouble or deny your application they will ask this question in a way that makes it so that if you did not fully disclose dates and organizations they might question whether you have had fraud or misrepresentation or even more serious if you’re a national security threat the questions on page 14 about criminal issues are also really interesting to me and one that a lot of people don’t understand some of these questions don’t sound like ones that would really be asked the first one that I have here have you ever committed a crime for which you are not arrested this is a question that if you answer no a later I’ve committed a crime and the time period where that crime started was before you were naturalized there may be a reason for the government to start civility naturalization proceedings against you there’s several applications out there that are in the news where crimes were discovered later they actually pled guilty or were found guilty and they are actually being pursued for denaturalization and the second one that I have on here question 23 have you ever been arrested cited or this trips up a lot of people because they think that if they were expunged or deferred adjudication they don’t have to list it but if you look at the application it actually lists all of that even if you’ve been told by a judge by an attorney by somebody that it doesn’t matter these should all be listed and another one is that traffic citations are considered citations we often call them tickets but they should be listed we do actually have a case within our CL CMA caseload that is about one that the applicant did not list citations because they did not think that it meant the same thing as being arrested or detained everybody will be interviewed at a USCIS field office an officer when you come into that interview will swear you in to tell the truth and will also ask to look at your identity documents so one of the things you must bring is your green card and your passport I don’t see an officer’s start when they administer the test it doesn’t really matter which they go in English for civics but that is usually before they go over your application the English portion is pretty simple you’re gonna have to read a sentence and then you’re going to usually be told the answer to that sentence when that I give people an example of is when is Independence Day will be the question that you have to read and the Independence Day is on July 4th that may not be exactly how it is but that’s one that I’ve heard before and then if you get both of the past in the civics section when you were given that booklet at your biometrics appointment there’s a hundred questions every applicant is randomly given ten of those questions and you have to get six rate it doesn’t matter if it’s the first six or if it takes you all ten once you get ten right then you move on if you fail either of these tests you are given one more chance within this application usually forty-five to sixty days later if you fail a second time that is the end of your application your fees are taken that time is wasted and you will need to start over again then the officer will review your application all of the questions on your application all of the data there are over 80 questions that they’ll usually go over each and every one of them and confirm your eligibility you are able to make corrections to your application at that time and regardless of whether you thought the question was one answer and it’s different or circumstances have changed maybe you moved maybe he’s got married maybe you’ve had a child all of those things can change and you can make those Corrections and you should make those Corrections an attorney can be present in your interview and for that they will be answering legal questions factual questions will need to be answered by the applicant so there may be times where eligibility is an issue and maybe the officer is looking at the wrong category and that’s me attorney would step forward but if they’re asking simply questions about how many times you’ve been married or whether or not you have children that is a question only for the applicant and again if you meet one of those English language exceptions or need an accommodation for a disability your translators or your accommodator can be with you so let’s talk about some those outcomes the one that we all want to hear you’ve been recommended for an approval your oaths are scheduled and often it is not going to be the same day even though that used to happen more often it is not now your date will be mailed to you and you should new watch any online system to see that that is in process the officer at the interview can actually handy with a solution or they kept you it’s kind of like a request for evidence in some other context they can actually call you back in for more interviews and this is trouble if you went without an attorney the first time and you get called in for another attorney another interview the second time do not go without an attorney this is very infrequent and this is trouble after your interview there can be a delay or you can be delayed for your interview for years and years and never be interviewed those are reasons to explore federal litigation after your interview you might be issued a notice of intent to deny and that length you may be requested to explain some of those questions that happen in the interview that they think you are ineligible you get a chance to make a legal argument in writing and potentially put in some more documentation if they still deny your case there is an Administrative Procedure by the N 336 that’s called a request for a hearing but it is administrative back to USCIS and typically another officer will be looking at your case you can write a brief that explains things similar to what the notice of to deny is and you can you will also be sitting in front of an officer making a plea for your case an oral argument in front of them usually for just maybe half an hour it is an administrative formal hearing but it is administrative if after even all of that your case is denied this is also an area where we write for federal litigation we do have several cases that we have either done in the past or are currently doing so we are really hoping that you get that positive outcome and then you’re going to be able to take that oath of allegiance it may be in a large or a small group it may be administered by USCIS or a judge if you’ve decided to change your name and it is usually not the same day your family and friends may attend in normal circumstances but right now with the coab in 19 we do not expect that either even small group ceremonies will happen they’ll probably wait until that is over any they may even also limit the number of people who can come you will receive your certificate of naturalization at the ceremony and that’s exciting because it means that you’re immediately eligible to take that certificate and apply for your passport to petition for other relatives and to register to vote so as always it is very important that you keep USCIS apprised of your address because that’s where they’re gonna mail your notices and that is also how you’re gonna know when you get that notice to come for your interview and also for your oath ceremony you should also always update the US Post Office because you wouldn’t want to have them return mail to USCIS when you are at the right place I’m going to give you a little bit of a rundown of some frequently asked questions so here you are you’ve you passed everything the application has been approved and the question may be can I lose my US citizenship and the answer is yes but it is extremely infrequent we do have another webinar from the civil litigation department about D naturalization and how that civil proceeding goes but I will just tell you that there are some reasons why they will look back like we talked to that criminal case that happened prior to your naturalization but you answered know that you have never committed a crime which you have not been arrested and also in that other webinar you are a member of certain organizations within five years of your naturalization you at the risk of having that sympathy naturalisation but in general if none of those apply to you citizenship is a permanent status now you’re eligible to sponsor more people you can sponsor your spouse and children like you always have been able to but now your children don’t need to remain unmarried they can be married children and you can also petition for your own parents and your siblings there are some pretty cool things that could happen when you’re naturalized to your spouse and kids if they’re immigrating this could mean that they’re in a category that is moving a little bit fast and so their cases will be upgraded sometimes you do have to make that request but that is what they’re eligible for your spouse and kids could actually be in the immediate relative category so if they’ve been waiting a long time this could mean that there’s their weight is significantly shorter and usually you will not be able to be eligible for deportation but as we talked about in the first question if you lose that citizenship you will revert back to being a lawful permanent resident and then you are in jeopardy usually no but sometimes yes and we talked earlier about having to continuously reside in the u.s. there used to be a retention requirement for US citizenship but about 40 years ago that changed so you can now live outside of the United States as a US citizen and it does not jeopardize your US citizenship I’d like to give you a little bit of an insight into how some of these cases intersect I’ve maybe given you some hints at that but let’s talk about these one of the biggest ways is in delays and denials for natural national security reasons the controlled application review and resolution program this is something that we see quite often because cases are languishing years and years even though this administration takes a long time if you are going well beyond the processing time and you’ve had other issues in the past where you know the government has asked questions about your applications at citizenship it’s no different and this could be a reason for us to be involved and we would look at it to see if you could be one of our cases also there are cases that we have done that had challenged general eligibility including whether the initial grant of lawful permanent residence was correct such as were you in a category or you should have remained unmarried and they think you were married or you were in a category where you heard a spouse and they think that that that marriage was a sham or fraudulent again fraud or misrepresentation that could be as little as you thought a question was one answer and they say it was another either on your residence or on your naturalization and they are actually claiming that you made an intentional misrepresentation we do have at least one litigation case that has that component we also see a lot of times where either individuals were approached to be FBI confidential informants or a confidential informant might have been within their circle of influence and then if they did not agree to cooperate things started going very wrong in their immigration cases and we are looking closely at those through our criminal section especially for FBI requests for interviews so if that has happened to you and you are having troubles that may be a reason to give us an inquiry this stands for the terrorism-related inadmissibility grounds again it’s a national security issue there are a lots of reasons for maybe affiliations with military when you were outside of the United States or charitable organizations that are now disfavored other organizations within the United States that the government is now looking closely at so I would say if you think that there are some common issues that you have that the government has been questioning those organizations and your case has been delayed several years this is a reason why you should talk to us I talked a little bit about the nets we do have several past and current cases that have to do with that and we do also have a couple where passport 7seas which does not revoke your citizenship but it does revoke that document which makes it very difficult to have proof of your citizenship and also to be able to travel freely so at seal cma we do impact litigation general immigration is a lot of those cases you think about where it’s applying for lawful permanent residents or maybe deportation defense or citizenship in a general context so it’s very broad and complex and we need to know that information for when we talk about our impact litigation because we need to know when it’s gone wrong when you come to us and you have a situation we can look at it and say no you’re being treated just like everybody else because everybody’s waiting this amount of time or wow your case has been to later really a long time and we want to look at and most attorneys will not turn to litigation they will try to stick to things like their petition based applications and that means we are looking at those cases that take a very long time enter and we want to know that our time is being spent wisely so every year we might get hundreds of intakes and we’re going to take those in look at your situation decide what our recommendation is and send that recommendation to our board of directors who will facts and circumstances and our available resources and if they say yes you’re going to become well as impact litigation cases and what we mean when we talk about that is cases where we’re going to fight for discrimination against discrimination and injustice by the US government in the areas of constitutional violations and civil rights violations based on race religion or country of nationality and those are usually things that are very compactly complex and they may have that national security component so even though we accept fewer cases out of the hundreds that request our services we know that we are going to be enough for the long haul and vigorously represent these cases because our goal is to make a community impact every good win means that hundreds of people will be able to benefit from that good win so if you’re just wondering do I even need an attorney sometimes you think it’s just filling out forms as we’ve talked about they’re very complex this one is 21 pages maybe your relatives have done it without an attorney or you think it cost too much or you think your case is simple it will tell you it is until it’s not we have had as I say cases where that change of address was not done or a box was checked and the US citizenship said that it was a misrepresentation and now they are in litigation so we can’t take it because you are a general immigration case or you’re outside of the scope of what we do I will give you resources this is a general list of the resources many times it will give you an email that is a little more specific with these organizations in your area and then you can do your own due diligence but what I really would like you to know is that it’s been a pleasure here today to present this webinar to you I hope you’ve been more informed after it and that we’ve helped you if you would like to know more about it we’re going to I am pleased to see our website at honor for Muslims in America and I appreciate your time thank you