Seguritan US Immigration Articles

Renewing Green Card While Naturalization is Pending

A lawful permanent resident (LPR) who wishes to apply for naturalization should submit his N-400 application while his green card still has at least six (6) months of validity. This is to avoid having to pay the filing fee and biometric fee amounting to $450 for his green card renewal.

While LPRs or green card holders who have resided here in the US for at least 5 years (3 years if married to US citizen) and have met all other requirements for US naturalization can already apply for US citizenship, for some reasons, some wait longer before they apply. A few wait until their ten-year green card is about to expire to apply for naturalization.

It is worth noting that the I-551 or the permanent resident card expires every ten years. To those who want to continue to become green card holders and stay that way, they need to file an I-90 six months before its expiration date.

The USCIS Field Operations Directorate recently clarified in a teleconference that a naturalization applicant with a pending N-400 application must apply for a renewal of his green card if it will expire within six (6) months. This means that the naturalization applicant needs to submit an I-90 with the corresponding filing fees. USCIS will issue an Alien Documentary Identification and Telecommunication (ADIT) stamp as temporary proof of permanent residence upon showing of an I-90 receipt notice.

Take note that if your green card has already expired, you may encounter problems when you travel, seek or keep employment or apply for public benefits.

In addition, not carrying a valid green card is considered a misdemeanor. Section 264 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) states, “Every alien in the United States . . . shall be issued a certificate of alien registration or an alien registration receipt card in such form and manner and at such time as shall be prescribed under regulations . . Every alien, eighteen years of age and over, shall at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession any certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card issued to him . . .. Any alien who fails to comply with these provisions shall be guilty of a misdemeanor  …” The punishment for this misdemeanor is a fine of $100 and/or imprisonment for not more than 30 days.

If an LPR has a criminal record he may be putting himself at risk when he renews his green card. He should consult an immigration attorney before submitting his I-90 application. If his crime is a ground for deportation, he may be placed under removal proceedings and will appear before an immigration judge.

Crimes that may subject a person to deportation include aggravated felony, crimes involving drugs, domestic violence, crimes involving moral turpitude and sex crimes.

This procedure for renewing an expired green card does not apply to those who obtained conditional residence on account of their marriage to US citizens or lawful permanent residents or on account of their EB-5 commercial enterprise and financial investment. Conditional residents are issued a green card that is valid for two years. In this case, they need to file a different form, which is I-751 to Remove the Conditions of their green card if they obtained it through marriage or I-829 if they obtained it through EB-5 investment.

You May Be A U.S. Citizen Without Knowing It

Most people think that a person who is born outside of the United States can only become a U.S. citizen through naturalization or by deriving citizenship through a parent’s naturalization. For many people, naturalization is a process fraught with years of waiting and much expense.

However, a person born outside the U.S. can become a citizen through the acquisition of citizenship from one or both parents who are citizens. Sometimes, the parents themselves do not even know that they were U.S. citizens.

In order to transmit citizenship to a child, the citizen parent generally must have resided in the United States for a certain period before the child’s birth. The law in effect on the date of the child’s birth will apply and dictate what requirements must be met.

In a recent case, the court held that an American father could not transmit his citizenship to his son because the law in effect at the time of his son’s birth in 1931 required his father to have resided in the U.S. The Nationality Act of 1940 liberalized the residency requirement by allowing a citizen parent to have resided in the U.S. or one of its outlying possessions such as the Philippines, but the law could be not be applied retroactively.

Depending on the applicable statute, residence in a possession of the U.S. could be considered residence in the United States. Because of this, knowing the ways by which citizenship could be acquired is especially useful for Filipinos because the Philippines was an “outlying possession” of the United States from 1898 to 1946.

If a person is born to parents who are both U.S. citizens, the child’s acquisition of citizenship depends on whether at least one parent resided in the United States prior to the child’s birth. If the child was born on or after January 13, 1941, residence in a U.S. possession is counted as U.S. residence. The child is not subject to the citizenship retention requirement, meaning that he/she need not reside in the U.S. for certain time periods in order to become a U.S. citizen.

If only one parent is a U.S. citizen, the child could be a citizen depending on the date of birth, whether the parent has prior U.S. residence, and whether the child meets the retention requirements.

A child may be a citizen if born abroad before May 24, 1934 to a U.S. citizen father or mother with prior U.S. residence. The child has no citizenship retention requirement.

If the child was born on or after May 24, 1934 but before January 13, 1941, the child’s parent must have resided in the U.S. and the child must generally have 2 years of continuous physical presence in the U.S. between the ages of 14 and 28.

If born on or after January 13, 1941 but before December 24, 1952, the citizen parent must have at least 10 years of prior U.S. residence, 5 years of which were after age 16. The child must also have two years of continuous physical presence in the U.S. between the ages of 14 and 28.

If the child was born on or after December 24, 1952 but before November 14, 1986, the citizen parent must have been physically present in the U.S. for at least 10 years before the child was born, 5 years of which were after age 14.

The prior residence requirement for the citizen parent is only 5 years, 2 of which after age 14, if the child was born on or after November 14, 1986.

In some cases, people did not realize that they are U.S. citizens until they were placed in removal proceedings and they had the good sense of not conceding alienage. If you believe that there is U.S. citizen among your direct-line ancestors, it pays to carefully examine your background because you may have a claim for U.S. citizenship after all.

Naturalization Denial Due to False Statements

Giving false information on immigration applications not only leads to a possible denial of the benefit requested. It could also someday result in a denial of one’s naturalization application.

In one case, a district court agreed with the USCIS in denying a naturalization applicant for false statements she had made in her I-751 petition to remove conditions on her permanent residence.

At the time that she filed the petition, her U.S. citizen husband no longer resided with her and was not even in the same state. She also had a child by another man. However, in the I-751 she listed a Florida address for her husband and falsely stated that she had no children.

False statements made in order to obtain any immigration benefit can result in a finding of lack of good moral character. Good moral character is one of the requirements for naturalization. The applicant has the burden to establish that he/she had it for the required period of residence and up to the time of filing and administration of oath.

The USCIS generally looks only at the statutory period (generally five years, three for spouses of U.S. citizens) to determine whether the applicant meets the requirement.

If before the statutory period the applicant committed acts or exhibited conduct that would otherwise show lack of good moral character, the USCIS may not deny the application solely on these acts or conduct, but it will consider whether, during the statutory period the applicant has reformed his/her character.

The law gives no specific definition for good moral character but the USCIS has adopted a reasonable standard. It is described as that character measured by the standards of average citizens of the community, but which does not require the highest degree of moral excellence.

Certain classes of people are enumerated in the law as ineligible for naturalization for lack of good moral character, such individuals who were at any time convicted of murder or an aggravated felony.

Aliens who during the statutory period were convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, or committed 2 or more offenses and sentenced to at least 5 years in prison, or committed drug offenses, are also deemed to lack good moral character.

Admission that one has committed a criminal act either in the U.S. or abroad, although not formally charged, arrested or convicted for it, makes him/her ineligible for naturalization.

Other classes of ineligible aliens include habitual drunkards, smugglers, polygamists, illegal gamblers and those engaged in prostitution or commercialized vice. A bar also exists for aliens previously ordered removed, illegal voters, and those who have made a false claim to U.S. citizenship.

Other grounds include willful failure or refusal to support dependents, adultery, or unlawful acts that adversely reflect on moral character, committed during the statutory period. However, applicants may be able to overcome a negative finding by showing mitigating or favorable factors.

Some male applicants also overlook the requirement of selective service registration. Save for a few excepted classes such as nonimmigrants on student, visitor, tourist or diplomatic visas, all men over 18 but less than 26 years old must register with selective service. Knowing and willful failure to do so will raise concerns on one’s eligibility for naturalization.

Good Moral Character Requirement for Naturalization

Good moral character as a requirement for naturalization is “measured by the standard of the community, but does not necessarily require the highest degree of moral excellence.”

The relevant period for determining good moral character is 5 years (or 3 years if married to a citizen) preceding the filing of the application. However the applicant’s conduct and acts prior to the period may be taken into account but will not be the sole basis for denial of the application.

Certain behavior patterns and criminal activities are grounds for disqualification. The applicant must not have established a record of violence or repeated criminal activity.

Commission of the following are grounds for disqualification: corruption, fraud, and perjury, violation of drug laws of the United States or any foreign country, admitting to any criminal act, taking part in illegal commercialized vice, including human trafficking and prostitution, practice of polygamy, or being a habitual drunkard. Murder and aggravated crimes are grounds for immediate denial of the application.

An applicant lacks good moral character if his or her conduct within the applicable period is destructive to family unless he or she is able to establish extenuating circumstances. As it relates to conduct destructive to family, adultery that results in the dissolution of a viable marriage and intentional failure to support dependents are explicitly mentioned as conduct that will cause disqualification.

Furthermore, actions that have resulted in illegitimate children that become wards of the state may preclude a determination of good moral character. Situations that suggest sexual deviance such as incest also are detrimental to a finding of good moral character. Applicants should take special care in providing an explanation for such activity.

Applicants must establish that they are “well disposed” and “attached” to the government of the United States. Broadly speaking, the applicant must be not hostile to the American system of government and must support the United States Constitution.

Applicants must be willing to take the full oath or affirmation of allegiance to the United States without any doubt or reservation. However modifications will be allowed on the basis of moral or religious beliefs. Males must register with the Selective Service to prove that they are “well disposed” and “attached” to the United States.

Registration in the Selective Service is an important requirement and is fundamental to good moral character and establishing the “well disposed” and “attached” standards. All men between the ages of 18 and 26 not subject to exemption must register and provide proof of registration to USCIS. By knowingly and willingly failing to register in the Selective Service, the applicant casts doubt on his “disposition” and “attachment” towards the United States and shows his unwillingness to bear arms on behalf of the United States when legally required to do so.

There are also classes of applicants that are prohibited from naturalizing. Broadly speaking, people fit in a prohibited class if they profess, advocate, or are affiliated with groups that are anarchist, communist, totalitarian, saboteurs, and have published subversive material. Deserters of the United States and those who fled to avoid the draft military are barred from naturalization. People under deportation proceedings are prohibited from naturalization. Applicants relieved from military service not through an honorable discharge are also barred from naturalization.

The good moral character requirement may be daunting for some applicants. It is in the applicant’s best interest to disclose all information and ensure that all answers provided to the USCIS will not lead to disqualification under the good moral character standard.

What You Need to Know About the Naturalization Exam

Applicants for naturalization are required to pass an exam on English and their knowledge of American government and history. Although this exam may seem daunting to applicants, the USCIS reports a 95% pass rate.

The English literacy exam has both an oral and written component. According to the USCIS, applicants are expected to conform to the following standards to pass, “You must read one sentence out of three sentences correctly in English, and you must write one sentence out of three sentences correctly in English.” The standard is not overly strict.

The USCIS officers will allow pronunciation errors and word omissions that do not greatly alter the meaning of the sentence in the oral exam. Minor punctuations, capitalization errors, missing words, and spelling errors do not result in failure. Failure does occur, however, when the errors or omissions change the meaning of the sentence.

The history and civics exam is administered to applicants as well. The objective of the exam is to test the applicant’s knowledge of the benefits associated with citizenship of the United States. It focuses on the establishment of the American system of government and the purpose of the Constitution. Examples of the questions that are asked by the USCIS pertain to presidents of the United States, the Constitution, and crucial events in American history.

The applicant may be tested on events that occurred from the Revolutionary period to the present. This portion seems very daunting on the surface; however the USCIS provides ample materials for applicants to prepare. The USCIS website provides practice questions and sample tests in multiple languages. It is certainly in the applicant’s best interest to prepare for this exam. While most of the questions are fairly easy; some are somewhat more difficult to answer.

Applicants who are unable to pass the exam on the first try are allowed a second attempt to pass it within 90 days after the first attempt. The applicant may request for an extension for good cause.

Not every applicant is required to take the exam, however. Persons physically unable to take the exam due to permanent disability that makes it impossible to learn to speak, read, write or understand the English language are not required to take the English exam. Such disabilities may be due to deafness or blindness. As a rule advanced age or general incapacity to learn are not grounds for exemption. Applicants require an attestation and an N-648 from a licensed medical doctor attached to N-400 application in support of the disability.

It is also important to note that applicants older than 50 years at the date of application that have been permanent residents for more than 20 years and those above 55 years and have resided in the United States as permanent residents may take the exam in their native language.

The USCIS naturalization exam is undoubtedly daunting, but there are materials available to the applicant. Proactive applicants should make their best efforts and use the material provided by the USCIS to become more familiar with English and the knowledge of American government and history required to obtain their citizenship.

Scroll To Top