U.S. Citizenship/Naturalization

How Do I File For US Citizenship?

If an applicant qualifies for naturalization, then the process is started by the applicant filing a form N-400 with the USCIS regional service center having jurisdiction over the applicant's home. The USCIS has prepared a special software program that allows applicants to enter their data and then print the form, their data, and a special bar code that contains their data. These barcoded forms are generally processed faster than other applications, since they do not have to go through the manual data entry step.

Remember to locate the USCIS regional service center having jurisdiction over your place of residence. The application should be sent via certified mail, return receipt requested, together with two photographs and a personal check in the amount of $260.00 for the filing fee. It is important to pay by personal check so that you can get the file number of the case (which will be printed on the back of the cancelled check), in the event USCIS does not send you a receipt notice.


How Is The US Citizenship Application Processed?

There are two steps involved in the processing of an application for naturalization: the preliminary hearing and the final hearing.

At the preliminary hearing, the applicant will be asked questions about United States history as well as the United States Constitution and organization of the government. There are two ways to prepare for this examination: adult school and self-study. Almost all local adult schools offer evening citizenship preparation classes. These classes prepare applicants for the examination and any applicant who has completed such a class need not be concerned about passing the test. Most people, however, prepare through self-study. There are any number of good preparation materials available. The United States Government Printing Office bookstore offers several different versions of exam preparation books. Also, all major bookseller Internet sites and bookstore chains (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BookStar, Crown, Dutton's, B. Dalton, etc.) sell excellent citizenship exam preparation materials.

The applicant will also be asked questions about his or her stay in the United States following admission as a lawful permanent resident. These questions are not normally a problem. However, there are occasions when these questions can create problems for the applicant. One such situation would be where the applicant immigrated on the basis of a labor certification, but left his or her sponsoring employer after a very short time. Since the N-400 application asks the applicant to list all employment during the five years immediately preceding the filing of the application for naturalization, if such a person were to file on the fifth anniversary of receiving his or her green card, leaving the sponsoring employer would be shown.

Preliminary hearings are usually quite short - generally lasting about 10 - 15 minutes. Of course, some USCIS officers work more slowly than others, so an applicant should not become concerned if an interview takes 20 or 30 minutes. Once the preliminary hearing has been completed, the next step is the final hearing - also known as the "swearing-in" ceremony.

The final interview is usually held as a group swearing-in ceremony. This is where the oath of allegiance is taken and the actual certificate of naturalization is given to the applicant. After the final hearing, the applicant is a United States citizen.

If an in-person inquiry does not provide the applicant with the information needed, the applicant should contact his or her local Congressman for further action. Look in the white pages of the telephone directory under "United States Government," "House of Representatives." Congressmen are generally quite helpful in resolving naturalization problems.


Immigration Bonds & Detention

The local Immigration District Office makes the initial custody and bond determinations. 8 C.F.R. 236.1(d). Upon issuance of an arrest warrant (Form I-205) by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a foreign national may be arrested and detained by ICE. It should also be noted that "in the event of emergency or other extraordinary circumstances," ICE can also arrest and detain foreign national for up to 48 hours even without issuing arrest warrants. See 8 C.F.R. 287.3(d). During or immediately before the expiration of the 48 hours, ICE must make a determination of whether to release the detainee on bond or release the detainee on his or her own recognizance, or continue to detain the alien and issue a Notice to Appear (NTA).

If the foreign national is not subject to mandatory detention, then ICE may release the alien on bond or on recognizance. 8 C.F.R. 236.1(c)(8). In order to be released, the foreign national "must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the officer that such release would not pose a danger to property or persons, and that the foreign national is likely to appear for future proceedings." INA 236(c)(2). Other factors to be considered in making a determination of whether to release on recognizance or bond include:

  1. Local family ties;
  2. History of prior arrests, convictions, and/or appearances at previous hearings;
  3. Membership in community groups;
  4. Manner of entry or length of stay in the United States;
  5. Financial ability to post bond.

If the foreign national is not released by ICE, and remains detained, ICE will likely issue an NTA to the foreign national, at which time the foreign national comes under the jurisdiction of the Immigration Judge. See 8 C.F.R. 239.1(a); 8 C.F.R. 240.1. Once under the jurisdiction of the Immigration Court, the alien may request a bond redetermination hearing before the Immigration Judge. 8 C.F.R. 3.19(d). Even in situations where the foreign national is released, that foreign national may request review of the bond or custody redetermination before the Immigration Court. This usually occurs when the alien is seeking to lower the bond or have the conditions of his release alleviated.

The Immigration Judge will generally take the following factors into consideration when making his or her determination of whether to grant release on bond:

  • Family ties to the United States
  • Immigration Status and Immigration History
  • Other Ties to the Community in the United States
  • Criminal History and Rehabilitation
  • Any Fear of Returning to Home Country

The Immigration Judge also has the authority to review the initial custody/bond determination made by ICE at any time up until the removal order becomes final. 8 C.F.R. 3.19(a). However, arriving aliens, aliens charged with being deportable on security, terrorist and related grounds, or aliens subject to mandatory detention under INA 236(c)(1) are not entitled to bond redetermination by an Immigration Judge. Id.


How Do You Post An Immigration Bond?

Foreign nationals who are arrested by ICE and issued an Arrest Warrant (Form I-205) along with a Notice of Custody Conditions (Form I-286) are eligible for a delivery bond. The minimum amount for the delivery bond is $1,500. However, this amount may be higher depending on the severity of the immigration charge, or if ICE determines that the amount is sufficient to ensure that the alien will appear for all future immigration proceedings.

After ICE determines that a foreign national is eligible for a delivery bond, the bond may be posted by paying a cash bond or posting a surety bond. For a surety bond, the foreign national's family member or agent/representative should contact a private bond company that can post the surety bond against some form of collateral or premium payment. The value of the collateral or premium payment should represent a percentage of the full amount of the bond.

If a cash bond is posted, it must be paid directly to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The cash bond must be for the full amount of the bond, and be paid by one of the following four manners:

  1. Cash
  2. Money Order
  3. Cashier's Check
  4. U.S. Bonds or Notes

It is best to consult first with an attorney for more in depth information and details.


EOIR Proceedings-Deportation & Removal

There are many reasons people are placed into deportation or removal proceedings. Because of the complexity of the immigration laws and the procedural rules in Immigration Court, it is important to obtain legal representation early on in this type of case.

Prior to April 1, 1997, an alien was either placed in exclusion or deportation proceedings, depending on whether the alien made an entry into the United States. However, the Immigration laws changed in 1996, and the new laws abolished the term "entry" and replaced it with the term "admission." Additionally, proceedings were no longer referred to as "exclusion or deportation" proceedings. Instead, the proceedings are now collectively referred to as "removal proceedings."

In a removal proceeding, the Immigration Judge makes a determination of whether the alien should be removed based on a ground of "inadmissibility," or a ground of "deportability." This determination generally turns on whether the alien has been "admitted" into the United States. For instance, if an alien is placed in removal proceedings and he has not been "admitted," he will be charged with a ground of "inadmissibility" pursuant to section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. However, if the alien has been "admitted" and is placed in removal proceedings, he will be charged with a ground of "deportability" under section 237 of the Act.

Removal proceedings against an alien are initiated when the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) files the Notice to Appear (NTA) with the Immigration Court. On the NTA, the USCIS will lodge the charge of removability against the alien. Once the alien is placed in removal proceedings, the alien will have an opportunity to appear before the Immigration Court to challenge the charge of removability and apply for various forms of relief such as cancellation of removal, waivers for charges of inadmissibility, adjustment of status, asylum, withholding of removal, protection under the Convention Against Torture and voluntary departure. Eligibility for each of the listed relief varies according to the statute, the charge of removability lodged, and the personal situation of each alien.


What Are The Grounds Of Inadmissibility?

The following grounds of inadmissibility under section 212 of the Act are the ones most frequently charged on the NTA in removal proceedings:

  • Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT);
  • Drug Crimes;
  • Controlled Substance Traffickers;
  • Multiple Criminal Convictions
    1. Two or more non-political offenses;
    2. Confinement to five years or more;
    3. Regardless of whether or not convictions occurred in a single trial or scheme of misconduct;
  • Aliens Present Without Permission or Parole
    1. The alien has the burden of proving admission;
    2. EXCEPTION: Battered women and children are not subject to removal if present without admission or parole and can meet the requirement to self-petition. INA 212(a)(6)(A)(ii);
  • Fraud;
  • Alien Smugglers;
  • Lack of Documentation upon attempted admission;
  • Aliens Unlawfully Present in the U.S.
    1. Exceptions:
      1. Minors, asylum applicants, family unity beneficiaries, battered women and children are not inadmissible.
      2. An alien who is the spouse, son, or daughter of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident may apply for a waiver if he can show that the qualifying relative will suffer extreme hardship if the waiver is not granted.

What Are The Grounds Of Deportability?

The following are charges of deportability pursuant to section 237 of the Act that are commonly lodged by the USCIS on the NTA:

  • Inadmissible at time of admission or adjustment of status;
  • Violation of non-immigrant status;
  • Termination of conditional permanent residence
    1. This occurs when the alien and his/spouse fails to file a joint petition to remove the condition at the end of the 2 years subsequent to becoming a conditional permanent resident;
  • Smuggling;
  • Marriage Fraud;
  • Conviction of Crime Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT) within 5 years of admission where the sentence imposed may have been for 1 year or more;
  • Two (2) CIMT Convictions
    1. Not arising out of a single scheme of misconduct;
    2. Requires separate criminal acts;
  • Aggravated Felony;
  • Controlled Substance Conviction;
  • Drug Abusers and addicts deportable at any time after admission;
  • Firearms Offenses;
  • Crimes of Domestic Violence, Stalking, and Violations of Protection Orders.

EOIR Procedings-Forms of Relief From Removal

Cancellation of Removal for Legal Permanent Residents:

To qualify for Cancellation of Removal the immigrant must satisfy the following requirements:

(a) has been an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence for not less than 5 years;
(b) has resided in the United States continuously for 7 years after having been admitted in any status; and
(c) has not been convicted of an aggravated felony.


Cancellation of Removal for Non-Legal Permanent Residents

To qualify for Cancellation of Removal the immigrant must satisfy the following requirements:

(a) has been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of not less than 10 years immediately preceding the date of such application;
(b) has been a person of good moral character during those 10 years;
(c) does not have convictions of certain crimes;
(d) must show that removal would result in exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to a spouse, parent, or child who is a U.S. citizen or LPR.

More Articles...
  • Adjustment of Status
  • Special Rule for Battered Spouse or Child
  • 212(c) Waiver
  • 212(h) Waiver
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