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Orange County Immigration & Naturalization Law Blog

Naturalization exceptions for qualified applicants

Applicants for citizenship who qualify may be exempt from certain requirements, while those with disabilities could be accommodated. Individuals applying for naturalization in California and having trouble meeting all of the requirements might be able to take advantage of these exceptions. There is a continuous residence requirement to become a U.S. citizen, but this could be waived if the applicant is engaged in certain overseas employment situations. All applicants who are approved for citizenship must take the Oath of Allegiance. In special circumstances, it could be modified to accommodate the applicant.

USCIS provides accommodations for applicants who are mentally or physically impaired. These changes are made to requirements that make it hard for the impaired applicant to complete the process of naturalization. For example, an applicant who has a developmental disability might get an exemption from the English and civics test requirements. The individual's physician or clinical psychologist can request this exemption on Form N-648.

Immigration for religious workers

As some California residents may know, foreign nationals who are religious workers might immigrate to the United States if certain conditions are met. In addition, the worker's spouse and children are allowed to accompany them.

This immigration classification includes both non-ministers and ministers in religious organizations and falls under an employment-based or EB-4 visa. Such religious occupations or vocations must be considered full-time compensated positions that average 35 hours per week, which might or might not involve a salary. The work may be of either a non-professional or a professional nature.

What are the benefits of becoming a U.S. citizen?

Some California residents may be eligible to become U.S. citizens, but they may be unsure if taking that final step is worthwhile. Citizenship carries important benefits and may be worth the consideration of lawful permanent residents in the state.

In order to become a U.S. citizen, people must meet the eligibility requirements, including the ability to pass a test on certain items, a good understanding of U.S. civics and a good command of the English language. Those who meet all of the requirements may apply to become naturalized. They will then attend a ceremony and take an oath of allegiance after going through an interview.

What are the categories for employment-based immigrant visas?

There are five categories in which employment-based immigrant visas are divided. Persons wishing to work in or continue working in California under an employment-based immigrant visa might need to understand in which category they fall.

EB-1 applicants, or priority workers, must have an accepted Form I-140, which is filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. They do not have to have labor certification from the Department of Labor. EB-2 applicants, or professionals with advanced degrees and immigrants with exceptional abilities, generally need labor certification. They must also be offered a job with a U.S. employer that files Form I-140 on the applicant's behalf. Applicants could apply for a National Interest Waiver, which avoids these requirements, and file Form I-140 with evidence that granting them visas is in the nation's best interest.

Children born abroad and U.S. citizenship

Establishing U.S. citizenship for a child who was born abroad may depend on the relationship between the parents at the time of the birth. It may also be affected by the citizenship of the parents at the time of the birth. California parents may want to keep these issues in mind if they will be out of the country near the time of a baby's due date.

Unmarried parents face greater challenges in establishing a child's citizenship than those who are married. In all cases, at least one parent must be a citizen at the time of the child's birth. The greatest challenges arise if an unmarried father is the only U.S. citizen as a legal blood relationship must be established. An unmarried parent who is a U.S. citizen at the time of the child's birth must also have spent a minimum of five years present in the U.S. or its territories. This can include employment abroad through the U.S. armed forces, the federal government or other specified international agencies. At least two years of residency must have occurred after age 14.

Immigrant investors and EB-5 visas

California companies may wonder about the requirements for securing visas for foreign investors who might be interested in partnering with their firms. An investor may be better able to provide insight and understand operations and plans by being present at the business location. However, proper permissions must be obtained to enter the country. The EB-5 visa was created in 1992 to facilitate such travel to promote economic growth.

In seeking an EB-5 visa, a candidate must invest in a commercial enterprise that is "new", which for this purpose means that it was established after Nov. 29, 1990. An older enterprise may be acceptable if it has been purchased and is going to be reorganized to create a new enterprise. Another option is the purchase of an older business that will be expanded to include a 40 percent increase either in the amount of employees or in the net worth of the company.

The requirements for family immigration visas

When people move from their home country to the United States, their families are not always able to stay together. However, once immigrants earn citizenship or lawful permanent resident status, they may sponsor relatives in obtaining family immigrant visas. The requirements for these visas are governed by U.S. immigration laws and are enforced in every state, including California.

In order to apply for an immediate relative or family preference immigrant visa, the sponsor must primarily reside in the United States. Sponsors must be at least 18 years old to sign the forms required for family immigrant visas, but there is no age requirement to petition for immigrant visas for family members. If their relatives are parents or siblings, however, the sponsors need to be at least 21 to file a petition.

Military members and citizenship

Military members in California who are not citizens but who are interested in naturalization may be unaware that certain military service members and veterans are eligible for naturalization under sections of the immigration law. The naturalization allowed under the law is due to the military member's service.

During periods of hostility, a military member who served even one day honorably may be eligible for naturalization. To qualify, the person must have either been on active duty or have been a member of the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve during the hostility period. The person must also have been admitted as a lawful permanent resident or have been in the United States or a U.S. territory at the time of their enlistment.

A primer on deportation for California residents

If an illegal alien violates immigration or criminal laws while in the United States, he or she may be deported or removed from the country. As removal is a formal legal process, the person being deported has the ability to challenge the deportation on a variety of different grounds.

The first step in a deportation is the issuance of a Notice to Appear by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This notice will contain the reason why the alien is a candidate for deportation. A hearing is then scheduled to determine whether the individual needs more time to find an attorney or will proceed without one. The NTA is then reviewed, and a determination is made as to whether the alien is going to be deported.

Changes in deferred action programs

Many immigrant families in California welcomed President Obama's Nov. 20 speech in which he announced taking executive action on immigration reform, effectively side-stepping Congress. The new reforms and programs announced by the President are good news for many people who wish to be able to remain in the United States while gaining the ability to legally work and live.

The major changes lie in newly available relief through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program as well as the deferred action for parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents program. DACA applies to people who have been in the United States continuously since 2010 who arrived in the country as children to apply. The changes include removal of the upper age limit, meaning people born before June 15, 1981 are now eligible to apply. The changes should be implemented within 90 days of the President's announcement. The deferral period was extended from two to three years and allows those who are eligible to receive permission to work and live in the U.S.

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