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Through the Federal Register, the State Department announced new consular fees. It includes fee changes that was proposed in 2010. Persons renouncing US citizenship will be paying a $450 fee. Earlier, there was no fee involved while renouncing American citizenship. The State Department did not cite any reasons for the dramatic rise in the fee nor has it mentioned any reason for why it changed the fees.

One who wishes to formally renouncing his/her US citizenship has to take an Oath of renunciation. One of the main reasons for renouncing US citizenship is because he/she adopts citizenship in a country that does not allow dual citizenship. Foreign nationals who wish to become naturalized citizens normally spend hundreds of dollars, first to get a green card and then while filing for naturalization.

Per the new fee schedule posted through the Federal Register, other citizenship oriented costs are also rising. The cost of applying for a new passport will be $70. The security surcharge for US passports has increased to $40 from $20. Adding to this, if you want to add new pages to your US passport book, you have to shell out $82. Earlier, there was no fee involved with this service. However, the State Department justifies the hike by mentioning this hike is needed due to increasing the cost of labor to affix the pages, endorse the passport, print the pages, processing the application, and to also to perform a quality-control check.

If you are registering the birth of an American child abroad, you will be paying a higher fee this time. This is another citizenship related fee change. Earlier, while reporting such a birth abroad, you had to pay $65, but now it has risen to $100 to report the birth of an American child abroad. In addition, if you are notarizing documents at US embassies, you have to pay more. Earlier, the cost of notarizing a single page at a US embassy overseas was $30. Per the Federal Register, this service now costs $50 per single page. All said and done, one should not forget the privileges and benefits of American citizenship. But the new fee schedule has thrown a higher cost on many citizenship related services.

 

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The LPR population includes persons granted lawful permanent residence (green card) holders, but not those who had become US citizens. Data for the estimates were obtained primarily from administrative records of USCIS. The methodology used to figure out the 2010 estimates is the same as that was used in previous DHS estimates. An estimated 12.6 million green card holders lived in the US on January 1, 2010 and out of these 8.1 million were eligible for American citizenship.

Green card holders (LPRs) are eligible to file the citizenship form, N-400 after meeting certain requirements. Most LPRs have to fulfill a five-year residency requirement for naturalization. Spouses of US citizens can apply in three years. It was assumed that all LPRs have to satisfy a five-year residency requirement except for those whose status was as a spouse of a US citizen. Certain categories of immigrants receive credit for the period prior to the actual grant of LPR status. The credited time or earlier dates are not included in the residency records used for this analysis and must be estimated. Asylees are credited one year in asylum status toward their LPR status. So Asylees qualify for naturalization four years after approval of their adjustment of status application.

It is estimated that 12.6 million legal permanent residents were living in the US on January 1, 2010. Out of this 12.6 million, an estimated 8.1 million qualify for naturalization. Between January 2008 and 2010, the total LPR population and LPR population eligible for naturalization more or less remained the same. In general, the size of the LPR population changes less rapidly than the total legally resident population because increases in the number of persons becoming LPRs each year are offset by persons who opt for naturalization.

Per USCIS administrative records, 25.2 million foreign nationals obtained LPR status between 1980 and 2009. At the end of 2009, an estimated 9.7 million (38 percent) had naturalized, 1.3 million (5 percent) had derived citizenship before becoming 18 years old and 3.2 million (13 percent) died or emigrated. An estimated 4.6 million LPRs do not qualify for naturalization, leaving 8.1 million LPRs eligible to apply to naturalize in 2010.

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To qualify for American citizenship, you have to show that you resided continuously in the U.S. for five years before filing the citizenship form. If you are applying based on marriage to a US citizen, then it is three years of continuous residence. Continuous residence plainly means that you have maintained residence within the US for the required period of time as mentioned above.

If you away from the US for an extended period of time, it may disrupt the continuous residence requirement. If you are absent from the US for more than six months but less than one year, it may disrupt your continuous residence unless you can prove otherwise.

In almost all cases, if you leave the United States for 1 year or more, you have disrupted your continuous residence. This is true even if you have a Re-entry Permit. If you leave the country for 1 year or longer, you may be eligible to re-enter as a Permanent Resident if you have a Re-entry Permit. But none of the time you were in the United States before you left the country counts toward your time in continuous residence.

If you return within 2 years, some of your time out of the country does count. In fact, the last 364 days of your time out of the country (1 year minus 1 day) counts toward meeting your continuous residence requirement.

Physical Presence :

You have to prove that you were physically present in the US for thirty months within the five year period before filing the citizenship form. If you are applying based on marriage to a US citizen, the the requirement is eighteen months within the three year period.

In addition, applicants have to prove that they have resided for at least three months immediately preceding the filing of Form N-400 in the USCIS district or state where the applicant claims to have residency

Exceptions

There are certain exceptions to the continuous residence requirement for those applicants working abroad for the US government (including the Military), contractors of the US government , a recognized American institution of research, a public international organization OR an organization designated under the International Immunities Act

Should you need to preserve your continuous residence for naturalization purposes while employed abroad by one of these recognized institutions, you are required to file Form N-470, Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes with the USCIS.

An organization can get USCIS recognition as an American institution of research for the purpose of preserving the continuous residence status of its employees who are planning to get naturalized and are assigned abroad for an extended period of time.

 

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If you are applying for American citizenship, you have to establish an understanding of English language and also prove your ability to speak, write and read words in normal usage. It is mandatory that you have basic knowledge and understanding of fundamentals of US history. These both form the US citizenship test.

Not all are required to take the test. Certain applicants are exempted from taking these tests considering their age and other medically determinable physical or mental impairment. If you are seeking an exception from the English and US civics test because of physical or age-linked disability or mental deficiency that lasted for more than a year, you are required to submit the Form N-648. Per immigration laws and regulations, a licensed medical doctor or licensed clinical psychologist has to complete and sign this form This has to be included in the naturalization application (Form N-400) package. The USCIS will decide if you qualify for an exception to the tests.

There are many provisions in the Rehabilitation act of 1973, and if you satisfy them, you need not submit Form N-648. The provisions included sign language interpreters, time extension for testing and off site testing. Another important factor to remember is that illiteracy will not be considered while requesting an exception from the English and Civics tests. You are required to indicate your request in Part three of the Form N-400 while applying for American Citizenship.

Form N-648

Generally, it is the “medical doctors, doctors of osteopathy, or clinical psychologists licensed to practice in US including territories like Guam, Puerto Rico, territories of CNMI and the Virgin Islands” who have the authorization to fill out this form. The medical professional claims all responsibility to the information given in the form. It is mandatory that the medical professional certify all parts of the Form N-648 except for the applicant attestation and interpreter’s certification. The medical professional should also make sure that form is complete and accurate as USCIS do not accept incomplete forms. The form has to be filled in such a manner that it is easily understood by a person without medical training. Per the requirements, a lengthy assessment of the applicant’s physical and developmental disability or mental impairment has to be detailed by the medical professional and medical diagnostic report or records have to be included as evidence.

As mentioned earlier, the medical professional and the applicant both have to attest the Form N-648, claiming responsibility for the information provided in the form. There is no filing fee and this form should be mailed along with the citizenship form, N-400. If there is any false statement with respect to the information provided in the form, affidavit or other supporting documents required by the immigration law or regulations or if the applicant presents any such document, he/she will be fined or imprisoned for not more than 10 years or both.

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As a Lawful Permanent Resident, if you have to travel abroad for a considerable length of time, make sure you take certain steps to assure that your permanent resident status is not lost.

As a LPR, you have to file tax returns under all circumstances with the IRS annually. Filing a tax return as a LPR does not necessarily mean that you should actually pay income tax if you are employed overseas, because treaties and foreign tax credits may minimize the tax amount actually paid to the IRS.

If you are employed abroad or have to travel overseas for a considerable length of time, it can prove handy if your immediate family members, including any spouse, children, and parents remain in the US. Having strong family ties to the US shows your intention to keep your permanent resident status.

Employment abroad is one of the most commonly used reason why LPRs are absent from the US for a long period. A written statement from the employer, or an employment contract identifying the length of the overseas job, will be of much help with regard to the LPR’s intention to maintain his/her permanent resident status.

If you are not engaged in overseas employment and have no family members in the US, find ways to establish other strong ties.Before leaving the US, open a bank account with a US bank, and leave it open and use it during your stay abroad.

If you wish to remain outside the US for more than one year, but less than two years, you can apply for a re-entry permit. As mentioned earlier, if you travel abroad for a period longer than one year, you face a risk of denial of admission into the US on the ground that you have abandoned your permanent resident status. A Re-entry Permit solves this problem.

A prolonged absence from the US will break the continuity of your residence in the US for naturalization purposes. However, it will not affect your ability to return to the US as a permanent resident.

In order to qualify for American Citizenship, you must reside in the US for a continuous period of five years after lawful admission to the US as a permanent resident and prior to filing the citizenship form. If you are married to a US citizen, you must reside in the US for a continuous period of three years after being admitted to the US as a permanent resident and prior to application for naturalization. Apart form this , you must physically reside in the US for at least half of the period required for continuous residence. However, spouses of US citizens who are US military personnel or who have overseas employment with US employers are exempted from these requirements.

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The starting step to legally immigrate to the United States is to get an immigrant visa. Most foreign nationals get visas by being sponsored by close family members or employers. Others get visas as asylees or refugees, fleeing persecution in their home countries. There are four most common ways to get an immigrant visa.

Family-based: A US citizen or a legal permanent resident (green card holder) can sponsor a family member for immigration. Waiting periods for getting such visas differ depending on the closeness of the relationship with the sponsor, and processing times can be lengthy, because a limited number of visas are available each year

Employment-Based: Qualified US employers can sponsor a potential foreign employee for immigration. In certain cases, extraordinarily-qualified foreign nationals can immigrate without being sponsored by an employer. It is required that employer sponsors demonstrate that there are no sufficient number of qualified workers available in the US to fulfill their need. The processing time can last 7 to 8 years because of the restriction on the number of visas.

Asylum and Refugee Status: Visas are also available to people who are unable or not willing to return to their home country because of persecution or a well founded fear of persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. To put it in simple terms, asylee status is granted in the United States and refugee status is granted abroad.

Diversity Lottery: Foreign nationals who wish to migrate to the US but do not have a family member or employer to sponsor them, can apply for the Diversity Lottery Program. Only 50,000 winners are issued visas every year through this program. Not all countries are eligible to enter this program. The aim of this program is to promote immigration from underrepresented countries, so each year the State Department issues a list of countries whose citizens may not apply.

An foreign national should have a legal immigrant visa to be eligible for legal permanent resident status and US citizenship, but the visa alone is not sufficient. To get a green card, the foreign national has to apply to adjust his status to legal permanent resident. The Department of Homeland Security

will verify that there are no medical, financial, criminal or prior immigration violation grounds to reject the application.

Many people seek the help of an attorney to navigate the sophisticated process. Legal permanent residents qualify for American citizenship after five years. If they are married to a US citizen and living with that citizen spouse, they will qualify for American citizenship after three years. To qualify for citizenship, they must demonstrate good moral character and have a basic knowledge of English, U.S. history and government. The citizenship form, N-400 costs $680 that includes a $85 biometric fee.

US immigration law is a sort of administrative law. Immigration legal procedures like deportations do not go through the US Judicial system. They take place within the US Department of Justice. As deportation is considered an administrative correction and not a criminal punishment, undocumented immigrants (illegals) facing deportation do not have the right to legal counsel provided by the government. As most cannot afford legal representation, they have to face the system by themselves.

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One of the main benefits of being a US citizen is that you can petition your loved ones for a green card which will help them come and live with you in the US. As a US citizen, you are eligible to to petition your spouse, parent and children for a legal permanent resident (green card) status. But if you a Legal Permanent Resident, you can sponsor only your spouse and unmarried children.

Green Card For Child Application Process :

The first step is the filing the “Immigrant Petition” that will establish a qualifying relationship between you, the sponsor and your child abroad. It is then followed by the green card application. If your child is in the US, you are allowed to file the immigrant petition and green card for child application at the same time. But, in cases of lawful permanent residents, your child must wait for the immigrant petition to be approved before you can file the the green card application.

The green card for child process starts by submitting Form I-130, the immigrant petition. If your child lives outside the US, the application for an immigrant visa has to be filed at a US consulate at your child’s place of residence.

If your child/children live in the US, you have to file Form I-485 to adjust status. If your child lives in the US and is both unmarried and under the age of 21, then you can submit Form I-130 and Form I-485 together. This is considered the fastest way to apply for a green card. If you are a Legal Permanent Resident and your child is married or over 21 or lives outside the US, then you will have to wait for the Form I-130 to be approved before going to the next step in the process.

As a US citizen, you are eligible to sponsor your married child for a green card. Married sons and daughters of US citizens come under the third-preference category. So they should wait for a priority date to become available before they can apply for a visa. Plainly, married sons and daughters have to wait longer than unmarried sons and daughters to apply for a green card. However, Legal Permanent Residents are not eligible to sponsor their married sons and daughters for a green card.

Unmarried children of US citizen parents, below the age of 21 are considered as “Immediate relatives”. It means they can directly apply for a green card without having to wait for a priority date to become current. Though as a US citizen, you are eligible to sponsor your children who are married or over the age of 21, such children will not qualify as immediate relatives. So these applicants should wait for their priority date to be current before they become eligible to apply for a green card.

The visa bulletin published monthly by the Department of State has details regarding when applicants Priority Date becomes current.

Another point to remember is that if you are bringing a relative to live permanently in the US, you have to accept legal responsibility for supporting your family member financially. You have to take this responsibility and you become your relative’s sponsor. For this you have to complete and sign a document called an affidavit of support. You have this responsibility until your relative gets American Citizenship or is credited with 40 quarters of work (normally 10 years.)

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