Naturalize Now!

Take Action – The costs only go UP!
Part Five in a Series
By: Jeanne Morales, Attorney

     The current fee is $725 = $640 for naturalization + $85 for biometrics

Are you one of the people who believe that “it costs too much to naturalize?”  Don’t let the price tag fool you – you need to know the costs of not naturalizing.

The filing fee for citizenship ($725) costs slightly more money that renewing a green card ($540). Over the long term, it’s actually much cheaper.  Compared to the long-term costs of remaining a permanent resident, becoming a U.S. citizen is far less expensive. For example, the average 30-year old will pay another $5,313 in United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) fees over his lifetime if he continues to be permanent resident.  But once you naturalize, you are out of the immigration system, and you never have to pay another filing fee to USCIS.

         Immigration fees have been raised eight times since the 1988 law establishing that immigration applications should be funded by user fees.  As the table shows, the costs can only go up –

1989$60
1991$90
1994$95
1999$225
2002$260
2003$320
2005$330
2007$595
2016$640

         The current fee is $725 = $640 for naturalization + $85 for biometrics

         It has been three years since the last price increase, so we can expect an announcement soon about the costs going up. The longer that you wait to naturalize, the more it will cost you financially.

         But what about the non-monetary costs that you are paying for not being a U.S. citizen?  Every day that you stay a permanent resident, you are missing out on government jobs and benefits:

The added benefits of U.S. citizenship include:

  • Family Reunification U.S. citizens can help overseas family members immigrate more quickly to the United States. The relatives of citizens are given priority by USCIS (as compared to relatives of permanent residents).
  • The Right to Vote Direct participation in democratic elections is one of the most important privileges that this country offers its citizens. Only U.S. citizens have the right to vote in federal elections and to be candidates in most elections.
  • Additional Job Opportunities The federal government is one of the biggest employers in the world and offers many job opportunities in a wide range of industries. However, the vast majority of federal jobs are available only to U.S. citizens.
  • International Protection The United States protects its citizens abroad through its embassies and consulates. The U.S. government assists citizens who are victims of crimes overseas and provides aid to U.S. citizens abroad in the case of international disasters or emergencies.
  • More Student Aid The federal government has different types of financial assistance for students, including scholarships and grants that are available exclusively for U.S. citizens.
  • Additional Government Benefits You may qualify for other government benefits that are only available to U.S. citizens.

U.S. citizens avoid the problems of those who are merely legal permanent residents.  The term legal permanent resident can be misleading – the status is not permanent, not if one is convicted of certain crimes, not if the person leaves the U.S. for more than 6 months, and not if the U.S. government decides to change the law.  

         So which way will yousave money?  By becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen, or by spending each day at risk that the cost to youwill go up, either financially or otherwise? Take action nowto protect yourself by naturalizing!

Published on: September 16, 2019

Naturalize Now!

Take Action – Skip the Test!!
Part Four in a Series
By: Jeanne Morales, Attorney

If you cannot speak English, or have a medical disability, you have alternatives

            Many people hold back from trying to naturalize because they are afraid of the test.  The test is relatively easy, and if you understand English you should build your confidence and go ahead and take it in English.  However, if you cannot speak English, or have a medical disability, you have alternatives.

            If you wish to take the test in your native language, there are three options:

            #1 – If you age 50 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident (green card holder) in the United States for at least 20 years, you can skip the English test and take the civics test in your native language.

#2 – If you age 55 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident in the United States for at least 15 years, you can skip the English test and take the civics test in your native language.

#3 – If you age 65 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident in the United States for at least 20 years, you can skip the English test and take an easier civics test in your native language.

            If you take the test in your native language, you must bring an interpreter with you to your interview.  Your interpreter must be fluent in both English and your native language.

            If you qualify for one of the options to take the civics test in your own language, you must bring evidence of the amount of time that you have lived in the United States; you cannot rely of just having had a green card for the required number of years.  You should bring tax returns, mortgage information, pay stubs or any other type of documentation that show that not only have you had a green card for the required number of years, but that you have actually lived in the United States for that period of time.

            There is an option for someone who is medically disabled and unable to take the tests.

            You may be eligible for an exception to the English and civics naturalization requirements if you are unable to comply with these requirements because of a physical or developmental disability or a mental impairment.  To request this exception, submit Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions. This form must be completed by a licensed medical or osteopathic doctor, or licensed clinical psychologist.

            This option is difficult and is not recommended for people to pursue on their own – you need an attorney to make sure the doctor completes the form properly and to assist the individual at the interview.  The disability must impair the person’s ability to learn and retain the information needed to pass the test – physically disabled individuals who can study and learn cannot waive the test.

Published on: September 9, 2019

Naturalize Now!

Take Action – The only way to make it “Permanent
Part Three in a Series
By: Jeanne Morales, Attorney

The U.S. government changed the law regarding non-citizens who may be a public charge.

             There has been a lot of talk lately regarding the public charge rule, and how it affects non-citizens, including persons who are or want to be legal permanent residents.  So, what is it all about?  Before we can talk about the public charge information, let’s take a closer look at the legal permanent resident status – that is, people who have “green cards”.

            When someone is in the U.S. legally, but on a temporary basis, they may have a visa.  A visa gives a non-citizen the ability to enter the U.S. for a period of time for various reasons, such as to go to college or to be a tourist.  Visas are for a limited period of time.

            When a family member or an employer sponsors a non-citizen to be in the U.S. to live and work with no time limitation, that person becomes a legal permanent resident.  Since the card for such individuals used to be green, many people refer to legal permanent resident status as having a green card.  Only legal permanent residents can naturalize and become a U.S. citizen.

            The term legal permanent resident can be misleading – the status is not permanent, not if one commits certain crimes, not if the person leaves the U.S. for more than 6 months, and not if the U.S. government decides to change the law.  Recently, the U.S. government has changed the law regarding non-citizens who may be a public charge.

             According to USCIS, “public charge” means an individual who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.  The new rule broadens the programs that the U.S. government will consider in public charge determinations to include previously excluded health, nutrition, and housing programs, and outlines the factors the U.S. government will consider in making a public charge consideration.

            What does this mean for people who want to become legal permanent residents? It will be much harder to obtain a green card, because the people making the decisions about permanent residents will have more justifications for denying someone legal permanent resident status.  The Department of State has already been using the new rules for immigrants who must go through consular processing in order to get their green card; denials have risen dramatically.  It will also mean that individuals who already have legal permanent resident status may still be at risk of having their “permanent” resident status revoked if they accept benefits that make them a public charge.

            An what does it mean for legal permanent residents who want to naturalize and become U.S. citizens?  Once someone become a U.S. citizen, they are no longer subject to immigration law. However, the longer one stays a legal “permanent” resident, the higher the chance that there will be a change to the law that will make it harder to keep the legal “permanent” resident status.  

            The U.S. government has published information that indicates that the new public charge rule will not affect the naturalization process; but remember, the entire time someone is trying to become a U.S. citizen, they are still a legal “permanent” resident, and are subject to immigration regulations.  The new public charge rule is set to take effect October 15, 2019, but immigration attorneys are reporting that their clients are already being asked questions about being a public charge, and not just in interviews to become a legal “permanent” resident – the same questions have been asked in naturalization interviews.  

            There is a fee that is paid to the U.S. government to process a request for naturalization; there is also a request for a reduced fee and a request for a fee waiver.  Because of the new rules regarding public charge, it is inadvisable for legal “permanent” residents to ask for the fee to be waived or reduced – that might give USCIS a reason to deny an applicant based on the public charge rule.

The ONLY way to have a legal PERMANENT status in the United States is to become a U.S. citizen.

Published on: September 2, 2019

Naturalize Now!

Take Action – And Save, Save, Save!
Part Two in a Series
By: Jeanne Morales, Attorney

             There is a way to save big money by becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen. You may be aware that as a legal permanent resident that you can become a U.S. citizen by taking a test and paying a fee – but did you know that if you have children who are also legal permanent residents, you can save money and change the course of your family’s life by simply naturalizing?

             Although there are many legal ways for people to live in the U.S. with a non-immigrant visa, those who have immigrated to the U.S. generally have the status of a legal permanent resident – that is, they have a greencard. A legal permanent resident may live and work in the U.S., but they cannot vote, they cannot obtain certain jobs, or apply for certain benefits. And don’t let the word “permanent” fool you; if a permanent resident commits a crime or gets into some other trouble, or the law changes, they can be deported from the United States. The only status that is truly safe is that of a U.S. citizen, and legal permanent residents can go through the naturalization process to become a U.S. citizen.

             The naturalization process involves an application, a test, and a fee. And that may be enough to turn some off to the idea of becoming a U.S. citizen. But if you have children under the age of 18, who are legal permanent residents and live with you in the United States, then when you become a naturalized U.S. citizen, they automatically become U.S. citizens. No fee for them. No test for them. They wake up in the morning a legal permanent resident, and they go to bed that night a U.S. citizen.

             You can get your children to the safest possible status in the U.S. for no fee whatsoever, by merely becoming a naturalized citizen yourself – and that can be big savings. But you are not just saving money. If you don’t naturalize, or you wait until your children reach the age of 18, then each child will have to go through the naturalization process themselves. That means they will have to apply, pay a fee, and take a test. They will have to go through the process during a time when they might have other goals for themselves – many young adults want “freedom” and don’t want to study for a test. They may pass up job opportunities because they are not a U.S. citizen. Or, in the worst-case scenario, that young adult could use their “freedom” to get into the kind of trouble that would get them deported.

             A parent who naturalizes can give their children the benefit of U.S. citizenship for free, and that saves money. They can also make sure that when their children become adults, they have the maximum benefits available to U.S. citizens, and they are protected from deportation for the rest of their life – and that is BIG savings.

Published on: August 26, 2019

Take Action – The Boys of Summer
Part One in a Series
By: Jeanne Morales, Attorney

Elvis Andrus: ‘It’s an honor for me to become an American today’
Asdrúbal Cabrera: ‘We want to be part of the country’

             There is a connection between current and former Major League Baseball players Elvis Andrus, Asdrúbal Cabrera, Felix Hernandez, Carlos Carrasco, and Melvin Mora.  They were all born in a country that is currently in enormous upheaval – Venezuela.  And they all took advantage of their opportunity to play baseball in the United States, by becoming naturalized U.S. citizens.

            It is no secret that Venezuela is a bad place right now.  The U.S. State Department has issued a “Do Not Travel” warning to Americans – that is, traveling to Venezuela is as dangerous as traveling to North Korea, Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Yemen.  Venezuela has had five “Alerts” issued in 2019, and in January 2019 the State Department removed all non-essential personnel and families from Venezuela.  Even Amnesty International has published that Venezuela is “suffering an unprecedented human rights crisis” and “the authorities are implementing a systematic and widespread policy of repression against those people who are bravely calling for a change in government. . . “

            But is the turmoil in Venezuela the only reason to become a U.S. citizen?  Of course not.  Elvis Andrus naturalized on July 26, 2019 and in an Instagram post after his oath ceremony in Dallas he said “I will always be very proud of where I came from, and I’m humbled where my journey has taken me. I’ve learned so much in this journey to U.S. citizenship. I’m thankful and grateful for the rights and freedoms of Americans and will never take that for granted.”

            It is nice to know that someone is grateful and recognizes the importance of American rights and freedoms.  Too many Americans fail to cherish our rights and freedoms, and too many legal Permanent Residents (Green card holders) fail to take advantage of the opportunity to naturalize and become a U.S. citizen.

            The United States is a tremendous place, and Americans should be challenged to appreciate their citizenship, to know and protect their rights, and to actively participate in the self-government of this great nation.  Such a vast undertaking requires constant attention, and if Americans slumber then there will be an opportunity for those who would bring down this great nation.

Legal Permanent Residents should also be challenged to take the final step in their long immigration process and become naturalized citizens, in order to fully reap the rewards of what is to be an American.    

            The major league baseball players who naturalized knew they were living the American Dream, and they made sure that they would never wake up from that dream – because they naturalized.  

Published on: August 19, 2019