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Beginning on December 1st, 2020, applicants for naturalization will be required to take an expanded civics test at their naturalization interview.  The current test requires the applicant to answer 6 out of 10 questions correctly to pass.   Applicants study from a list of 100 possible questions.  The new test will require the applicant to answer 12 out of 20 questions correctly.  There will be 128 questions that the applicant will study and USCIS will choose 20 questions out of those 128 possible questions.  The applicant will have two chances to pass the test.  If the applicant does not answer 12 questions correctly at the first interview, they will be rescheduled for an additional interview where they will get one more opportunity to pass the test.  If the applicant does not pass the second time, he or she will have to start the entire naturalization process over by filing a new N-400 form along with new filing fees.


What kind of questions will they ask me during the civics exam at my naturalization interview?


The civics exam is designed to test your knowledge of  U.S. government and history topics.  Here are some of the questions that might be asked:

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USCIS is set to increase their filing fees on immigration benefit cases, beginning on October 2nd, 2020.  This means that anyone who wants to file for an immigration benefit, including a greencard, work permit, naturalization, asylum and more should consider filing their forms before the October 2nd date, or there could be a substantial increase in cost.


What are the new filing fees for a greencard application?


Don’t be fooled by the $10 decrease in filing fee for the I-485 application for a greencard from $1140 to $1130.  The total fees have actually dramatically increased.  The old fee used to include the I-765, which is an application for a work permit while the greencard application is pending.  Because the processing time for the greencard can be so long, currently up to 3 years in our jurisdiction, almost everyone is going to have to file an I-765 to obtain a work permit, which is usually approved within about 6 months.  The new fee for the I-765 is $550.

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There was a national victory yesterday in the ongoing litigation involving DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.  And while immigrants and immigration attorneys alike cheered the important U.S. Supreme Court decision, the jubilation has been tempered by the revelation of what the decision does and does not actually do for DACA eligible recipients.  So, let’s take an in-depth look at the case, the issues before the Court and the Court’s holding.


What was the actual issue before the Supreme Court?


Under the Obama administration, DACA was expanded and a new form of deferred action called DAPA was announced.  Many states filed for injunctions to prevent the expansion of DACA and the implementation of DAPA.  When the Trump administration came to power, the Attorney General told the Acting Director of Department of Homeland Security that DAPA and DACA were illegal and therefore, she should discontinue DACA.  So, DHS allowed for a renewal for those whose DACA was about to expire, but no new DACA applications would be accepted and no other DACA renewals would be accepted.  Multiple petitioners filed for injunctions claiming that the decision was a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) because it was “arbitrary and capricious.” Various Circuit Courts agreed with the Petitioners and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

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Few things have a more dramatic effect on a person’s immigration case than an allegation of False Claim to U.S. citizenship.  A recent Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) decision and resulting policy change by USCIS further ensnare people into this ground of inadmissibility.  Let’s take a look:


What is a False Claim to U.S. Citizenship?


Under §212(a)(6)(C)(ii) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, any person who falsely represents, or has falsely represented himself or herself to be a citizen of the United States for any purpose or benefit under this Act (including section 274A) or any other Federal or State law is inadmissible. Under §237(a)(3)(D)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, a person who falsely claims to be a United States citizen is deportable.   This often comes up in the context of a non-citizen who registers to vote or checks a box on the I-9 form stating that they are a U.S. citizen in order to get a job or in some other non-immigration related situation where the person is asked for evidence that they are in the United States lawfully.  Then when the person applies for a greencard or naturalization, the the issue comes up.

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I’m a Canadian Citizen and have a prior criminal conviction.  How can I obtain a waiver to get into the United States?


Canadian and the United States citizens enjoy relaxed immigration policies when traveling between the two countries.  But those relaxed policies can sometimes cause people to falsely believe that they are not going to be denied admission into the country.  One area where this often happens is when a person has a prior criminal conviction and then tries to enter the United States.  Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may deny admission and tell you that you must apply for a waiver.  So, let’s discuss that process.

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A new Board of Immigration Appeals decision, Matter of J-J-G, 27 I&N Dec. 808 (BIA 2020) has made it more difficult for foreign nationals to obtain Cancellation of Removal.  Cancellation of Removal is a form of relief from deportation where the foreign national, even if he or she entered the United States without any papers, has been in the United States for 10 years or more, has had good moral character for 10 years, has not been convicted of certain crimes, warrants a favorable exercise of discretion, and finally, has a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, parent or child that would incur exceptional and extremely unusual hardship if the foreign national were deported.  This form of relief is extremely valuable for many people who entered the United States a long time ago without papers.  In fact, if the Immigration Judge grants the cancellation of removal, the foreign national will get a greencard.  So, why did it just become more difficult to get Cancellation of Removal?


How do I get Cancellation of Removal?


Cancellation of removal is a form of relief from deportation only available in Immigration Court.  That means that you can’t apply for it unless you are already in removal (deportation) proceedings.  For many foreign nationals who have no options available to them to apply for affirmatively, cancellation of removal in immigration court can be a godsend. Once you are in Immigration Court, you would apply for Cancellation of Removal by submitting form EOIR-42B and applicable evidence.  The Immigration Judge would schedule your case for an Individual Hearing, which would be like a bench trial before the judge where you would present witnesses and evidence.  Lawful permanent residents would submit Form EOIR-42A and applicable evidence.  Lawful permanent residents do not have to establish that their removal would result in Exceptional and extremely unusual hardship, so this blog and the J-J-G case applies only to nonpermanent residents.

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Beginning on February 24th, 2020, most non-citizens applying for a greencard have been subject to a dramatic change in the Public Charge Rule.  This change is going to present an additional burden on those seeking a greencard, including the need to fill out and submit a new form, the need to present additional evidence, and the potential need for a joint sponsor.  It will also increase the number of greencard denials.


What is the Public Charge Rule?


Section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act makes any person likely to become a public charge inadmissible.  The applicant has the burden of proof.  This means that most applicants for greencards must prove to the government that you are not likely to become a public charge.  In the past, it was usually enough to submit an I-864, Affidavit of Support from the Petitioner (U.S. citizen spouse, parent, etc.) along with tax returns showing that the Petitioner made 125% of the federal poverty level.  This is no longer the case.  Now, the government requires a completely new form, Form I-944 to be filed by the applicant, along with new additional evidence.

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There are two different categories of people who are in the United States without authorization.  First, there are people who were lawfully “admitted or paroled” and then overstayed their visa or otherwise violated the terms of the admission.  Second, there are people who entered the United States without authorization or inspection.  Different laws apply to each of these categories of individuals.  How a person entered the United States can have a drastic effect on whether they are eligible to get a green card inside the United States or whether they will have to wait outside the United States for many years before obtaining a greencard.


What if I entered the United States with a visa, but overstayed and now I have a United States citizen spouse who wants to apply for me?


According to the Department of Homeland Security’s 2018 Report, there were 666,582 overstays in the year 2018.  An overstay is a person that was granted authorization to enter and stay in the United States for a temporary period of time and then did not leave the United States within that authorized period.  This can be overstaying on the visa waiver program, a visitor visa, student visa, or any other temporary visa.  A person who overstays their visa is deportable.  However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that person will be deported.   The government forgives the overstay in many situations and will allow the person to obtain a greencard within the United States if they are otherwise eligible.  For example, under the current policies, USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) will, within their discretion, allow a person who has overstayed their visa to obtain a greencard based on marriage to a United States citizen.  This forgiveness usually only extends to family based applications and not employment based.  There are also many considerations that can affect eligibility, so it is important for any person with any immigration violation, like an overstay status, to consult with an immigration attorney before filing any immigration paperwork.  USCIS can issue a Notice to Appear and place a person in removal (deportation) proceedings, so consult with an immigration attorney to understand the risks.

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A new decision, Matter of Castillo-Perez, 27 I&N Dec. 664 (A.G. 2019), released by the Attorney General has created a rebuttable presumption that a person with multiple DUI convictions during the relevant time period does not have “good moral character.”  This means that if a person had old DUI convictions and has rehabilitated themselves, it still will not be enough to establish “good moral character.”


What is “good moral character?”


In certain situations, a non-citizen must prove that he or she has “good moral character.”  For example, if a lawful permanent resident wants to become a United States Citizen, he or she will apply for naturalization and must establish that he or she has had good moral character for the past 3 or 5 years, depending on which provision of law they are applying under.  Also, a person that entered the U.S. without inspection and who is placed in removal (deportation) proceedings, may be eligible to have their removal cancelled (“cancellation of removal”) if they meet certain requirements.  One of those requirements is to prove that he or she has had good moral character for the last 10 years.

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In Florida, driving is considered by our courts as a privilege and not a right.  This is important because it means that the State of Florida has more authority to grant, deny, suspend, or revoke driver’s licenses than it would if you had a constitutional or statutory right to drive.  But people need to drive.  It is hard to exist and prosper without having the ability to drive from place to place.  Every State creates its own rules on who can drive and when. So, what are Florida’s rules when it comes to non-citizens?


The State of Florida and Driver’s Licenses for Non-Citizens


Some states are more immigrant friendly than others when it comes to issuing driver’s licenses.  Immigration is controlled by federal law.  Driver’s licenses is controlled by state law.  Each state can develop their own laws and rules on who can drive within their state.  Some states aren’t really concerned about a person’s immigration status.  The State of Florida requires its residents to submit evidence of their lawful status, or in some cases, evidence of their efforts to obtain lawful status, in order to obtain a driver’s license.

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