Articles Posted in Naturalization/Citizenship

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adobe-spark-post-1As an immigration attorney, when I talk to my immigration clients about their future, the first thing I tell them is to become a United States citizen as fast as they can, if they want to spend the rest of their life in the United States.  I tell them to run, not walk, to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Office to file an N-400 Application to naturalize.  I pick up the bulky Immigration and Nationality Act and tell them they can have a bonfire and burn that book after they naturalize, because the Immigration and Nationality Act no longer applies to them.  They will become full fledged United States citizens with all the bells and whistles.  But with everything in life, especially in the law, there are exceptions.  And one of those exceptions is through a process called denaturalization.


What is Denaturalization?


Denaturalization is the process of undoing a person’s naturalization and stripping that person of United States citizenship.  This process is typically initiated pursuant to an allegation that the person obtained their citizenship through fraud or misrepresentation or that they were not eligible for naturalization.  It is very difficult for the government to denaturalize someone as the burden of proof is very high and it must be done in federal court.

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Orlando immigration attorneys and Jacksonville immigration attorneys know the frustration of the Infopass system.  Appointments are few and far between.  When an appointment becomes available, there is a mad rush to reserve your spot.  Clients often get frustrated that an appointment cannot be made more quickly. And once an appointment is finally made, the answers are often not very useful.

There are few agencies that are more tightly wound in red tape than the United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS).  You can’t just pick up a phone and give them a call.  You can’t simply drop in and ask a question.  There is a process.  Not a very good process.  But there is a process.  If you have a question about your pending application or petition, you can set what is called an “Infopass appointment.”  An Infopass appointment is the vehicle you can use to get answers to your questions.  Unfortunately, you will often get vague or conflicting answers, but sometimes these appointments can be very helpful.

The most common use of the Infopass appointment is to answer the question, “What is taking so long on my application or petition?”  Customers often ask when a decision will be made.  Sometimes, simply having the Infopass appointment can jog the case the loose and get it back in line for a decision.  The adjudicator who you meet with at the Infopass appointment won’t be the adjudicator that decides your case, but they often can look up the status in the system, see where the file is, determine where in the process the case is, and offer other useful information.

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If you are a lawful permanent resident and you want to become a U.S. citizen, congratulations, you have made a wise decision. Becoming a U.S. citizen as soon as you are eligible is almost always the right choice for every lawful permanent resident. Becoming a citizen means no more renewing your green card, no more waiting in the longer line at Customs on the way back into the country and no more worrying about losing your status and getting deported.

Now that you have made the decision to apply for your citizenship, you must now determine if you are eligible. To apply for citizenship, you would use a form called an N-400 Application for Naturalization. The law on citizenship requires that an applicant meet the following criteria:

  • has been a lawful permanent resident for at least five years (three years if you obtained your green card through a U.S. citizen spouse and are still married);
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Claiming to a United States citizen when you are not one may not appear to be that horrible of an act, but under immigration law, it is one of the worst things you can do as a non-citizen. Falsely claiming to be a U.S. citizen for almost any reason, can lead to a permanent denial of lawful permanent residence (a green card), a denial of your Application of Naturalization (citizenship), you can be detained and put in immigration removal proceedings, denied other forms of immigration relief and ultimately deported. Yes, that’s right, unless and until you are a U.S. citizen, you should never tell anyone you are a U.S. citizen for any reason.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, the circumstances that you may claim to be a citizen can vary. Most people who get in trouble for claiming to be a U.S. citizen did so in the context of registering to vote or when filling out the Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification. Others may have claimed to be a citizen to obtain federal benefits such as student loans, a home mortgage, Medicare, Medicaid or food stamps. Some people falsely claim to be a U.S. citizen so that they can get a U.S. passport. This is not only something that can get you deported, its also a federal crime. Some people falsely claim to be a U.S. citizen to avoid being deported when they are interviewed by immigration officers at the U.S. border or when arrested on a criminal offense.

Regardless of the circumstances under which a non-citizen claims to be a U.S. citizen, the penalties and consequences are severe-the U.S. government takes false claims very seriously.

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Last month I had the honor of speaking at the Florida Public Defender Association’s 30th Annual “Trial with Style Conference” in unfortunately rainy Fort Lauderdale. While in one of my former lives as a state prosecutor and I like to think I always tried my cases with style, during this conference I did not talk about anything specifically to do with trying a case.

My topic was “Crimmigration: the intersection of Criminal and Immigration Law.” Let me preface this piece with the following caveat; not all immigrants are criminals (sorry Donald Trump) and recent research has shown that foreign-born residents are less likely to commit serious and violent crimes than native-born citizens.

That being said, this subject is of great interest to most criminal defense attorneys in Florida. Florida has the fourth-highest foreign-born population in the U.S. Almost 20% of all residents in Florida were born in another country. Because Florida is now the third largest state with a total population of over 20 million, that means we have roughly four million foreign-born people living in Florida. Florida is also top 10 in the country in crime rate. You combine all of these factors, and you see why criminal defense attorneys need to know immigration law.

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Over the last few months I had the opportunity to work with some fantastic immigration attorneys across the Southeast United States on a collaborative project. Our goal was to find, review and summarize every immigration-related and useful District Court and Circuit Court Case from the Eleventh Circuit and put them together in a newsletter. This was an enjoyable and educational experience. We expect to send out this newsletter every quarter and it will contain published and unpublished District Court cases from Florida, Alabama and Georgia and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

This would not be possible without the hard work of our multi-state team composed of Marshall Cohen, Roberta Cooper, Bruce Buchanan and myself, John Gihon. Here are the summaries of the District Court Cases for Alabama, Georgia and Florida. If anyone reading this newsletter has any suggestions, please contact me at John@slgattorneys.com or our editor, Bruce Buchanan at bbuchanan@visalaw.com

District Court Decisions

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Over the last few months I had the opportunity to work with some fantastic immigration attorneys across the Southeast United States on a collaborative project. Our goal was to find, review and summarize every immigration-related and useful District Court and Circuit Court Case from the Eleventh Circuit and put them together in a newsletter. This was an enjoyable and educational experience. We expect to send out this newsletter every quarter and it will contain published and unpublished District Court cases from Florida, Alabama and Georgia and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

This would not be possible without the hard work of our multi-state team composed of Marshall Cohen, Roberta Cooper, Bruce Buchanan and myself, John Gihon. Here are the summaries of the 11th Circuit Cases. If anyone reading this newsletter has any suggestions, please contact me at John@slgattorneys.com or our editor, Bruce Buchanan at bbuchanan@visalaw.com

11th Circuit Cases:

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There is a bill currently pending before Florida Senate that seeks to increase the maximum punishment for certain crimes committed by “illegal immigrants.” You can read the text of Senate Bill 150 here:

http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2016/0150/BillText/__/HTML

Thankfully, there is no companion bill in the House. At first glance, many Floridians may think, “good, if someone is here illegally and commits a crime, they should face higher penalties.” But that gut reaction is wrong in this case, as the devil is always in the details. If you know anything about immigration law or have been following the protracted fights between the Obama administration and the federal courts over immigration, you know that the Federal Government and Federal Courts have a hard time interpreting and administering federal immigration laws themselves. What this bill proposes to do is to impose upon the Florida courts, prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys the additional time, financial and legal burden of determining the immigration status of a person before, during and after they commit a crime. This is much easier said then done.

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Finding yourself in handcuffs and under arrest is a traumatic experience for everyone. Many thoughts run through your mind, where will they take me, will I be able to get out of jail, can I afford a criminal defense attorney? One thought that should also be at the forefront for everyone arrested who is not a U.S. citizen is, how will this arrest affect my immigration status and will I be deported?

For non-citizens who are arrested, hiring a criminal defense attorney is just the first step in protecting your rights. While criminal defense attorneys in both state and federal court are charged by the U.S. Constitution with providing accurate immigration advice to their clients, in reality, this often does not happen. Criminal defense attorneys are often unable to give accurate immigration advice because they do not practice immigration law and have no idea what the effects of a given criminal charge will be for a client.

This is true because the criminal aspects of immigration law, or crimmigration is a very nuisanced, complicated, ever-changing and inconsistent area of law that even the most experienced immigration attorneys are often fearful of practicing. If immigration attorneys don’t know the immigration consequences of criminal prosecutions, how can your criminal defense attorney be expected to know them?

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Seems like an easy question, right? You would think a person would know if they were a United States citizen as a matter of common sense. But sometimes it’s not that easy. If you have a United States citizen parent, either by birth or naturalization, you may have automatically acquired or derived U.S. citizenship and may not even know it.

A person can become a United States citizen any one of the following four ways: Constitutional citizenship, Acquired citizenship, Derivative citizenship, or Naturalization.

Constitutional citizenship – The fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution states that “…all persons born in and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States are citizens.” This means that anyone born on U.S. soil is a United States citizen, other than the children of diplomats not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.