Articles Posted in Naturalization

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Conscientious_Objector_memorial,_Tavistock_Sq_Gardens.jpgU.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) denied a woman’s applicant for naturalization based on her stated reasons why she would not be willing to “bear arms on behalf of the United States.” Federal immigration law allows a naturalization applicant to decline to take an oath to bear arms if he or she can demonstrate a religious objection. The woman stated in her application that she is an atheist with significant personal convictions against war and violence, and USCIS denied her application. It reversed its decision after secular advocacy groups, such as the American Humanist Association (AHA) intervened on her behalf. The woman’s case is the second in the past year involving the denial of a naturalization application based on religion.

The applicant, who is originally from Colombia, became a permanent resident of the United States in 2008. She applied for naturalization in October 2013. In her Form N-400, she identified herself as an atheist and provided a statement explaining her unwillingness to take the full oath of allegiance. She described her own history of advocacy for non-violence, and drew on Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Albert Einstein, and Jiddu Krishnamurti to provide a secular explanation for her principles. She also noted that it was unlikely that she would ever be called to serve in the military, but that she wanted to provide an honest answer. On January 29, 2014, USCIS denied her application, reportedly solely because of her opposition to bearing arms.

Federal immigration law requires applicants for naturalization to state their willingness to take an oath of allegiance to the United States, including an oath “to bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law.” 8 U.S.C. § 1448(a)(5)(A). The statute allows a person to omit the “bear arms” provision if they show, by clear and convincing evidence, that they are opposed to military service “by reason of religious training and belief.” The statute also specifically states that this term refers to “belief in relation to a Supreme Being” but not “political, sociological, or philosophical views or a merely personal moral code.”
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1046480_19872499.jpgU.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released the first volume of a planned twelve-volume comprehensive Policy Manual (the “Manual”) earlier this year. The first volume, actually designated as Volume 12, covers policies related to citizenship and naturalization. It took effect January 22, 2013, and takes the place of a “field manual” and a set of policy memoranda with rather inefficient organization. The Manual is the result of several years of review of the decade-old immigration agency’s policies and procedures. It will hopefully bring greater organization and efficiency to USCIS, although from the standpoint of immigration attorneys and advocates, that lack of organization sometimes works to the benefit of clients.

Previous USCIS Resources

USCIS officially came into being on March 1, 2003, thanks to the Homeland Security Act of 2002. The former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) split into three separate agencies within the newly-created Department of Homeland Security, with USCIS charged with “national immigration services.” This includes processing of most petitions and applications for immigration benefits. Prior to the Manual, the two primary sources of USCIS policies and procedures were the Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) and the set of immigration policy memoranda maintained by USCIS on its website.
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600px-Facebook_on_Nasdaq.jpegA bill pending in the U.S. Senate targets citizens who renounce their citizenship, a process known as expatriation, as a means of avoiding tax liability. An increasing number of citizens are expatriating every year, although it is not clear how many, if any, do so to avoid taxes. U.S. immigration law deems anyone who expatriates for such tax-related reasons inadmissible to reenter the country, but the burden of proof of intent is generally on the government. The new bill, if passed, would effectively reduce the government’s burden for certain expatriates. Lawmakers were motivated to write the bill from news of Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin’s expatriation, announced shortly before he stood to make a huge profit on Facebook’s initial public offering (IPO).

Saverin was born in Brazil and moved to the United States with his family, when he was still a minor, in 1992. He became a naturalized citizen in 1998. As a Harvard undergraduate student, he co-founded the now-global social networking website Facebook. The company’s formation was presented in a dramatized form in the 2010 film The Social Network. Facebook’s IPO in May 2012 brought in billions of dollars and set several records, making the founders and early investors quite wealthy.
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Arte greca, pietra tombale di donna con la sua assistente, 100 ac. circaA study conducted at Michigan State University has found possible flaws in the citizenship test administered to immigrants applying for naturalization. While the study’s sample size is very small, the main author, Paula Winke, has argued that the standards used to determine whether or not to grant citizenship to a particular applicant may in fact be random.

The citizenship test used by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was introduced in 2006 as a pilot program and has been mandatory nationwide since October 2009. It was designed to test an applicant’s knowledge of core American values more than just facts about American government and history. The test consists of four parts. Three parts test the applicant’s English language proficiency in reading, writing, and speaking. The fourth part of the test, commonly known as the “civics test,” consists of ten questions chosen from a set of 100 questions in three broad categories: American Government, Integrated Civics, and American History.

“American Government” questions cover the system and structure of the federal government, the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, and the “principles of American democracy.” “Integrated Civics” addresses questions of American geography, holidays, and symbols. “American History” covers all periods from the Colonial era to modern day.

The civics test is conducted verbally, and applicants must answer six of the ten questions correctly to pass. If an applicant does not pass any part of the citizenship exam, they can re-take that part within ninety days. According to USCIS, ninety-three percent of applicants who have taken the exam since October 2009 passed on the first try.

The MSU study administered two versions of the test to 414 participants, some of whom were citizens and some of whom were non-citizens. Of the total group, 136 participants failed both tests, and 181 passed both. The remaining 97 individuals, who passed one test and failed the other, caused concern for Winke.

Based on the participants’ results, Winke concluded that seventy-seven of the questions were equally difficult for both the citizens and non-citizens. Ten questions were easier for the citizen participants, and thirteen were easier for the non-citizens. She described those thirteen as “counterintuitive” and said they did not appear to address the core issues the test is intended to cover. She recommends phasing those questions out. An example of one of the thirteen questions, according to the Detroit Free Press, is “Who is the governor of your state now?”
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