Articles Posted in U.S. Citizenship

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Its happens more often than you think. Sometimes, it happens to a Legal Permanent Resident who has had a green card for at least 3 years if married to a U.S. citizen, or otherwise 5 years, always pays his taxes, has a family, has good moral character and otherwise meets all of the qualifications for citizenship. He applies for his Citizenship by filing an N-400 application, attends his naturalization interview, and is completely blindsided when his application is denied because his name appears on the voter registration rolls of the state. The fact that he is registered to vote may come as a complete surprise to the applicant. He has never voted in an election, nor did he intend to vote in any election. But the consequences of registering to vote, whether done knowingly or not, can be harsh. The USCIS views it as a false claim to U.S. Citizenship, which is a grounds striping one of his legal permanent residence status and removing him from the country.

More often than not, the misguided voters registration happens when non-citizens with a green card go to the Illinois Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to apply for or renew a driver’s license. Federal Motor-Voter Laws require DMV employees to offer voter registration to all drivers license and State ID customers, without any screening and without even asking if the customer is a U.S. citizen. Even when the DMV customer has presented a green card, or foreign passport as an I.D., he will be offered an application to register to vote. Sometimes, the non-citizen signs the form by mistake, not realizing that what he signed was a voter’s registration form. Sometimes, language is an issue and the applicant doesn’t understand what he is signing, or maybe he doesn’t even read what he is signing. Very often the non-citizen may mistakenly believe that he is entitled to register because he is being handed a registration form by a government official. He couldn’t be more wrong.

However the non-citizen happened to be registered, it doesn’t have to be fatal to his citizenship, especially if he never voted in an election. First, the non-citizen should contact the Board of Elections immediately and find out where he was registered. One should obtain a copy of the voters registration form with his signature to make sure it is his. Then, the non-citizen need to immediately get his name removed from the voters registration rolls. Generally, USCIS will require and affidavit stating the circumstances under which the non-citizen was registered.

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The year 2011 ended with controversy about the inclusion of the term “anchor baby” in the new edition of the American Heritage Dictionary. Anchor baby, it said, is “a child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially such a child born to parents seeking to secure eventual citizenship for themselves and often other members of their family.” A protest ensured from the American Immigration Counsel (AIC), resulting in an immediate and dramatic reversal in the definition. The term “anchor baby,” according to the AIC, is derogatory and offensive and should be labeled as such. With a few days, the folks at American Heritage Dictionary redefined the term:

Anchor baby n. Offensive. Used as a disparaging term for a child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grant automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially when the child’s birthplace is thought to have been chosen in order to improve the mother’s or other relatives’ chances of securing eventual citizenship.”

But here is the truth about anchor babies. The idea that people (the general perception is Mexican people) actually plan to gain a path to citizenship by coming to the United States to have a baby is very much a fiction. The immigration haters out there claim that anchor babies lead to “chain immigration” in which the baby petitions for the parents and for his/her brothers and sisters, and the parents and siblings then petition in more relatives, and so on and so on. The truth is that the United States Citizen baby cannot petition for his/her parents, or anyone for that matter until he/she is 21 years old. Then, after waiting 21 years for the “anchor baby” to come of age the parents who originally came to the United States undocumented have to return to their country to process their immigrant visa. Upon leaving the United States, the parents will immediately be subject to the 10-year bar prohibiting their re-entry into the United States due to their time of unlawful presence here. Moreover, pursuant to the latest Visa Bulletin from the Department of State, it takes 16 years before an immigrant visa application becomes current if the “anchor baby,” who is now an adult U.S. citizen, files for a brother or sister in Mexico, and the beneficiary must wait out that time in Mexico. Do the math and we are looking at 35 to 40 years for the “anchor baby” to successfully petition a relative into the United States.

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It is typical for Immigration Lawyers to encourage legal permanent residents (LPR’s) to apply for citizenship as soon as they qualify for Naturalization. Only Naturalization will give you the full protection and rights of an American Citizen. Legal Permanent Residents can lose legal status and be placed in removal proceedings for a myriad of reasons. Therefore, without any complicating factors, as an LPR you want to Naturalize as soon as you meet the statutory requirements. You may be eligible to apply for citizenship after three years if you received your green card based on a marriage to a U.S citizen Petitioner. If your permanent residence status was not based on a marriage petition, then you are eligible in 5 years after the date permanent residence was established. You may submit your N-400 application within 3 months of the eligibility date (whether it is 3 or 5 years), and you will be interviewed at the local USCIS Naturalization office, where you must pass an English exam and a U.S. government test. However, LPR’s should be mindful that submitting an N-400 Naturalization application to the USCIS can bring unintended consequences as drastic as losing permanent residence status and /or being placed into removal proceedings.

To be eligible for Naturalization, you must meet the following criteria:

  1. Must be a lawful permanent resident for 5 years (3 years if married to USC)
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