A question that I often receive is “Do I really need a lawyer for my citizenship process?” And my answer is always unequivocally – “Yes!” There are several reasons for my answer:
- Am I even eligible for citizenship? When a lawful permanent resident also known as a green card holder applies for U.S. citizenship he or she has the burden or obligation to show USCIS (immigration office that processes applications) that he or she is eligible for citizenship. This requires a full understanding of all of the legal requirements for citizenship. A qualified immigration lawyer is able to fully analyze this and be sure you meet all of the objective legal requirements and the subjective legal requirements related to showing you a person of Good Moral Character. It also means that USCIS is going to look into how the applicant received his or her permanent residence in the first place. If applications were not filled out correctly or if an applicant failed to discuss something in the green card process it can come into play during the citizenship process. For this reason it is important to retain counsel who will review all prior filings and conduct a thorough consultation with you before applying for citizenship.
- My case is simple. Will legal questions arise where I need an attorney? When applying for citizenship you need to submit a 20 page form that you sign under the penalty of perjury. USCIS uses this form to determine if you are eligible for U.S. citizenship. The form includes some very simple questions related to your family, places of employment, addresses, etc. But it also includes six pages of very specific legal questions. Answering these questions wrong can be detrimental to a citizenship application. Often applicants who apply without a lawyer misinterpret these questions and fail to answer them correctly – whether it means they withheld information accidentally or failed to include an appropriate explanation to a question. Having a qualified immigration lawyer assist you in completing the form will ensure that you answered each question properly and with credibility. This will also help ensure that you will likely not have any surprises at your citizenship interview.
- My grandmother got her citizenship without a lawyer. Isn’t the process still the same? Unfortunately, the immigration landscape is constantly changing more than ever. Although the laws adopted by congress as it relates to citizenship don’t change often – the regulations or the way the laws are interpreted change all the time by the courts or the current presidential administration. I often tell my clients “You don’t know what you don’t know.” I have dedicated my career to learning about the constant changing field of immigration law. I am equipped to defend you against the changing forces.
THE GREEN CARD PROCESS AND NEW PUBLIC CHARGE: WHY THESE CHANGES ARE FUNDAMENTALLY CHANGING THE ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS PROCESS?
At the end of February 2020 applicants who are applying for legal permanent residence (a “green card”) either through the Department of State or who are here in the U.S. applying with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services – are subject to a new rule to decide who is considered a “Public Charge” (someone who is likely to need financial help from the U.S. government) at any time in the future. They will use information about your past to determine whether you could become a “Public Charge.”
The new rules have received a lot of media attention, but you should know that there are many immigrants who might be exempt from these new rules.
However, if you plan to obtain your lawful permanent residence or green card and you’re not exempt then you will likely need to show information to immigration about your age, health, family, education level, occupational skills, English proficiency level, income, debts, credit history, public benefits received, and show evidence that you have a sponsor to support your application. The immigration office deciding your application will use all of these factors to determine whether you are a “Public Charge.” If you are found to be a public charge then you may still be eligible to pay a bond (an additional fee) and change your status.
Since this is a new rule, the landscape is changing rapidly.
It is very important for applicants to schedule a consultation with a qualified immigration lawyer. Feel free to call Kasturi Law, LLC at 630-392-8101 to see how these changes affect you and your family.