USCIS Announces a Revised Naturalization Civics Test

WASHINGTON — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced today plans to implement a revised version of the naturalization civics test. The agency first announced plans to revise the civics test in July 2019.

USCIS revised the civics test as part of a decennial update to ensure that it remains an instrument that comprehensively assesses applicants’ knowledge of American history, government and civic values.

The civics test is administered to applicants who apply for U.S. citizenship and is one of the statutory requirements for naturalizing. Applicants who apply for naturalization on or after Dec. 1, 2020, will take the updated version of the test. Those who apply before Dec. 1, 2020, will take the current version of the test.

“USCIS has diligently worked on revising the naturalization test since 2018, relying on input from experts in the field of adult education to ensure that this process is fair and transparent,” said USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow. “Naturalization allows immigrants to become fully vested members of American society, with the same rights and responsibilities as citizens by birth, and offering a fair test, which prepares naturalization applicants for these responsibilities, is of upmost importance to our agency.”

The revised test includes more questions that test the applicant’s understanding of U.S. history and civics, in line with the statutory requirements, and covers a variety of topics that provide the applicant with more opportunities to learn about the United States as part of the test preparation process. The revised test will not change the passing score, which will remain at 60%. Candidates must answer 12 questions correctly, out of 20 in order to pass.

USCIS will maintain the current guidelines for statutorily established special considerations for applicants who are 65 years old or older and have at least 20 years of lawful permanent resident status. These applicants will be asked 10 questions and must answer a minimum of six questions correctly in order to pass.

The test items and study guides can be found on the Citizenship Resource Center on the USCIS website. USCIS has also updated the USCIS Policy Manual (PDF, 323.82 KB) accordingly; see Volume 12, Part E, English and Civics Testing and Exceptions, Chapter 2, English and Civics Testing.

USCIS piloted the test with community-based organizations and volunteers across the country in summer 2020. The data collected from this pilot was used to help USCIS make determinations about the language and grammatical structure of individual test items, linguistic and cognitive weights assigned to each test item, and to identify those items appropriate for applicants who are 65 years or older, have held lawful permanent resident status for at least 20 years and are granted special consideration by statute.

Exceptions to the Presidential Travel Ban Proclamations

“Mayor Garcetti welcomes Mr. Vayeghan at LAX. He is the first person subjected to the President’s travel ban who was able to return to America as the result of a recent court order” by Mayor of Los Angeles is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Many immigrants are apprehensive about the travel bans instituted by the President at the beginning of the year. The situation seems to change from a day to the next. Executive Orders and Proclamations that affect immigration abound. There seems to be a silver lining in the otherwise clouded immigration landscape. There are exceptions to the travel ban, and the State Department updates us on those quite regularly.

The latest update advises that National Interest Exceptions to Presidential Proclamations 10014 & 10052 include, among others: certain business travelers, investors, treaty traders, academics, and students from the Schengen Area, U.K., and Ireland.

Most Important Update

What is the most important information in the State Department’s update? The one that advises concerned travelers to the US to inquire at the nearest Consulate or Embassy if they may be in one of the categories of National Interest Exception:

“Until complete resumption of routine visa services, applicants who appear to be subject to entry restrictions under P.P. 10014, P.P. 10052, and/or regional-focused Presidential Proclamations related to COVID-19 (P.P. 9984, 9992, 9993, 9996, and/ or 10041) might not be processed for a visa interview appointment unless the applicant also appears to be eligible for an exception under the applicable Proclamation(s). Applicants who are subject to any of these Proclamations, but who believe they may qualify for a national interest exception or other exception, should follow the instructions on the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate’s website regarding procedures necessary to request an emergency appointment and should provide specific details as to why they believe they may qualify for an exception.”

Travel.State.Gov

The stated motive for the travel ban was the protection of US workers, especially those in essential services. It might be helpful to consult the Homeland Security’s ADVISORY MEMORANDUM ON ENSURING ESSENTIAL CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE WORKERS ABILITY TO WORK DURING THE COVID-19 RESPONSE

We advise that you take the time to parse the detailed update on the State Department’s web site. It will help you determine whether you are possibly subject to the travel ban exceptions.

As always, contacting our firm to help you navigate through the uncertainty of your particular situation is also a safe bet. Our experience and expertise is sure to be one of your best allies.

EB-5 Investor Visas: USCIS Clarifies Guidance on Initial and Further Deployment of Investment Capital

A new USCIS policy memorandum clarifies requirements for deployment of capital for EB-5 applicants (investor visa). This establishes that the purchase of financial instruments on the secondary market will generally not satisfy such requirements. It clarifies that capital may be further deployed into any commercial activity that is consistent with the purpose of the new commercial enterprise, within its lawful bounds.

This clarification supersedes the language that allowed municipal bonds as a specific type of potentially permissible financial instrument in the context of further deployment. It also provides that further deployment must be through the same new commercial enterprise and within the geographic area of the same regional center, including any amendments to the regional center’s geographic area approved before the further deployment. 

It also explains that, based on an internal review and analysis of typical EB-5 capital deployment structures, USCIS generally considers 12 months as a reasonable amount of time to further deploy capital, but will consider evidence showing that a longer period was reasonable.

You can download the .pdf file with the entire update HERE

As always, contacting our firm to help you navigate through the uncertainty of your particular situation is also a safe bet. Our experience and expertise is sure to be one of your best allies.

Immigration News

USCIS began producing a “Security Enhanced U.S. Travel Document.” 

On Thursday, USCIS announced a new version of the U.S. travel document, which functions similarly to a passport. The document can be used by lawful permanent residents in place of Form I-327, Permit to Reenter the United States, and by refugees in place of Form I-571, Refugee Travel Document. The document can also be used instead of a passport in some cases. The enhanced security features include a redesigned booklet cover, four montages containing three images, each of notable U.S. architecture, used throughout the booklet, and a combination of first-, second- and third-level security features (overt, covert and forensic). Previous versions of the travel document are still valid until their expiration date. 

Several USCIS forms have been updated

USCIS posted updated editions of Form N-400, Application for NaturalizationForm N-470, Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes, and Form EOIR-29, Notice of Appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals from a Decision of a DHS Officer. The edition dates are 9/17/19, 9/10/19, and July 2019, respectively. For Form N-400, the 12/23/16 edition will be accepted through 12/15/19.

A new PA law will require construction employers to use E-verify

The Pennsylvania state government recently passed the “Pennsylvania Construction Industry Employer Verification Act.” Starting in October 2020, this new law prohibits construction employers from knowingly employing unauthorized employees, and requires them to use E-verify.Use of E-verify will be enforced by the Department of Labor and Industry, but also creates a rebuttable presumption in court that the employer did not knowingly employ and unauthorized person.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled immigration status can be considered in sentencing

A man was sentenced to prison time instead of probation in part due to his immigration status. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled on Friday that when deportation is a “certainty,” considering immigration status during sentencing does not violate constitutional due process. The court affirmed the lower court decision that prison time was permissible for this reason.

The House introduced a bipartisan bill to reverse a Trump policy affecting children of some service members and federal employees abroad

In August, the Trump administration released policy guidance making it more difficult for some children born abroad to service members and government employees to attain U.S. citizenship. USCIS clarified the impact was low, but affected about 20-25 people per year. On Wednesday, members of the House Judiciary Committee introduced bipartisan legislation to undo the change and make the process for children in this situation to gain U.S. citizenship simpler. 

The Supreme Court has taken a case on the rights of asylum seekers.

 On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to consider a case on the rights of undocumented asylum seekers to challenge their expedited removal orders. The Trump administration appealed after the 9th Circuit ruled that asylum seekers could make their claim in federal court after they are denied and ordered for expedited removal. Oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court have not yet been scheduled.

Federal authorities will gather DNA from immigrants at the border.

Attorney General Barr announced on Monday that the Department of Justice will collect DNA samples from immigrants and asylum seekers crossing the border. Under the plan, federal authorities would gather an estimated 748,000 individuals’ DNA each year. The stated purpose of the plan is to create a database of immigrants to help fight crime, and the DOJ plans to add this genetic information to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System. Immigrant advocates have denounced the rule over privacy concerns and the lack of meaningful choice, especially for vulnerable asylum seekers. The rule was published in the Federal Register on October 22, and is now open for a 20-day comment period. 

More flights containing approved refugees have been canceled. 

Last month, many refugees preparing to be resettled in the United States were met with canceled flights when the State Department issued a moratorium on their travel until October 21. On October 18, the State Department announced the moratorium would continue until October 28. This caused already-rescheduled flights with refugees to be canceled again. This is especially concerning for some refugees who have medical exams or security checks near expiration, which was not an issue when they were originally scheduled for resettlement in September.

White House aides determined that Trump’s top DHS picks are ineligible

McAleenan’s departure left the top DHS role empty. President Trump has two top picks for DHS acting secretary: acting USCIS Director Cuccinelli and acting CBP Commissioner Morgan. However, a federal statute called the Vacancies Act limits who can be appointed to act in secretary roles without Senate confirmation. The role must go to a ranked official elsewhere in the executive branch who has already been confirmed by the Senate. The president’s advisors told the president that neither Cuccinelli nor Morgan fulfill this requirement. Either could serve as DHS Secretary if they were confirmed by the Senate, but that route is not certain to succeed. 

As always, contacting our firm to help you navigate through the uncertainty of your particular situation is also a safe bet. Our experience and expertise is sure to be one of your best allies.

New Presidential Directive Attempts to Restrict Asylum Policies

“Horrible and Foolish Loopholes”

President Trump has taken yet another step in tightening asylum policies. In a memorandum released last night, the new presidential order prevents anyone who crossed the border illegally to get a work permit, it considerably reduces the adjudication terms of asylum requests to a maximum of 180 days (it used to take years), and it imposes fees for humanitarian refugee status applicants to the United States.

These are all measures meant to address what the President has recently called “horrible and foolish loopholes” in the immigration law. Lumping the visa lottery in with “chain migration”, “catch and release”, Mr. Trump claims that people coming into the US this way are from countries that “are not giving us their finest.”

The Washington Post has a new article HERE detailing the latest presidential directive, along with a video of his assertions on immigration.

Here at Leslie I. Snyder immigration firm, we want to remind you that asylum seeking is not illegal immigration. People from countries in political turmoil run from oppression and seek asylum.

The United States recognizes the right of asylum for individuals as specified by international and federal law.

As always, contacting our firm to help you navigate through the uncertainty of your particular situation is also a safe bet. Our experience and expertise is sure to be one of your best allies.