Keeping still and carrying on amid the current immigration climate

DAILY news reports flooding our already fatigued psyches have been fixated on Immigration, and the way to cut through the noise and confusion is to keep still and stay focused. Lawful permanent residents and their families should take note that for the most part, things are operating as usual at the U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS), save for delayed processing times. Here are the most common applications that individuals should pay close attention to for eligibility requirements and filing window.

Naturalization applications

Naturalization applications are currently estimated at 10 – 19.5 months. Applicants who are eligible to file for their Naturalization application – at the 3-year mark or the 5-year mark – are encouraged to file their application at the soonest time they are able to do so, especially given the long wait times to be scheduled for an interview. Note that Naturalization Applications are highly scrutinized, and individuals should consult with a licensed and experienced immigration attorney with regard to potential issues in their immigration history that may come up in the Naturalization process.

Removal of conditions on residence

Removing conditions on residence is a requirement: this application must be filed before deadline. This application is specific to those who were initially given a “CR” or conditional resident status, typically for individuals who acquired permanent resident status through marriage to a US citizen. Current processing times for Removal of Conditions on Residence is estimated to be around 17 – 35.5 months. Individuals who are required to file for their Removal of Conditions should file their applications as soon as they are eligible to do so, during the specifically limited 90-day filing window.

Deferred Action (DACA) renewals

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) reports that as of January 22, 2019, “the U.S. Supreme court had not taken action on the Trump Administration’s request to expedite a ruling on the court decisions that keep DACA program in place.” The new term for the Supreme Court starts this October 2019. For now, “DACA protections will likely remain in place” under current court rulings.

Individuals who were previously granted DACA may request renewal of their deferred action and their employment authorization with the appropriate fee or approved fee exemption request at the USCIS designated filing location, and in accordance with instructions in the Form I-821D and form I-765 applications. The filing window is between 150 – 120 days from the expiration of the current DACA grant.

USCIS is not accepting requests from individuals who have never been granted deferred action under DACA. Moreover, USCIS will not accept or approve applications for Advance Parole request from DACA recipients.

Credit card payments now accepted for filing fees

This may be a relief for some. USCIS announced last year that it will accept credit cards as a form of payment for certain applications, such as Adjustment Applications. Previously, USCIS had begun to accept credit cards as a form of payment for Naturalization applications.

Consult with a licensed and experienced immigration attorney before filing

While it is very good news that (1) individuals are still able to file for a whole host of applications including renewal DACA requests; and that (2) more applications are now payable via credit card, individuals must nevertheless proceed with caution when filing for any application with USCIS. Just because it is easier now to file for an application does not mean that you should. We urge individuals to pause and take the time to consult with a licensed and experienced immigration attorney before submitting any application with USCIS.

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Atty. Lilli Berbano Baculi is an associate attorney with Chua Tinsay & Vega, A Professional Legal Corporation (CTV) – a full service law firm with offices in San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento and Philippines. The information presented in this article is for general information only and is not, nor intended to be, formal legal advice nor the formation of an attorney-client relationship. Call or e-mail CTV for an in-person or phone consultation to discuss your particular situation and/or how their services may be retained at (619) 955-6277; (415) 495-8088; (916) 449-3923; [email protected];

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