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FAQs About Naturalization Answered!

Year after year, the U.S. receives millions of applications for naturalization from all over the globe. There are myriad reasons for why people seek citizenship and naturalization, but many of those seeking will naturally have many questions. At Fong Ilagan, we’ve fielded many of these questions from applicants looking to naturalize and have addressed some in our latest blog here! 

How Long Does The Process Take? 

 

Currently, the application processing portion of the naturalization process takes anywhere from 14 to 15 months on average. The overall time from application to full citizenship can take anywhere from 18 months to over 2 years, depending on myriad factors involved.

 

Unfortunately, if you plan on applying for naturalization, you should expect to wait quite a while before the process is complete. There are some factors that could make the process quicker, like avoiding errors in the application and the applicant’s current residence, among others. 

Is A Lawyer Necessary?

 

Strictly speaking, no, a lawyer is not necessary to complete the naturalization process. You can file USCIS forms on your own, and you can even submit your documents online. However, it is normally advised that applicants at least consult an immigration lawyer to receive more information and specialized assistance. 

 

The reason for hiring legal guidance or assistance is that the immigration has many wrinkles and complexities that a lay person simply won’t have access to. Mistakes in the application process can delay the completion of the process or even mess up your chances altogether. Our team at Fong Ilagan can walk you through the process and provide key bits of information to put you in the best position to succeed. 

 

Can I Live In The U.S. And My Home Country With A Green Card?

 

To qualify for citizenship, you have to demonstrate that you have resided in the United States continuously for at least 5 years. If you live in your home country, then you will not be able to qualify for citizenship. You can visit your home country or other places during this 5-year period, but staying in another country for longer than 180 days may mean the 5-year period has to be reset. 

 

How Many Times Can I Apply For Naturalization? 

 

There is no limit to how many times you can apply for naturalization. Contrary to the beliefs of some, you can always retry your naturalization application if the previous one doesn’t work out. Here an experienced lawyer is crucial because they can point to any mistakes you may have made previously and help you correct them in the future. 

 

However, the application fee will need to be provided each time you submit a new application. This is another incentive to put your best foot forward on the first application, rather than risk having to pay for multiple applications. 

Is The Process Expensive? 

 

The current fee for naturalization comes out to $725. This can be broken down into $640 for application processing and an additional $85 for biometric services. While this is considered expensive for many, there may be some ways to request outside financial assistance from various organizations. Additional costs may arise from legal fees should you use a lawyer during the process. 

Choose Fong Ilagan For Your Naturalization Application!

Still have more questions about the naturalization process, or are looking to get started? We’d love to help! Contact us today to receive more information and speak with our immigration attorneys!

US-Mexican border in Arizona, USA

How the Wellton 26 Tragedy Impacted Our Nation’s Immigration Policy

There have been several stories about people crossing from the Mexican side of the U.S.-Mexico border, describing what their journeys were like. Many of these stories result in tragic endings, but in others, some immigrants successfully make their way into the United States and built a life from that point on. One of the most famous immigration cases was that of the Wellton 26, which took place in May 2001. 

 

A Brief Introduction to the Wellton 26 Tragedy

 

“The Wellton 26” is the name given to a group of about 26 men who crossed from Mexico into the Arizona desert in the summer of 2001. Only 12 of the 26 survived. The 14 who did not survive died due to heatstroke. The Coyote who was guiding this group of men lost his way and was leading the men into a land he was unfamiliar with. This left the group to travel longer than they anticipated. 

 

This story surfaced in headlines and the news spread all across the United States and Mexico for months after the incident. The case was significant for several reasons, one of which highlighted the dangers that immigrants encounter in the attempt to cross into the United States.

 

Many people, including United States officials, grew mixed emotions about border policy. It was difficult to provide a solution that would both serve immigrants while also honoring immigration law. The Wellton 26 case was so influential that it would forever shape immigration law and policy. With that, let’s take a deeper dive into the aftermath of the Wellton 26 and how immigration played out in the United States. 

 

More Deaths in the Attempt to Cross the Border

 

All of the men who made up the Wellton 26 were from Veracruz, Mexico. As the news reached Mexico, the people of Veracruz honored the 14 fallen men, calling them martyrs, paving a way for other Mexican natives that attempted to seek a future in the United States. The fear and tragedy surrounding the Wellton 26 did not stop people from crossing the border. In fact, immigration shot up dramatically since 1995 and it wasn’t going down any time soon. But as the rate of immigration rose, so did the deaths in the attempts to cross the border. In 2001, more than 400 people died crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. 

 

Operation Gatekeeper “Led” to These Deaths

 

Shortly after the Wellton 26 incident, immigration activists blamed the deaths on Operation Gatekeeper, which was a policy that went into effect during the Clinton administration. It aimed to halt illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border, primarily targeted at the border near San Diego, California. This forced immigrants to cross into more remote areas, making their journeys treacherous. Activists were outraged with the loss of life as a result of the Wellton 26 considering these men traveled in the heat for days on end without water or any other resources. This left reformists stuck in a rut, considering there had to be some kind of immigration law to abide by. 

 

Survivors Were Granted Legal Status to Work in the United States 

 

The men that did survive were granted legal status to reside in Phoenix, Arizona, and also gained employment. They were only given these rights if they had testified against the Coyote who smuggled them in—and they did. In fact, the government went as far as promising that they would never have to work in the sun, so they found jobs in plants and factories, but some of the men never fully recovered from the damage done by the extreme exposure to the heat and the sun. This affected some of the men’s ability to work. 

 

Placing the Blame on Coyotes, Immigration Policy, and More 

 

As the surviving men of the Wellton 26 identified the Coyote that smuggled them in, Jesus Lopez Ramos, he was taken to court against the United States. This left people wondering where the fault really lied. Fingers were pointed at the United States government, at the Coyote, at the gang the Coyote worked for, and at Mexico. Jesus Lopez Ramos was ultimately found responsible for the death of the fourteen men of the Wellton 26. 

 

Learn More About Immigration Law with the Experts at Fong Ilagan 

 

There is so much to immigration to know about and the Wellton 26 is just one of the many stories. Immigration can be a difficult process, but going about the legal process with the help of a lawyer can make your goals possible. We want nothing more than to help you gain legal status in the United States. If you’re ready to take on the process, contact us today. 

 

Fong assists with Naturalization

What You Need to Know Before Traveling to the United States

If you are traveling to the United States for the first time, especially under immigrant status, there are many things you need to know about what traveling will look like for you. If you have a visa or were granted citizenship, you have completed the hardest part. Traveling with your immigrant status is not difficult, it just presents several duties that you must take care of and tend to. If you were granted a visa, you should have been given a packet that has documentation regarding your immigration file, which is to be used when you travel internationally. This is one of many things you will need to take care of during your travels. We provide a quick rundown of what to expect that way you stay aware of what the process will look like. 

 

Check the Expiration Date on Your Passport 

 

Although you might feel sure of the validity of your passport, you can never be too sure. The validity of your passport can depend on several factors. For most travelers heading to the United States, you must have at least six months remaining on your passport for it to be valid. Anything less may not pass, even if you have not approached the expiration date on it. Citizens from certain countries may only need a passport that is valid for the length of their stay. You should check the government website for your country of residence to see which rules apply to you. 

 

Know The Rules of Your Visa

 

Since there are different visas issued to immigrants, there may be different regulations and rules to follow. There is a program that travelers can apply for called the Visa Waiver Program, which allows them to travel without a visa if they are there for traveling or tourism purposes for up to ninety days. If you want to travel under this program, you can apply for authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Any travel that goes past ninety days will require a visa. 

 

For Traveling via Airplane

 

Familiarize Yourself with the Rules of International Travel 

 

If you are traveling by plane, you must be cleared by U.S. Customs to board your flight. This means they will also check your visa status to ensure that you fulfill it. Your first port of entry into the United States, even if it is not your final destination, is where they will ask for your visa and where you will have to go through customs and immigration. With that being said, it is best that you book a flight that provides you with enough time between planes that way you can get checked with no rush. Customs will also be going through your luggage during the process. 

 

Primary Inspection

 

The first inspection is done at the first port of entry into the United States, even if it not your final destination. Once you enter the United States, you will find a line that says “Permanent Residents” unless there is a specific line that says otherwise, but is for you. There, an officer will meet you and verify your identity. This part of the inspection does not typically take long. Once your identity has been verified, the officer will lead you to where a second inspection will be done. 

 

Secondary Inspection 

 

The secondary inspection is where an officer will open your packet (the documentation we previously mentioned) and review all of your documents. If you have a medical condition, the packet might include a clinic you can visit when you move into your new town of residence. This process, just like previous steps, can take time, sometimes several hours, so you must be mindful of this when booking flights. Some people may be denied entry to the United States, so if you see this happening during this inspection it doesn’t mean it will happen to you. Everyone’s case is different and it typically happens to those who violated their immigration status or due to a criminal conviction. 

 

Entry to the United States

 

After your inspections are completed, your passport will be stamped to indicate that your status as a lawful resident has been verified and you can enter and reside in the United States. 

 

Choose Fong Ilagan to Help You During Your Transition to the United States 

 

The lawyers at Fong Ilagan are not only here to help you achieve the immigration status you’re working towards, we are also here to help you make the most out of your travel when you have achieved status. Should you need any more information regarding your anticipated travel and your status to do so, do not hesitate to contact us

Department of State Visa Bulletin for June 2021 and Adjustment of Status Filing Charts from the Visa Bulletin

The U.S. Department of State earlier this month published their updated monthly Visa Bulletin for June 2021. The Bulletin, which can be seen in full here, details the availability of immigrant visa numbers during June 2021 for: “Final Action Dates” and “Dates for Filing Applications” and provides useful reference information for applicants, immigration attorneys and paralegals alike. For those who will consular process their immigrant visas at U.S. Embassies/Consulates abroad, the “Dates for Filing” chart indicates when the National Visa Center should notify immigrant visa applicants to assemble and submit their required documentation online. For further clarification of the information contained within this bulletin, please contact Fong Ilagan for assistance.

 

Department of State and USCIS Visa Bulletin Information

For those foreign nationals who are physically in the United States, USCIS dictates which Visa Bulletin chart to use for filing adjustment of status applications with USCIS. Here is the USCIS webpage for determining eligibility to file for adjustment of status: https://www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo.

USCIS has indicated to use the following charts during the month of June 2021:

Family-Sponsored Preferences:

First; (F1), Second (F2B only), Third; (F3), Fourth; (F4)

    • DATES FOR FILING FAMILY-SPONSORED VISA APPLICATIONS

Second (F2A only):

    • FINAL ACTION DATES FOR FAMILY-SPONSORED PREFERENCE CASES

Employment Sponsored Preferences:

First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth,

    • FINAL ACTION DATES FOR EMPLOYMENT-BASED PREFERENCE CASES

To stay posted on immigrant visa number availability under the various family-based and employment-based immigrant visa categories, you can receive a notification of each monthly Visa Bulletin published. You can subscribe to the Department of State’s email list by emailing: listserv@calist.state.gov and in the message body include “Subscribe Visa-Bulletin.”

 

To understand more about these categorizations please see the full Visa Bulletin for full descriptions of each preference category. If you have any questions about the dates published in the Charts, please speak to one of our specialized immigration attorneys at Fong Ilagan by calling us at 713.772.2300 or reach out to us by filling out our online contact form.

 

You can also find more information about Fong Ilagan’s specialist immigration services in each practice area on the following pages of our website:

 

 

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