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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!

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:

 

 

Everything You Need to Know About U.S Immigration Status

Passport of USA (United states of America) next to a Guide for new Immigrants - Welcome to the United states and American Flag. Wooden Background.

Applying for residency or for citizenship in the United States is typically a long process. There’s so much to know about applying for residency and citizenship that you might not know exactly where to start. There are four different categories of citizenship status in the United States, so whatever category it is that you fall into, certain circumstances may affect you differently. 

 

Taking in all the information and doing your own research can be overwhelming, but with experienced immigration lawyers by your side, we can help you familiarize yourself with the process. Let’s discuss the different kinds of status in the U.S. and look into some questions surrounding the categories. 

 

U.S. Citizens

 

You are granted U.S. citizenship if you were born within the country. You may also have U.S. citizenship if you were naturalized through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Those who are naturalized must live in the United States for a number of years before being granted U.S. citizenship. You are able to work and exercise any rights you have as a U.S. citizen.

 

Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs)

 

LPRs are granted green cards, which authorize them to legally reside in the United States. Through a green card, they are also able to legally work in addition to living in the country. There are also conditional residents. Conditional residents can change to permanent status by filing Form I-751, with supporting evidence before their conditional residency expires. 

 

Temporary Visitor 

 

Temporary visitors, much like LPRs, are in the country legally, but they are here on a limited-time basis. Most temporary visitors come into the United States to enroll in college, for business or work, with their fiancees, or through temporary protected status. Those who apply for temporary visitorship typically are not seeking immigration to the United States. 

 

Undocumented

 

Those who are living and/or working in the country illegally are undocumented. This ultimately means that they were not given permission to reside or work in the United States and be deported back to their home country. If they are undocumented, they have no access to public benefits and do not have the rights that a U.S. citizen has. 

 

FAQs 

 

How can I apply for U.S citizenship if I am a lawful permanent resident?

 

Eligibility for citizenship depends on a number of things. USCIS requires that LPRs lived in the United States for anywhere from 3-5 years before applying for citizenship. It may be different if you are married to a United States citizen. 

 

What can I do if I would like to sponsor my spouse who is a foreign national?

 

It is best if you have your spouse with you in the United States under permanent residency so that they can apply for citizenship or simply change their status. Additionally, you must be in a solid financial standing that shows you can support you and your spouse should they be sponsored into the country. 

 

What can I do if I would like to sponsor a family member to come to the United States?

 

Similar to how spouses are sponsored, family members can be here either on permanent residency or temporary visitation in order to change their citizenship status in the United States. Oftentimes, the process works best for relatives who are close to the citizen, “immediate relatives” they are known as. It is important to be aware that being granted a visa can take several months and even years. 

 

If I am afraid to return to my country of nationality, what are my options here in the United States?

 

It is best to consult with an immigration lawyer so that they can determine the best path to take for relief. You may also be eligible to apply for asylum by providing substantial evidence that you are in danger if you go back to your home country. 

 

How can a criminal charge or conviction affect my immigration status? 

 

A criminal charge can be detrimental to your immigration status. Some people may even face the risk of being deported, depending on their status. If you are facing charges and are at risk of benign deported, contact a lawyer right away. 

 

Learn More with the Attorneys at Fong Ilagan 

 

We’re here to help those who are seeking immigration into the United States. Whether you are applying for citizenship or aim to sponsor your family, we want to be there to support you through the process. Contact us today to learn more about how you can get started with Fong Ilagan.

How to Adapt to Life in the U.S.

Friends Gathered On Rooftop Terrace For Party With City Skyline In BackgroundImmigrating to the U.S. is a battle alone. It can be even harder to establish a life in a country you’re unfamiliar with. The United States, considered the land of opportunity and freedom, is a melting pot, where people of all backgrounds can make their aspirations come true. Immigrants will naturally create a strong connection to the country of their origin while living in the United States. While that is completely understandable, it is important for immigrants to maintain a balance with their home country and with their new home in order to lead a successful life. The professionals here at Fong Ilagan understand the difficulty accompanied by traveling to a new country. Thankfully, we know a thing or two about being accustomed to the U.S. economy and society. 

 

Create a Timeline and Stay Organized 

 

The first and most important thing you should do (even before settling in the U.S) is to create a timeline. In this timeline, you should include when and how you’ll be settling, job opportunities to keep an eye out for, and support groups you can meet with. By creating a timeline, you can adjust your schedule accordingly to check off all of your important tasks. Even better, a timeline helps you know what you have to have done months from the time you create a plan. This can help you feel more in control once you have traveled into the U.S.

 

Have an Open Mind 

 

It can be easy to assume the worst and give up right then and there, but if you were able to make it into the U.S., there is nothing you can’t tackle! The change in culture can be drastic and overwhelming, but the negativity shouldn’t start there. Moving into a new country is the perfect time to leave bad habits behind and start looking into the future. This change can bring you more fortune and opportunity, more than you might have ever imagined. Maintaining a positive and welcoming outlook is essential throughout the process. 

 

Establish a Strong Work Ethic

 

Employers will hire candidates that radiate dedication, skillful, and most importantly, those who prioritize their work. A major American value surrounds those who commit to their work. You have to show your potential employers how much of a hard worker you are. No one can have anything for free, especially when it comes to the job market. With that being said, don’t be afraid to speak highly of yourself, showing your potential employers how well you’ll fit within their work environment and their professional team. 

 

Network as Much as Possible

 

Most jobs are handed to people through mutual friends, coworkers, business partners, anything of that sort. Where exactly can you meet these people? There are plenty of programs online and there might even be job fairs held within your community. It is crucial that you stay active within these environments in order to land interviews back to back, and most importantly, a job that can support you. Networking is the best and most effective way when it comes to finding job openings, being referred for positions, and securing job interviews. 

 

Promote Your Skills

 

Once you created a professional profile or have landed a job interview, this is where you have to highlight your skills. If you’re a bilingual speaker, make this evident as you are going through your skills. Some jobs tend to pay more if they can find a bilingual candidate for the job position. You have to let potential employers know about what you can do, especially the skills that are hard to find in employee candidates. If you can really dive into the facts and logically prove why you’re a good fit, it’s likely that you’ll be able to land a professional opportunity. 

 

Inquire About Services that Can Help

 

Maybe you haven’t found a job fast enough or maybe you’re still having a hard time finding a home you can settle in for a good while. Immigration services are vast. These services not only aim to help people travel into the U.S. but they are also intended on helping these individuals establish a successful life. Immigration services can be found almost anywhere in the U.S. Do your research, go online, and make several calls to receive some additional support. It is guaranteed that you’ll find a program that offers the support you’re looking for. 

 

Contact Our Immigration Law Firm 

 

The professionals at Fong Ilagan have been able to assist immigrants throughout the arduous process of traveling into the U.S. We want to provide as much help as possible for the sake of your journey. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help. 

 

How Immigration Trends are Changing in the United States 

Group of students near wall with USA flagThe state of immigration is everchanging, especially here in the United States. Ever since its commence, no one has been able to perfectly predict how rates may decrease or increase. These trends usually depend on a number of factors, including the time of year, what events are occurring on an international level, and the current president’s policies regarding immigration. Almost every day, new reports are being sent out to cover which foreigners are coming into the country and the numbers by which they are coming in. More than halfway into 2020, there is much to be said about these immigration trends. We discuss them. 

 

More Latin Americans, Fewer European and Asians 

 

In the year 2018, the United States witnessed the least amount of green cards issued to people from Europe and Asia. The numbers had not been so low since 2010.  The numbers have risen for Latin Americans, based on specific countries and regions. The Caribbean contributed a 30% increase, Central Americans contributed a 34% increase, Venezuelans are a reported 17%, and Mexico is approximately 16% up, all from 2010. 

 

Different Gateways for Immigrants to Come In 

 

New York and California have always been the hotspots where a vast majority of immigrants come into the United States. The same goes for other states such as Florida, Illinois, and Texas. In recent years, immigrants have found other hubs to enter into the United States, such as regions in the Southeast and the Pacific Northwest. This may be due to where exactly the majority of these foreigners are coming from. 

 

Population Growth in the South and West

 

Immigration is one of the key factors in the boom of the population in areas such as the Sun Belt (Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Carolina, Texas, two-thirds of California, and parts of North Carolina, Nevada, and Utah), the Pacific Northwest, and the Mountain States. With more immigrants coming in and residing in these parts of the United States, the overall growth has been driven mostly in the Southern and Western regions. 

 

Population Declines in Central America

 

As more foreigners are coming into the United States and establishing family life here, fewer families have been populating in Central American countries. Native-born populations are declining in certain areas of these countries due to the fact that most families and individuals do not return to their homelands, much less do they raise families in their home countries. 

 

Traveling in Families

 

Out of 1.1 million people who became green card holders in 2018, 63% of this number obtained permanent resident status due to family connections to a U.S. citizen or a green card holder they are related to. With this in mind, foreigners are less likely to travel into the United States if they do not already have family there or if they are not traveling with a family. 

 

Longer Wait Times for Permanent Residency Applicants 

 

Wait times are already a soaring burden for those who apply for permanent residency. Due to the fact that so many people are applying, the wait times have been extended. Only a small percentage of applicants were able to obtain permanent residency the same year they applied, in the past two years. As of recent, applicants are informed that the process could take up to (at a maximum) of two years for their application to be filed. 

 

Gaining Citizenship Has Become More Rigorous 

 

Similar to obtaining permanent residency, gaining citizenship is also taking up more time and the process has become much more difficult. This difficulty is due to more requirements and officials have made exams to be much more strict. Immigrants are expected to live in the United States for a certain amount of time (an increase from 2011 policies) before they can be naturalized. 

 

Immigrants Make a Grand Economic Contribution

 

The many immigrants that do become naturalized or obtain their green cards become employed. In fact, 70% of new green card holders in 2018 had jobs and only 1 out of 8 people were unemployed, with most of them being retired or working as home or caretakers. Many of these foreigners who are working in the U.S. provide a vital economic counterbalance to the portion of the U.S. population that is growing older and unable to work. 

 

Get Connected with Dedicated Professionals 

 

The experts at Fong Ilagan closely examine trends and changes in policies in order to better help our clients in the process of moving into the U.S. Whenever you may need us, we are here to answer all of your questions. Contact us today to get started. 

 

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