Category Archives: Immigration

US citizenship exam test and USA flag.

The Citizenship Exam: How to Prepare and What to Study 

As part of the United States naturalization process, applicants must pass a citizenship test. The test is broken up into four different components. It may sound overwhelming, but by being wise with your time and studying every moment you can, you’ll be able to pass the test. We discuss many ways you can prepare and what exactly you can expect to see on the test. 

 

Find Helpful Study Materials and Resources 

 

On the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) website, you can find plenty of resources to practice for the civics portion of the test. The website also has resources to strengthen your English skills and to practice the oath of allegiance. There are many other websites online that provide free programs and study materials for you to use and prepare with. 

 

Take Practice Tests 

 

Just like we mentioned, you can find plenty of practice tests online. One thing to be aware of is that some of these games may be a bit outdated, but they are still good practice. On many websites, you will be able to find common questions that are guaranteed to be on the test. You can practice with any method that best helps you. 

 

Divide Your Studies by Subject 

 

The naturalization test has several portions to it, one of which is civics. The civics portion itself is then divided into different categories which consist of history, government, geography, symbols, and holidays. You should treat each of these categories as a different subject when you are studying for your test. This helps your brain to organize this knowledge and make it easier to remember during the test. 

 

Use Different Kinds of Media to Retain Important Information 

 

Even if you are studying the same content, using different mediums of practice materials will better train your brain to retain the information. For example, you could listen to audiobooks, watch video lessons, or read all the same information if it means helping you to remember what you will need to know for the test. 

 

What Will Be on the Test

 

As we mentioned previously, there are different categories to the test. There is plenty of content that you will be tested on, which is why it is important that you take the time to study. Not only do you want to study, but you want to make sure you feel confident enough to take and complete the test. We briefly discuss the different components that you must complete on your test. 

 

Speaking Test

 

For this part of the test, you will be asked questions regarding your citizenship application and eligibility. The purpose of this test is to evaluate your English-speaking and comprehension skills. So in addition to learning U.S. history and geography, you have to know English just enough to be naturalized. Although, you will not be expected to understand every word or phrase on your application. 

 

Reading Test 

 

For this portion of the test, you will be given a tablet. Sentences will appear on the tablet and you will be asked to read them out loud. You will be asked to read a total of three sentences aloud. You may be asked more until you’ve read three successfully. The USCIS website provides a complete list of vocabulary words that are used on the reading test. You can look through the vocabulary as you prepare for your test. 

 

Writing Test 

 

To complete this portion of the test, you must write one of three sentences correctly. You will be asked to write the three sentences as an officer reads them out loud to you. You will use a digital tablet to write the sentences on. The USCIS also provides a list of vocabulary that will be used for this part of the test. 

 

Civics Component 

 

During the last component of the test, you will need to demonstrate sufficient knowledge and a basic understanding of U.S. history and government. There is a total of ten questions, but of those ten, you must be able to answer six of them correctly. An officer will randomly select questions, read them aloud to you, and stop the test once you have been able to answer six questions successfully. You will be allowed to phrase your answers in any way as long as they are correct. 

 

Team Up with an Immigration Lawyer to Get Started on the Naturalization Process 

 

One of the best ways to prepare for a citizenship test is to work with an immigration lawyer. An immigration lawyer will guide you from start to finish. If you want to start the process of naturalization, you can contact the professionals at Fong Ilagan and schedule a consultation, today. 

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Logo

Important Terms and Definitions to Know in Immigration Law 

The immigration sector of law is ever-changing. As decades and even centuries of immigration have gone by, laws have changed and legislation has brought new laws into the picture while others have been overridden. With so many new reforms coming into the picture, more immigration terms and phrases make their way as well.

 

For the most part, people are familiar with terms such as “green card” or visa, naturalization, adjustment of status, and several others. But there are many other terms that might not be used as often but are still very important to know considering they can be used in any case at any time. We run through a quick list of terms that are often misleading or misused that way you can better understand the context they are used in. 

 

Amnesty (Legalization) 

 

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 was often referred to as an “amnesty,” considering it included more conditions and longer time periods depending on an immigrant’s status. Amnesty is an older term for legalization, which is why it may cause confusion in different cases. There has been some debate regarding which term is the appropriate term, as each one may pose negative connotations to either the supporters or opponents of the act. 

 

Deportation (Expulsion) vs. Extradition

 

These two terms are known for being used interchangeably, but they do not mean the same things. Extradition is used when a criminal suspect held by one government is relocated to another government to go to trial. If a suspect has already been tried and found guilty, that is when they are deported; this is also known as the process of expulsion. With that being said, extradition and expulsion are two different terms. 

 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) vs. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

 

Both organizations play a critical role in immigration law and in the modern-day activity of immigration, but they both have different responsibilities. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is an agency that conducts enforcement and removal operations regarding immigration violations. These officials also investigate crimes that involve the crossing of the U.S. border. 

Customs and Border Protection oversees and protects the border and ports of entry. This agency is also charged with regulating trade and commerce operations across U.S. borders. 

 

“Merit-Based” Immigration

 

This term is used in various immigration systems that select immigrants for permanent residence based on the overall characteristics, as opposed to other ties such as familial relationships. This term includes a form of a point system, allocating points to a prospective permanent resident based on their age, language skills, and education. Those who meet desired specifications may apply to immigrate and reside in the United States legally.

 

Asylum Seeker and Refugee 

 

An asylum seeker is what an individual is called before they become a refugee if they are accepted into the United States for asylum. Asylum seekers are individuals who come to the United States for protection due to fear of persecution in their home country on account of race, religion, nationality, and other factors. Once an individual is accepted, they become an asylee.

 

Once an individual is residing in the United States to be protected from their home country they become a refugee. The United States accepts a designated number of refugees every year. 

 

Temporary Protected Status 

 

This status can be granted to individuals who are from a country that is no longer deemed safe to return to due to conditions such as military conflict, natural disaster, and other scenarios. This does not provide a direct path to a green card but it also does not prohibit individuals from applying for permanent residency. 

 

Unaccompanied Migrant Children 

 

Children who have illegally crossed the United States border without an accompanying adult are considered unaccompanied migrant children. In recent years, studies and trends show that unaccompanied children are crossing more than they ever have. If they are apprehended, they are transferred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement with the Department of Health and Human Services. 

 

Quota System 

 

A quota system is that which limits the number of immigrants that may enter the United States every year. These limits are based on nationality or where immigrants are coming from. 

 

Learn News and Updates in Immigration Law with the Professionals at Fong Ilagan

 

It doesn’t matter where you are at in the process of legalization or what your citizenship status is; understanding immigration law can help you in the long run. Have questions about your case? Need legal assistance? We’re here to help. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.

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

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.

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