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How US nationals from American Samoa can obtain full citizenship

If you're from American Samoa, you probably know that you're a national, but not a full citizen, of the United States. You are eligible for a U.S. passport and can live and work in the U.S., but you're missing out on a number of other privileges of U.S. citizenship, such as:

  • Voting in federal elections
  • Running for elective office when citizenship is required
  • Participating on a jury
  • Eligibility for certain federal or law enforcement jobs that require citizenship
  • Getting citizenship for your minor children who were born abroad

How can I get a green card for a family member?

One of the privileges of being a U.S. citizen or green card holder (lawful permanent resident) is the ability to sponsor relatives to come live and work in the United States. As long as the relative isn't otherwise inadmissible, you can sponsor as many eligible relatives as you like. However, U.S. immigration law has a set list of preference categories, which affects which types of relatives will get a visa in a timely fashion.

Generally, the closer and more dependent the relative, the higher the preference. Also, relatives of citizens may be more highly preferred than the relatives of lawful permanent residents. Spouses, children under 21 and parents are considered immediate relatives. For U.S. citizens, these immediate relatives are not part of the preference system.

Was your immigration testimony lost in translation?

Last December, the head of the immigration courts told all immigration judges to start using phone interpreters for any language but Spanish. The reason given was budgetary. Yet immigration judges and attorneys complain that telephone interpretation has serious drawbacks that can lead to unfair results. They also claim it is adding to the immigration court backlog.

One of the larger challenges the new policy is less in-person translation in Mandarin Chinese. In the past, immigration courts have generally had on-staff translators in both Spanish and Mandarin, the most common languages spoken by immigrant petitioners.

In about-face, Trump extends humanitarian program for Liberians

Since 2007, Liberian immigrants have been allowed to live and work legally in the U.S. through a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program. These programs allow nationals of certain countries to remain in the U.S. when conditions in their countries temporarily prevent them from safely returning there -- or when their countries are unable to handle their return.

According to the USCIS, the Secretary of Homeland Security can designate countries for TPS due to:

  • Ongoing armed conflict, such as a civil war
  • Environmental disasters or epidemics
  • Other extraordinary but temporary conditions

Federal case over Special Immigrant Juvenile status moves forward

Special Immigrant Juvenile status is offered by the United States to immigrant minors who are under the jurisdiction of a state juvenile court due to abuse, neglect or abandonment by a parent. Under federal law, immigrant youth generally qualify for the status as long as they:

  • Are under 21 at the time of application
  • Are unmarried
  • Are currently living in the U.S.
  • Have a valid juvenile court order from a state court finding that they are dependent, cannot be reunited with one or both parents due to abuse, neglect, abandonment or a similar reason, and it is not in their best interest to return to their country of origin OR were the subject of a juvenile court order but the order lapsed because they were either placed in permanent guardianship or adoption or they aged out of the system
  • OR, if they are currently in the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, they have written consent to the court's jurisdiction and the court order changes their custody status or placement
  • Did not seek the juvenile court order primarily for an immigration benefit

USCIS considers closing its international field offices

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recently announced that it is in "preliminary discussions" to close its international field offices and delegate their work to the State Department or U.S.-based USCIS personnel.

The agency has 23 field offices in 20 countries around the globe. They help with:

  • Family reunification visas
  • Foreign adoptions
  • Refugee applications
  • Humanitarian parole requests from people outside the U.S.
  • Naturalization requests from foreign spouses of U.S. military service members
  • A variety of other matters

Are you ready to apply for your H-1B visa?

The U.S. only issues a total of 85,000 H-1B visas each year. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will begin accepting applications for H-1B visas on April 1. The limit on those visas will be reached soon afterward. Will your application be ready in time to be considered?

Who is eligible for an H-1B visa?

Asylum seekers in expedited removal can sue in federal court

The case involved an asylum seeker who claims to have been wrongly denied asylum after a "credible fear" hearing before an asylum officer. But U.S. immigration law allows "expedited removal" of recent arrivals caught within 100 miles of the border, providing very limited opportunity to appeal. Now, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that he should have access to a federal court hearing before his deportation.

Vijayakumar Thuraissigiam, a man of Tamil ethnicity from Sri Lanka, was detained near a California port of entry in 2017. He claimed that Sri Lankan intelligence officers kidnapped, beat and tortured him in 2014, then threatened to kill him for his political activities.

Trump admin. announces end to work permits for H-1B spouses

If your spouse is working in the United States on an H-1B visa, you may already know that you are eligible for an H-4 visa, which comes with a work permit. That may be changing. The Trump administration has announced a plan to end the H-4 visa's work permit.

The move could affect nearly 100,000 immigrant families -- almost 30,000 of them here in California. And in the Bay Area, H-1B visa holders may not be able to support their families without a working spouse.

Court: Children of married couples are citizens if one parent is

When a married U.S. citizen has a child, that child is entitled to U.S. citizenship even if its parents are LGBTQ, a federal judge has just ruled. The State Department had refused citizenship to one such child because he was not the biological child of his U.S. citizen parent.

The case was especially illustrative because it involved twins. They were born, through surrogacy, to a married gay couple. Each child was the biological son of one of the two men. However, only one of the men was a U.S. citizen.

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