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29 January 2016

The White House is Launching a Series of Events on New Americans

The White House has announced a series of “Regional Convenings on New Americans” to discuss strengthening and supporting local immigrant and refugee integration efforts. Read the details on the White House blog.

The article was co-authored by Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz and USCIS Director León Rodríguez.

19 January 2016

Busting the Top Five Myths of Human Trafficking

Human trafficking - considered modern-day human slavery - is one of the worst crimes investigated by the Department of Homeland Security. Victims are often forced into prostitution, held captive by involuntary labor, and forced into other forms of servitude to repay the cost of their trip to the United States.

Myth #1:  Human trafficking only happens in other countries. It does not happen in the United States.

FACT: Human trafficking exists in cities, suburbs and rural towns across the United States. Human slavery may even exist in your community.

Myth #2:  Human trafficking only happens to poor women.

FACT: Victims of human trafficking can be any age, race, gender or nationality. They can be men or women, young or old, American or from abroad, with or without legal status.

Victims are often lured with false promises of well-paying jobs or are manipulated by people they trust. Instead, they are forced into prostitution, domestic servitude, farm or factory labor, or other types of forced labor.

Traffickers prey on victims with little or no social safety net. They look for victims who are vulnerable because of their illegal immigration status, limited English proficiency, and those who may be in vulnerable situations due to economic hardship, political instability, natural disasters or other causes.

Myth #3:  It’s easy to spot victims of human trafficking

FACT: Trafficking victims are often hidden in plain sight, voiceless and scared. You can help bring the perpetrators to justice. Everyone has a role to play in combating human trafficking. We rely on tips from the public to take down human trafficking organizations. Keep your eyes and ears open to suspicious activity, and if you see something, say something. Recognizing the signs is the first step in identifying victims. Please read our Human Trafficking 101 information to become more aware of what may be going on in your neighborhood.

Myth #4:  If a victim of human trafficking speaks out, they will be removed or deported from the U.S.

FACT: In October 2000, Congress created the "T" nonimmigrant status by passing the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA). The legislation offers protection to victims and allows law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute human trafficking.

Myth #5:  Human trafficking and human smuggling are the same.

FACT: Human trafficking is exploitation-based. Exploitation is defined as sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or if the person forced to perform such an act is under 18 years of age. Please read an expanded definition of human trafficking from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Human smuggling is transportation-based and involves deliberately breaking immigration laws when bringing people into the U.S. This includes bringing illegal immigrants into the U.S., as well as unlawfully transporting and harboring illegal immigrants already in the U.S.

If you suspect a case of human trafficking or human smuggling, please call the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Tip-line at 866-347-2423 to report it. You can also report online at www.ice.gov/tips.

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18 January 2016

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service - Make It a Day On, Not a Day Off

As we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we commemorate the great Dr. King for his dedication to public service and his commitment to this country. He dedicated his life to the highest values of human dignity in service to social change, and many people make this holiday a day of service in his honor. His poignant quote - "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?" - inspires Americans everywhere to volunteer in their communities and give back.

When we naturalize new American citizens, we congratulate them on gaining many important rights, such as the right to vote, run for public office, and apply for a passport. However, we also remind them of their responsibilities as U.S. citizens. New citizens are required to take an Oath of Allegiance obligating them to support and defend the Constitution. This oath is a promise to invest in this country’s future, and we remind new citizens there are many ways, such as volunteerism, public service or other means, that they can make the United States a better place for everyone.

This Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, don’t just take the day off - make it a day "on". Whether you are an U.S. citizen or just thinking about becoming one, consider ways you can serve others. 

"Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart…"

"I’d like somebody to mention…that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others."

Martin Luther King Jr.
"The Drum Major Instinct"
Ebenezer Baptist Church
February 4, 1968

To learn more about how you can serve others, please visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service website. To learn more about naturalization and the rights and responsibility of U.S. citizens, please see our Citizenship Information page.

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15 January 2016

Recap of USCIS Twitter Office Hours, January 12

On January 12, we held the fifth USCIS Twitter Office Hours to answer your questions about immigration benefits and other services that our agency provides.

During this pilot event we were able to answer many common questions that we know many of our stakeholders have. Of course, we received more questions than we had time to address in an hour.

Below you can find all of the questions and answers that we tweeted, as well as answers to two additional questions that we received during the event.

Thanks to everyone who tweeted questions. We look forward to engaging with you during future installments of USCIS Twitter Office Hours. 

Q1: @Phildaddy007 Do I need to copy all pages in my passport or will the page with info be enough when sending evidence? #AskUSCIS

A1: @Phildaddy007 Yes. It is best to send all pages of your passport when submitting additional evidence. #AskUSCIS

Q2: @MrOchiwar Is there a fix for “User Defined Error" on one’s online case status check when the correct receipt # is entered? #AskUSCIS

A2: @MrOchiwar Please send an email to myuscissupport@uscis.dhs.gov and we’ll follow up with you on the error you’re receiving. #AskUSCIS

Q3: @chaitu_14 My name in I-797 form is wrong. May I know the process to check the status of my application? #AskUSCIS

A3: @chaitu_14 You can enter your receipt number and check your case status on uscis.gov at go.usa.gov/SETz  #AskUSCIS

Q4: @SarahSchacht This is great progress for the agency! Are you doing office hours regularly now? #AskUSCIS
A4: @SarahSchacht Thank you! Twitter office hours are hosted once a month. #AskUSCIS

Q5: @NualaODwyer What does it mean if you're tracking your case number but the app says it's not recognized? Thanks so much. #AskUSCIS

A5: @NualaODwyer When checking case status, use your receipt #. If still receiving error, email myuscissupport@uscis.dhs.gov. #AskUSCIS 1/2

A5: @NualaODwyer If this is in reference to non-delivery of a document, submit an e-Request here: go.usa.gov/3aFfw  #AskUSCIS 2/2

Q6: @CHANTEL12689300 can I stay in the USA whilst i290b is filed if k1 visa expired? (I485 denied) #AskUSCIS

A6: @CHANTEL12689300 Yes, you may stay in the US while you wait for an I-290B. Check case status on go.usa.gov/SETz  #AskUSCIS

Q7: @JJULIEBORDIERI Are processing times correct on site? Says March 2 for I751 as of 10/31, said same thing as of 9/30. Thanks! #AskUSCIS

A7: @JJULIEBORDIERI We update processing times once a month and show you the estimated processing date. go.usa.gov/3aFbA  #AskUSCIS

Q8: @HCANCELIK How long does it take to get a response after replying to NOID? #AskUSCIS

A8: @HCANCELIK NOID response wait time will be case specific. Check status here: go.usa.gov/SETz  #AskUSCIS

Q9: @WOLFSORROW When will the online pdf of the I130 be updated (currently expired) http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/i-130.pdf … #AskUSCIS

A9: @WOLFSORROW This is the current version. Be sure to check uscis.gov  for form updates. go.usa.gov/cCxbh  #AskUSCIS

Q10: @ALPHABET_REAL Has there been any change in time for US citizens to start petitioning for their siblings, is it faster now #AskUSCIS

A10: @ALPHABET_REAL Processing time for siblings is based on priority date of petition. Read more: go.usa.gov/cnuhH  #AskUSCIS

Q11: @JSMANI81 Can one do change of status from F1 to H4 and H4 EAD at the same time? #AskUSCIS

A11: @JSMANI81 You can file for a change or extend your status and your EAD at the same time. Read more: go.usa.gov/cnJ3W  #AskUSCIS

Q12: @STEFANIERIBARRA waiting 4 my permanent residency, already submitted all, but since I have updated docs, should I mail those? #AskUSCIS

A12: @STEFANIERIBARRA You should wait until we request additional documentation. #AskUSCIS

Q13: @ku_dkl What's Normal processing time for H1-B application? My application received by #USCIS but no updates after that #AskUSCIS

A13: @ku_dkl (1/2) You can check H-1B processing times here: go.usa.gov/3aFbA  #AskUSCIS

A13: @ku_dkl (2/2) If your case is outside normal processing time, submit an e-Request here: go.usa.gov/3aFfw  #AskUSCIS

Q14: @IAMUMESHJAIN How to contact KCC Inquiry dept. Received 221g saying KCC Inquiry sent for client, but they haven't received #AskUSCIS

A14: @IAMUMESHJAIN You can contact KCC by email. Please visit go.usa.gov/cnJ5Y  @travelgov #AskUSCIS

Q15: @THEPIMPALA How long does it take the USCIS to respond to my lawyers request for my info/file via F.O.I? #AskUSCIS

A15: @THEPIMPALA FOIA request processing time depends on type of request. Check your status here: go.usa.gov/cnJgw  #AskUSCIS

Q16: @LEONA487 How long does the processing take for DACA? All forms were turned in on November... #AskUSCIS

A16: @LEONA487 DACA processing times are currently 6 months. Check updated processing times here: go.usa.gov/3aFbA  #AskUSCIS

Q17: @GEORGHI1527 how long is the process for an spouse of American citizen? #AskUSCIS

A17: @GEORGH1527 Processing times vary by office, form number & change monthly. Check current times here: go.usa.gov/cnJR4  #AskUSCIS

Q18: @GUERREROGUILLE how long does it take to receive notification for interview? Wife already got her work authorization card. #AskUSCIS

A18: @GUERREROGUILLE Interview waiting period varies by location. Check processing times here: go.usa.gov/3aFbA  #AskUSCIS

BONUS QUESTIONS

Q19: @ GJRHOPKINS You received my i-485 application over 2 months ago - should I not have got a biometrics appointment by now? #AskUSCIS

A19: @ GJRHOPKINS Check case status online to see if an appointment notice was sent. go.usa.gov/SETz #AskUSCIS

Q20: @JESSICAFORREST is there any exception to the Australian E3 visa in having to have a bachelor's degree prior to applying? #AskUSCIS

 A20: @JESSICAFORREST E3 requires academic degree or other credentials for    job. Check go.usa.gov/cnJPV #AskUSCIS 

31 December 2015

Happy New Year 2016!

Enjoy these New Year's wishes from U.S. citizens and permanent residents from around the world.



Thanks to everyone who sent us videos!

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18 December 2015

From Health Scare to Happy Ending: District Director Reflects on a Special Naturalization Ceremony

(By Sarah Taylor, District Director for the Washington District. Photos by Stella Lane)

Life is precious. As district director for the Washington District since 2008, I cannot think of a time that I felt more blessed by the opportunity to naturalize someone than I did yesterday. On Sept. 5, Mr. Gaddam and his wife came to our office for their naturalization interviews. He hadn’t even stepped onto the elevator when he collapsed. The security officers immediately began to administer CPR until the Fairfax County EMTs arrived to continue these life-saving efforts. When I was notified that someone had collapsed, I went downstairs to see if there was anything I could do to help. Seeing that Mrs. Gaddam was in distress, I offered her a hug and remained by her side until they left for the hospital. When Mr. Gaddam left, he was breathing but unconscious. Throughout the first days in the hospital, they were not sure he would survive.

But survive he did. 

He remained in the hospital for 24 days, his wife and two grown daughters constantly at his side. Our Field Office Director Kimberly Zanotti kept in steady contact with them on the phone to receive updates on his health and to assist in keeping their naturalization on track. When the time was right, we sent an immigration services officer to their home to conduct their naturalization interview and test. Both of them passed with flying colors!  When offered the opportunity for a home-bound naturalization ceremony, Mr. Gaddam declined, saying that he really wanted to come back into our office to be able to personally thank everyone who had been instrumental in saving his life. 

So it came to pass that Mr. and Mrs. Gaddam came to the Washington Field Office for their naturalization ceremony on Dec. 17. When they entered the building for this happy occasion and very emotional reunion, Security Officer Boateng ran over to them and warmly embraced Mr. Gaddam. After completing the pre-ceremony paperwork, they were escorted to our conference room where we all reconnected with hugs and tears.   

From the field security manager and chief of staff who managed the overall situation, to the immigration services officer who saw him collapse and called for help, the room was filled with both animated story-telling and a great deal of humility and grace. What a joy it was to see them on such a happy occasion, and to know what might have happened had our security officers not been able to act so quickly and expertly. 

From left: Officer Boateng, Mr. Gaddam, District Director Sarah Taylor, Officer Henderson, Mrs. Gaddam, Field Office Director Kimberly Zanotti.

Mr. Gaddam remarked to me that had he collapsed on his drive to our office, or even in the parking lot, help would not have arrived in time to save him.  He credits his second chance in life to the fact that he was in our building within seconds of life-saving help at the moment he needed it most.

Lucas Guttentag, senior counselor to the USCIS director, came to our office to personally present certificates of appreciation to Security Officers Boateng and Henderson who provided the life-saving CPR. (Another Officer, Islam, was not able to attend the gathering.)  

Senior Counselor Lucas Guttentag presents the certificates of appreciation to Officers Boateng (left) and Henderson (right).

The certificates, which were signed by USCIS Director León Rodríguez, read, in part:

“With deep appreciation for your heroic efforts, administering life-saving CPR to a USCIS customer on September 3, 2015. Thank you for your meritorious service, vigilance, and continued support to the customers and employees of the USCIS Washington District Office.” 

Senior Counselor Lucas Guttentag, District Director Sarah Taylor and Field Office Director Kimberly Zanotti happily present Mr. Gaddam with his naturalization certificate.

Mr. and Mrs. Gaddam were among 19 candidates from 13 countries who took the Oath of Allegiance that day: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Cambodia, Cameroon, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Mongolia, Pakistan and Sierra Leone.

Taking the Oath of Allegiance.

During the ceremony, Guttentag commended the American quality of resolve to never give up. “Many times it is our community – our friends, neighbors and fellow Americans – that come alongside us and help us to get that second chance.

New citizens Mr. and Mrs. Gaddam recite the Pledge of Allegiance with their daughters by their side.

All of us at USCIS, and especially the members of this field office, are thankful that we were able to be the community you needed in your time of crisis.”

No truer words. I am so thankful for this happy ending.

Mrs. Gaddam looks on proudly as her husband is interviewed by a television station that came to tell the story of his happy ending.

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16 December 2015

Celebrating Citizenship and the Bill of Rights with President Obama

Every day across America, we welcome new U.S. citizens into our ranks in naturalization ceremonies. Some are small events with just the candidate for naturalization, and some are held in convention centers with thousands of participants. As the press secretary, I have attended many ceremonies. Whether the candidates take the Oath of Allegiance in a courthouse, in an office building or in a national park, each ceremony is special - for both the person beginning the next chapter of their life as a U.S. citizen, and for those participating in the ceremony.

On Dec. 15, I had the pleasure of attending a special naturalization ceremony hosted by the U.S. National Archives for 31 candidates from 25 countries to mark the 224th anniversary of the Bill of Rights. Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas addressed the candidates and USCIS Director León Rodríguez recited the Pledge of Allegiance.  In addition to the senior leaders from DHS and USCIS, one thing made it even more special:  the keynote speaker was Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States.

In his remarks, the president said:
What a remarkable journey all of you have made. And as of today, your story is forever woven into the larger story of this nation. In the brief time that we have together, I want to share that story with you. Because even as you’ve put in the work required to become a citizen, you still have a demanding and rewarding task ahead of you - and that is the hard work of active citizenship. You have rights and you have responsibilities. And now you have to help us write the next great chapter in America’s story.

And that’s why today is not the final step in your journey. More than 60 years ago, at a ceremony like this one, Sen. John F. Kennedy said, "No form of government requires more of its citizens than does the American democracy." Our system of self-government depends on ordinary citizens doing the hard, frustrating but always essential work of citizenship - of being informed. Of understanding that the government isn’t some distant thing, but is you. Of speaking out when something is not right. Of helping fellow citizens when they need a hand. Of coming together to shape our country’s course.
You can view a video of the president’s entire remarks, or view photos of the event taken by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Archives.

On the same day the president spoke at this special naturalization ceremony, the White House Task Force on New Americans released its One Year Progress Report summarizing the progress that has been made to enhance federal efforts to more effectively integrate immigrants and refugees into local areas by building more welcoming communities.

I’m proud to be a part of that welcoming community, and I’m proud of the hard work done every day by my fellow USCIS employees. Our efforts help new citizens fulfill their American dream. 

Shin Inouye
USCIS Press Secretary

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The White House Blog: Keeping the American Dream Alive

Yesterday, The White House Blog published an article on the Task Force on New Americans, and the progress it has made in its first year of existence. The task force was created to coordinate a federal strategy to better integrate and welcome new Americans into communities and support state and local efforts to do the same.
 
The article was co-authored by Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz and USCIS Director León Rodríguez. Be sure to check it out here.

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