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22 September 2016

To the Newest American Citizens: This Land is Your Land

(This article was originally posted on the U.S. Department of the Interior Blog.)

By Michael Connor, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior

Recently, as part of commemorating 100-years of America’s National Park Service, I had the pleasure of welcoming 25 new U.S. citizens at a special naturalization ceremony held at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine.

Deputy Secretary Mike Connor speaking at a naturalization ceremony at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Maryland. Photo by Interior.

On August 25, the actual 100th birthday of the National Park Service, 450 individuals across the United States took the Oath of Allegiance and became America’s newest citizens. Along with their family and friends, these 450 Americans celebrated their special day at several different National Park Service sites, including Fort McHenry (where I had the pleasure to congratulate everyone in person), Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Big Thicket National Preserve, and Biscayne National Park.

Since 2006, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and National Park Service have partnered to welcome thousands of new citizens in parks around the country and celebrate their new status in our country’s beautiful landmarks. In this National Park Service Centennial year, USCIS and NPS will host at least 100 ceremonies in parks to recognize the importance of these locations to our newest Americans.

Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona has hosted several naturalization ceremonies. Photo by Michael Quinn, National Park Service.

These ceremonies have brought America’s next generation of immigrants to the natural, historical and cultural treasures that tell the American story. The diversity of the parks extend from iconic wonders like Everglades National Park, Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Crater Lake National Park, to significant landmarks such as Faneuil Hall in Boston National Historical Park, Ellis Island, and Women’s Rights National Historical Park.

National parks began with the idea that America’s greatest natural treasures belong to everyone and forever need to be preserved.

America’s great outdoors are all-encompassing: from deep blue lakes and jagged mountain peaks to hearty grasslands and arid deserts. The American people are just as diverse, bringing unique experiences to these unique places. Our newest citizens add to that diversity and carry with them their own stories as they explore these places.

New citizens celebrating at a naturalization ceremony at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington. Photo by Emily Brouwer, National Park Service.

As we begin our second century of the National Park Service, we also pause to recognize that our public lands and national parks will continue to thrive only if Americans of all backgrounds care deeply about them. As the newest Americans were sworn in, they now join the rest of their fellow Americans as owners of these public lands.

As owners and stewards of our nation’s public lands, we all bear responsibility to preserve and protect these special sites. At Fort McHenry, we paused to recognize the significance of the site that inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a song played by the fife and drum team during the ceremony. For all citizens new and old, it is important to get out and explore these places that help to tell the history of our country. From the Stonewall Inn in New York that helps tell the ongoing struggle for civil rights, to Glacier National Park that shows how climate change is continuing to impact natural treasures, all Americans should see and experience the sites that are special to you. As we like to say, everyone should get out and #FindYourPark (#Encuentra Tu Parque)!

Our public lands tell the story of this great nation and of its diverse people. It’s up to all of us to inspire the next generation - and people of all backgrounds - to become passionate about conservation and these incredible places.

Former President Jimmy Carter stands with new citizens at Jimmy Carter National Historic Site. Photo by National Park Service.

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21 September 2016

Welcoming New U.S. Citizens at Angel Island

On Sept. 12, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) welcomed 19 new U.S. citizens at the historic Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco Bay. Angel Island is often referred to as the "Ellis Island of the West." It was used as an immigrant processing station from 1910-1940, primarily for immigrants from Asia, including more than 175,000 Chinese immigrants.

Some immigrants literally carved their feelings into the walls while waiting for their interviews - writing poetry into the wooden walls of the barracks. The Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation was created to continue preservation and educational efforts at the site.

USCIS Chief of Staff Juliet K. Choi administered the Oath of Allegiance to the citizenship candidates.


Above: USCIS Chief of Staff Juliet K. Choi administers the Oath of Allegiance

In her remarks, she noted Angel Island’s place in American history:

From 1910 to 1940, immigration officers on Angel Island processed around one million Asian immigrants, many of them who spent months or even years waiting to be admitted to the United States.

Asian immigrants have a longer history in this country than many people realize. The first recorded Asian Americans were a group of Filipino sailors who settled in Louisiana as early as 1763.

In the 1800s, Chinese and Japanese immigrants came in larger numbers, many of them to work in mining or on the transcontinental railroad in the West.

Although this nation benefited from their labor, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders - or AAPIs - were not always welcome in the United States. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act - the first law in the U.S. to deny immigration to a specific ethnic group.

The Angel Island Immigration Station was built specifically to monitor the flow of Chinese immigrants entering the country after this exclusionary law went into effect.

When Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1924, it included the Asian Exclusion Act. This Act established quotas limiting "undesirable" immigration from Asia and barred Asian immigrants from naturalizing.

It wasn't until 1952 that Congress nullified all anti-Asian exclusion laws and allowed Asian immigrants to become U.S. citizens, and it wasn’t until 1965 that the race and nationality-based quotas were lifted.

That change led to a distinct increase in the number of Asians immigrating to the United States.
Attendees then heard special remarks from Felicia Lowe, an award-winning producer, director, and writer.  Ms. Lowe is herself a descendant of Angel Island detainees, and has been heavily involved in the preservation of the Angel Island Immigration Station.  Among her many works is “Carved in Silence,” a documentary about the experiences of Chinese immigrants detained on Angel Island.

After the ceremony, the new Americans toured the facilities on the island. There are hiking and biking trails, campsites, a snack bar and limited tram service.

Angel Island is the largest natural island in the San Francisco Bay. The earliest inhabitants were the Coast Miwok people. Other local Native American tribes hunted and gathered food there. Spanish explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala stopped for supplies while he was mapping San Francisco Bay.

Camp Reynolds was established on the island in 1863. In 1900, the name was changed to Fort McDowell. The fort played an active role during both world wars. When the Army no longer needed the post, the flag was lowered for the last time on August 28, 1946.

But on September 12, the flag was flying proudly as USCIS welcomed those that came to Angel Island as citizens of different nations, but left bound in their commonality as new U.S. citizens.

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15 September 2016

Check Out Our New USCIS Instagram Account!

We are fortunate to meet amazing immigrants every day and share in their immigration journeys. Now we have a unique opportunity to share their stories with the world using Instagram. Today, we launched our Instagram account under the handle @USCIS and @USCIS_ES (Spanish version) and will share photos, graphics and videos to highlight our vital work.

Our  Instagram handle joins our popular Facebook and Twitter accounts. Instagram differs from Facebook and Twitter by being visually focused with photos and minimal captions. Before the launch, our customers had already embraced Instagram, posting more than 10,000 #newUScitizen photos, which have become a major source of photos for our Facebook albums and Twitter collages. These great images capture the emotions of the immigrant experience and add color and warmth to the dialogue about our nation’s immigration system and the important work of our agency.

To garner attention for the new account and engage our audience at a meaningful time - Constitution Day and Citizenship Day - we will immediately start a social media campaign on Instagram. Beginning on Sept. 16, we will post photos and captions using the hashtag #MeetUS. This campaign will feature photos of individual new citizens at naturalization ceremonies across the country with short captions quoting them about their American experience. The #MeetUS campaign will continue posting several stories a week to showcase how immigrants add to the strength and character of our nation.

Be sure to follow @USCIS and @USCIS_ES on Instagram!

13 September 2016

Scam Alert – Imposter Calls!

If someone claiming to be a government official or law enforcement officer calls making threats such as deportation, beware! Hang up and report it!

Here’s How it Works

A number appears on your caller ID that may look like a legitimate government number. When you answer, the person on the phone poses as a USCIS or other government official or law enforcement officer.The scammer will say that there is a problem with your application or additional information is required to continue the immigration process. Then, they will ask for personal and sensitive details and may demand payment to fix problems. The scammer may tell you to make a money transfer or go to a store to purchase a money order, voucher or make some other type of money exchange, payment or withdrawal. They may threaten you with deportation or other negative consequences if you do not pay.

If you receive a call like that, we urge you to hang up immediately. 

We will never ask for any form of payment over the phone or in an email. If we need payment, we will mail a letter on official stationery requesting payment. Do not give payment over the phone to anyone who claims to be a USCIS official. In general, we encourage you to protect your personal information and not to provide details about your immigration application in any public area.

If you have been a victim of this telephone or email scam, please report it to the Federal Trade Commission at http://1.usa.gov/1suOHSS. If you receive a suspicious email or voice message and are not sure if it is a scam, forward it to the USCIS webmaster at uscis.webmaster@uscis.dhs.gov. We will review the messages received and share with law enforcement agencies as appropriate. Visit the Avoid Scams Initiative at uscis.gov/avoidscams for more information on common scams and other important tips.

If you have a question about your immigration record, please call the National Customer Service Center at 800-375-5283 or make an InfoPass appointment at https://my.uscis.gov/appointment. You can also use myUSCIS to find up-to-date information about your application process.

07 September 2016

Summary of #AskUSCIS Twitter Town Hall on August 23

We held a Twitter Town Hall featuring #AskUSCIS on August 23 to answer your questions about immigration benefits and services. Below are many common questions and answers we addressed during the hour. Thanks to everyone who tweeted questions.

Q1: @falconboy4u How long it takes after submitting RFE in Vermont office? #AskUSCIS
A1: @falconboy4u We update processing times online as often as possible. View processing times by office: https://t.co/2hCk7MlXww #AskUSCIS
Q2: @YEMIOOLAREWAJU have submit n 400 over a year ago, and pass the test, but I’ve not received anything yet #AskUSCIS
A2: @YEMIOOLAREWAJU Your case is outside of standard processing time. Submit an inquiry using e-Request: https://t.co/OxEx4ZzB9l #AskUSCIS
Q3: @SagarJa54945792 Can a person applying for permanent residency through family member continue to use tourist visa to visit US? #AskUSCIS
A3: @SagarJa54945792 If no rejection or receipt has been received, contact us at 1-800-375-5283. See: https://t.co/vKtNqeiJMo #AskUSCIS
Q4: @rmudholkar If working w/ media, promoting US interest; Can we request it to be equivalent as physical stay for filing N-470? #AskUSCIS
A4: @rmduholka For residency, it depends on your work/company. See Section D on this page: https://t.co/7ZmX9MhDQC #AskUSCIS
Q5: @MHmeedat in general, When can asylees file form I-765 for work authorizations? #AskUSCIS
A5: @MHmeedat #Asylees can apply for employment authorization 150 days after filing for asylum. See: https://t.co/eZiJnOPnD5 #AskUSCIS
Q6: @gnmche69 do I have to use my wife's maiden name on all paperwork ? I-485 I-130 or my last name since we got married #AskUSCIS
A6: @gnmche69 Please complete the forms with her name as she would like it to appear on her Green Card. https://t.co/Ld3XwXYYv0 #AskUSCIS
Q7: @mufrasho I want to ask what to do if one visa is cancelled at the port of entry in the US #AskUSCIS
A7: @mufrasho Please check with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at https://t.co/pLXiDyyRSB #AskUSCIS @CustomsBorder
Q8: @nwaab_saab Is there any way to expedite the process of advance parole in emergency? #AskUSCIS
A8:@nwaab_saab: Yes, go to your local field office to file. If case is pending call 800-375-5383. See: https://t.co/tiQXWAv6a5 #AskUSCIS
Q9:@nwaab_saab can an asylum applicant(pending) leave US and apply advance parole from any other country? #AskUSCIS
A9: @nwaab_saab You must be granted advanced parole before leaving the U.S. See: https://t.co/StH3EVJak0 #AskUSCIS
Q10: @bmian93 NVC asked about change in form I-864 ,Is this important to send updated form to NVC or we can give during interview? #AskUSCIS
A10:@bmian93 For details regarding NVC's process, please contact State Department at https://t.co/0DTJEOAM44 #AskUSCIS @travelgov
Q11: @mafergiordana I want to know about extension for unlawful precense, are adult children included when parent is citizen? #AskUSCIS
A11: @mafergiordana As of 08/29/2016, anyone eligible for the provisional waiver may apply. https://t.co/43ZqFdK3KH #AskUSCIS
Q12: @Yacoub_Sakka Do I need my passport for naturalization application? #AskUSCIS
A12: @Yacoub_Sakka You do not need a passport to apply for naturalization. Bring it to your interview. https://t.co/B8G4n76goE #AskUSCIS
Q13: @zhiyizh submitted I-751 RFE response to Vermont 75 days ago. haven't received notice about next step. Is there time frame? #AskUSCIS
A13: @zhiyizh If the time to review posted on your RFE has passed, please contact us at 1-800-375-5283. https://t.co/KniLgq4Hbi #AskUSCIS
Q14: @gzp7 do I need to have a current green card to obtain my citizenship? #AskUSCIS
A14: @gzp7 To be able to apply for naturalization, you must renew your Green Card once it has expired. #AskUSCIS


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01 September 2016

Emma: Friendly Presence and Innovative USCIS Resource - Available 24/7

(This blog was originally posted by USCIS on USCIS Compás)

We are working hard to serve you and continue to make improvements to Emma, our Spanish-speaking Interactive Virtual Assistant. Help us improve Emma’s knowledge by continuing to ask your immigration-related questions on USCIS.gov/es from any device. This blog will help you understand a little bit more about how Emma works and how you can help her serve you better. 

Our Interactive Virtual Assistant (IVA) “Emma” is available in English at USCIS.gov and in Spanish on USCIS.gov/es. Emma is not a live agent but an artificial intelligence conversational software built with customers in mind. You ask a question, Emma replies immediately with a response. Emma is here to answer your immigration questions and direct you to the right resource, and we need your help to make her even better.


Our Interactive Virtual Assistant (IVA) “Emma” is available in English at USCIS.gov and in Spanish on USCIS.gov/es

Emma is named in honor of Emma Lazarus, the poet whose famous words are inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty. Our IVA was developed in response to a growing interest in customer service self-help tools. Emma is not just a friendly face. She’s a powerful and innovative resource available 24/7 that can respond to your immigration-related questions in seconds.

Emma joined USCIS.gov in December 2015 and since then answers an average of 456,000 questions a month on USCIS.gov. Emma made her debut on USCIS.gov/es in June 2016. In just two months, she has answered an average of 101,000 questions a month and is used nearly twice as much as the search feature on USCIS.gov/es. We need your help to continue to improve Emma’s responses by continuing to ask your immigration questions.


Emma is available to answer your questions from any device, simply click on “Ask a Question”  

Your Language is Emma’s Language

We’re constantly improving Emma’s knowledge base and answers through your questions. We encourage you to ask questions in your own words and in your native language so that Emma can reply better in the future. In this way, your language will become Emma’s language. If she doesn’t answer your question correctly the first time, try rewording your question.

Emma in English currently can answer 90 percent of commonly asked questions. Even though the Spanish-language Emma is new, she can already answer 86 percent of questions, including those that use idiomatic terms and mixtures of Spanish and English.

We are dedicated to serving you and excited to work with you as we continue to improve Emma on USCIS.gov/es.

For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit USCIS.gov/es or follow us on Twitter (@USCIS_ES), YouTube (/uscis), Facebook(/USCIS.ES), and the USCIS blog Compás.

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31 August 2016

E-Verify Things to Know

E-Verify recently added more resources and features for employers and individuals.

Case Creation Screens. We have used some of our users’ ideas on E-Verify Listens to match E-Verify case creation screens with the Form I-9 order of fields. This makes entering cases much faster.

Fact Sheets. Our fact sheets for international students explain the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, and E-Verify processes; how they can avoid a Tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC); and what to do if they receive a TNC. We’ve also provided a fact sheet for designated school officials in assisting those students.

Employee Rights and Responsibilities Video. This year we added closed captions in 9 additional foreign languages to the Employee Rights and Responsibilities video. We now offer 22 versions of this popular 6-minute video. To view the foreign language captions, please ensure the “cc” (closed caption) button is ”ON” in the video toolbar.

New Designs. Log in to E-Verify to see the new design. Also, visit the I-9 Central, E-Verify and myE-Verify websites on your mobile device to see that they automatically adjust to any mobile device screen size. Plus, selected users are testing the new E-Verify mobile app by creating and managing cases on their iPads.

Continue using the current version of Form I-9 until the new version is available on I-9 Central. Subscribe to be among the first to know when the new Form I-9 is posted on I-9 Central. Employers use E-Verify at over 2 million worksites to confirm the employment eligibility of new employees.

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23 August 2016

Have a SAVE Question? We Have Answers

Do you have a question about the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements Program (SAVE) that you really need answered? The SAVE website provides the information you need most.

You can visit our new resources page to discover useful information about the status verification process. Simply select whether you are a current SAVE user, prospective SAVE user or stakeholder, or benefit applicant.

The look and feel of the website has improved. It has a modern, clean and simple style to enhance your experience and expedite your search for information.

We’re really excited for you to check out the new site. You may be randomly selected to take our website survey, and if so then we hope you let us know what you think about your experience. We’ve made a lot of progress over the past few years thanks to your feedback and we are always looking to improve.

If you haven't heard of SAVE before and are wondering what it is, here’s the scoop: SAVE verifies a benefit applicant’s immigration or citizenship status within seconds to help make sure those who are eligible receive benefits. You can watch our director, León Rodríguez, speak about SAVE’s history, milestones and three decades of service on YouTube.

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