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26 April 2010

"Our Land, Our Country, Our Earth"

USCIS commemorated the 40th anniversary of Earth Day by naturalizing citizenship candidates during special ceremonies held across the United States. The ceremonies embraced the theme "Our Land, Our Country, Our Earth."

During a special naturalization ceremony at the Department of the Interior on Wednesday, USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas administered the Oath of Allegiance and presented Kawther Elmi, a park ranger at the Lincoln Memorial and native of Ethiopia, with the Outstanding American by Choice recognition. National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis provided keynote remarks and told the new citizens about the cultural significance of our national parks.

Above: Director Mayorkas and National Park Service Director Jarvis applaud Outstanding American by Choice recipient Kawther Elmi

Before the ceremony began, Directors Mayorkas and Jarvis signed an amendment to a memorandum of agreement renewing a partnership between the Department of Homeland Security and Department of the Interior to enhance the meaning and stature of citizenship ceremonies nationwide. The partnership allows USCIS to hold special citizenship ceremonies at national park sites throughout the country.

24 April 2010

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15 April 2010

An Advance Parole Reminder

With summer fast approaching, we thought this would be a timely occasion to remind our readers that individuals who fall into certain categories must obtain Advance Parole from USCIS before traveling abroad. This is the case if you have:
  • been granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS);
  • a pending application for adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident;
  • a pending application for relief under section 203 of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA 203);
  • a pending asylum application; or
  • a pending application for legalization.
To obtain Advance Parole, individuals must file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. For more information, check out our press release on advance parole from last year.

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07 April 2010

USCIS: Our Mission and What We Do Not Do

We know the immigration system can be very complicated and there are several governmental bodies involved in administering, enforcing, and creating the immigration laws in the United States.

We thought it would be helpful for us to summarize both our mission and those things that we do not work on to give our readers a more clear understanding of the system.

Our Mission

First, the following comprises our primary mission:
  • Adjudicate applications and petitions for immigration and citizenship benefits,
  • Detect immigration fraud,
  • Provide information and opportunities for us to address customer needs,
  • Promote an awareness and understanding of citizenship,
  • Ensure the integrity of our immigration system, 
  • Adjudicate refugee and asylum applications filed by those fleeing persecution, and
  • Adjudicate immigration applications for U.S. citizens who are adopting a child from another country.
What We Do Not Do

There are also a number of important roles, tasks and functions that fall outside our jurisdiction. Here are some important things that USCIS does NOT do:
  • Enact new immigration laws. (Laws must be passed by both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate and then signed by the President.)
  • Determine which priority dates are current. (This is the responsibility of the Department of State.)
  • Publish the visa bulletin. (This is the responsibility of the Department of State.)
  • Issue visas. (This is the responsibility of the Department of State.)
  • Process Labor Certifications or certify Labor Condition Applications. (This is the responsibility of the Department of Labor.)
  • Arrest, detain, and enforce the removal of aliens who are removable (deportable) because e.g., they are in the United States illegally or have violated their immigration status. (This is the responsibility of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.)
  • Administer the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. (This is the responsibility of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.)
  • Order the removal (deportation) of aliens from the United States. (This is generally the responsibility of the Executive Office of Immigration Review.)
  • Determine aliens' admissibility at ports of entry (e.g., at airports or land border crossings from Canada or Mexico). (This is the responsibility of Customs and Border Protection.)
Not surprisingly, we are most interested in those aspects of the immigration system that have to do with our mission - and that we can influence. We hope to speak more to those points in our future posts and thank you for your comments.

02 April 2010

Helping Those on the Path to Citizenship

Earlier this week we held a special naturalization ceremony at USCIS headquarters in Washington, DC to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the 1980 Refugee Act. Witnessing the 27 candidates from 10 different countries take the oath of allegiance was truly heartwarming. I can only imagine the sacrifices and challenges these individuals faced in reaching this important moment.

Here at USCIS, we strongly believe that all immigrants who are eligible for citizenship and aspire to join our nation should receive the tools and support they need to be successful. To help individuals better understand the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and the naturalization process, we have made citizenship outreach and awareness an agency priority.

First, our field offices are opening their doors in communities across the country and partnering with local groups to host free information sessions. Since July 2009, we have held more than 130 events for nearly 9,000 individuals. See this short video (also in Spanish) and be sure to check our website for upcoming events in your area.

Our agency also offers a variety of study materials for the naturalization test including an online practice test and other multimedia tools. And just today, we introduced a new video that walks viewers through the naturalization process and highlights simulated interviews between USCIS officers and citizenship applicants.

Naturalization processing times have also improved dramatically over the last 18 months. With less time to prepare than in the past, we want to make sure that potential applicants have up-to-date and accurate information as they consider U.S. citizenship. The fact is though, most individuals do very well on the test. Did you know that currently 92 percent of applicants pass the test on their first try? See the numbers here for yourself.

Please know that we take our responsibilities very seriously and commit our every effort to making the naturalization process as transparent, consistent, and meaningful as possible. We're excited about these new initiatives and hope you find them to be useful tools. Thanks for your time and I look forward to your comments.

Rebecca S. Carson
Chief, Office of Citizenship