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28 September 2010

Constitution Week Naturalizations at National Parks

USCIS celebrated Citizenship Day, Constitution Day and Constitution Week by naturalizing citizenship candidates during special ceremonies held across the United States at National Park Service venues.

Photo added October 12: A naturalization ceremony held at Arches National Park in September 2010
Photo added October 12: A naturalization ceremony held at Arches National Park on September 24, 2010

The ceremonies embraced the theme "Embrace Citizenship - Experience America through Your National Parks."

Director Mayorkas with new citizens in front of Lincoln Memorial

During a special naturalization ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday, USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas administered the Oath of Allegiance and presented Patrick Corvington, CEO for the Corporation for National and Community Service and native of Haiti, with the Outstanding American by Choice (ABC) recognition. Following acceptance of the ABC, Mr. Corvington delivered the keynote to the 27 new Americans hailing from 17 countries.

Also included in the ceremony was National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis who provided welcoming remarks and Naval Corpsman Jhonny Alexander Franco Garcia, a native of Colombia who recited the Pledge of Allegiance. After the special ceremony all 27 new citizens posed for a portrait on the steps of the beautiful monument with Director Mayorkas, Director Jarvis and Mr. Corvington.


17 September 2010

A Celebration of Citizenship

(As published in La Opinión. Also in Spanish)

On September 17, 1787, delegates in Philadelphia signed our nation’s Constitution and indelibly committed us to the highest ideals of a democracy. We commemorate this noble act by celebrating Constitution Day and Citizenship Day each September 17 in cities and towns across our country.

As administrators of our nation’s immigration system, we at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) take pride when we welcome as citizens individuals from all over the world who have embraced our nation’s Constitutional principles, those enshrined by the delegates in Philadelphia so many years ago. For us, the week of September 17 is a week of commemoration and celebration as we administer the oath of allegiance to new Americans in naturalization ceremonies from coast to coast.

Congress and the President have provided extraordinary leadership in their commitment to citizenship and, thereby, to our nation’s founding ideals. They have funded at unprecedented levels our citizenship and immigrant integration programs, which offer needed support for the more than eight million permanent residents who are eligible to apply for citizenship but who have not yet done so.

Today we are honored to announce nearly $8 million in grants, through the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program, to 75 organizations across the country. With this funding, the recipient organizations will expand citizenship resources and build capacity to prepare immigrants for citizenship. USCIS will also unveil today a free online Citizenship Resource Center that provides immigrants, teachers, and organizations with a one-stop portal for locating citizenship resources.

At a time when state and local governments face budget shortfalls and programs supporting English language learning and citizenship are particularly hard hit, these federal contributions provide critical support in our communities.

During the past year, we have furthered our commitment to citizenship and integration in other ways as well. Our website is now available in both English and Spanish and application status and processing times can be tracked online. Local USCIS offices regularly open their doors by hosting free public information sessions on citizenship eligibility and the naturalization process. We also began a partnership with the City of Los Angeles to promote immigrant integration through proactive citizenship awareness, education, and outreach activities.

In the past year, USCIS made improvements to the naturalization process by fully implementing a more meaningful and uniformly-administered naturalization test. Since then, the national pass rate has averaged 92 percent, demonstrating that applicants who study and thoroughly prepare can ultimately pass the test. Naturalization processing times have also improved dramatically, to less than five months across the country.

American citizenship is a unique bond that unites people around civic ideals and a belief in the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Being American is not about one’s religion, the color of one’s skin, or the place of one’s birth. Citizenship transcends our differences by bestowing upon us all equal rights and responsibilities. Please join me in recognizing Constitution Day and Citizenship Day as a celebration of the unifying principles that define our past and ensure our future as a beacon of hope and opportunity for the world.

Alejandro Mayorkas
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Department of Homeland Security


16 September 2010

Five Answers to Common Questions on Changing Your Address

If you need to change your address with USCIS, the following five questions and answers should help you navigate the process a little more easily:

1. How soon after my move should I notify USCIS of my new address?

Most non U.S. citizens must notify USCIS of a new address within 10 days of moving. Exceptions include:
  • Diplomats (visa status A),
  • Official government representatives to an international organization (visa status G), and
  • Certain nonimmigrants who do not possess a visa and who are in the U.S. for fewer than 30 days.
U.S. Citizens are required to notify USCIS of a change of address if they have previously submitted a Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, on behalf of someone who has become a permanent resident. If you have previously submitted a Form I-864 for someone who immigrated to the U.S., and that sponsorship agreement is still in force, you must complete a Form I-865, Sponsor’s Notice of Change of Address, within 30 days of the change in address.

2. How do I change my address with USCIS?

You can complete Form AR-11 and change your address on any pending application or petition by using our Online Change of Address service. If you do not use our online service, you must submit Form AR-11 by mail and change your address on any pending applications and/or petitions by calling our National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283. For more detailed information, visit our website.

3. Is changing my address with the post office enough?

No. If you are required to change your address with USCIS, but only change your address with the post office, you may not receive important notices about your case. In addition, failure to notify USCIS directly of your change of address may render you in violation of the applicable immigration laws.

4. Do I have to submit a change of address for every pending application or petition?

Yes. To ensure that all USCIS correspondence is sent to your current address, you must submit a change of address for every pending application and/or petition that you have with USCIS. You can do so online or by calling our National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.

5. Is calling the National Customer Service Center to update my address on pending applications and/or petitions enough?

If you are a non-U.S. citizen (and you do not belong to one of the three excepted groups listed in the answer to question 2), the answer is "no." You must also submit Form AR-11, either online or by mail.

As already mentioned in the answer to question 3, you can update your address on pending applications and/or petitions either online or by calling the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.

If you are a U.S. Citizen who previously submitted a Form I-864 that is still in force and you use the National Customer Service Center to update your address on an application or petition pending with USCIS, you must also complete a Form I-865 to satisfy your obligations under the applicable sponsorship regulations.

02 September 2010

This September - Honoring and Celebrating Citizenship

The United States honors Constitution Day and Citizenship Day each year on September 17. I can't think of a better opportunity to celebrate our newest citizens and the importance of citizenship to this nation.

Last year, more than 750,000 people became naturalized U.S. citizens. On average, our country welcomes approximately one million new permanent residents, and more than 650,000 new citizens naturalize each year. Even with our great diversity as a nation of immigrants, there are strong bonds that unite us all as Americans. These bonds are formed through a belief and commitment to the same ideals that led to the creation of our nation - liberty, equality, and justice.

As individuals, as communities, and as a nation, we continually strive to realize these ideals more fully. People come from all over the world to experience America's promise of freedom and opportunity. Becoming a U.S. citizen is an important step on that journey. Learning English, understanding our history, and having a vested stake in the future of this country not only strengthens immigrants and their families, but benefits our entire nation as well.

At USCIS, we plan to dedicate the month of September to the celebration of citizenship. Throughout the month, we have several special events and announcements scheduled. A few highlights include:

  • Special naturalization ceremonies at national park sites such as the Lincoln Memorial, Grand Canyon National Park, and the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis, MO.;
  • The announcement of approximately 50 new grant recipients as part of the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program; and
  • The launch of a free online Citizenship Resource Center to help applicants and educators prepare for the naturalization process and test.
September promises to be an exciting month. Please join us in celebrating Constitution Day and Citizenship Day this year and take a moment to reflect on the enduring promise of America and what it means to you.

Rebecca S. Carson
Chief, Office of Citizenship