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30 January 2012

Naturalization Oath Ceremonies

We received a question a while back on The Beacon about naturalization ceremonies, and thought it might be good to clarify a few things. Under the law, U.S. Federal courts have the right to exclusively administer the oath of allegiance. Some courts have waived this right and allow USCIS to administer the oath of allegiance.

If you attend a ceremony in which the court administers the oath of allegiance, this is called a judicial ceremony. An oath administered by USCIS is called an administrative ceremony. 

You will have a judicial ceremony if you live in an area that is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the court. Because USCIS field offices often service more than one state or more than one court district, different applicants may have different types of ceremonies, depending on where they live. For example, the Washington Field Office services both the District of Columbia and parts of Virginia. If an applicant lives in DC, he or she will have a judicial ceremony, while applicants from Virginia may have an administrative ceremony.

You will also have a judicial ceremony if you indicate on your Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, that you would like to change your name. Your name change must be approved by a judge; therefore, your name change will be changed at a judicial ceremony. 

Offices that conduct administrative ceremonies may have same-day naturalization ceremonies. USCIS will post on its field office web pages which offices have same-day ceremonies when we revise the pages in the coming months. 

Finally, you may have a judicial ceremony even if you do not live in an area under the exclusive jurisdiction of the court if it is a special ceremony or if it is convenient for the office to schedule you for a judicial ceremony. Similarly, you may have an administrative ceremony in certain circumstances if you are not changing your name and the court has waived its right to administer the oath as a one-time event or under special circumstances. 

Please also note that the court does not have the exclusive right to administer the oath of allegiance in certain military naturalization cases.

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27 January 2012

USCIS Combats Human Trafficking

Posted by Alejandro Mayorkas, Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Every year, thousands of innocent men, women, and children are exploited in human trafficking schemes around the world and right here in the United States. Victims are often lured from their homes with false promises of well-paying jobs and a better life. They are instead forced or coerced into prostitution, domestic servitude, farm or factory work, or other types of forced labor.

At U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), we support the DHS Blue Campaign’s efforts to combat human trafficking by helping to protect victims of these horrible crimes. USCIS provides immigration relief in the form of T visas and U visas, which allow victims to remain in the United States and assist in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. These visas also provide a pathway to lawful permanent residence and permit certain family members to join them in the United States.

Earlier this month, Secretary Napolitano met Shiyma Hall, a brave young woman who was forced into domestic servitude when she was 9 years old. Today, Shiyma is free, and through the immigration benefits provided by USCIS, she is now a United States citizen. USCIS recently unveiled new resources and produced a video to highlight the immigration benefits available to victims of crime.



In addition, we provide regular Web-based trainings for law enforcement officials, and have provided more than 30 in-person trainings on combating human trafficking and the immigration benefits available for victims to Federal, State, and local law enforcement officials nationwide. We also contributed to the DHS U Visa Law Enforcement Certification Resource Guide, a new tool available to law enforcement officials to support investigations and prosecutions.

Given the sensitive nature of cases surrounding victims’ protection, USCIS implemented confidentiality safeguards for individuals with applications associated with Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitions or T or U nonimmigrant petitions.

For more information on the Department’s efforts to combat human trafficking, visit www.dhs.gov/humantrafficking or www.uscis.gov/humantrafficking. In an emergency, call 911.  To report human trafficking call the ICE tip line at 1-866-347-2423, and for related questions or to speak to a non-governmental representative, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.

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26 January 2012

USCIS Opens New Field Office in Queens, New York

This past Friday, USCIS celebrated the official opening of its newest full service immigration field office in Queens, New York. Director Alejandro Mayorkas and New York District Director Andrea Quarantillo were joined for the ribbon-cutting ceremony by staff and dignitaries including Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (14th District, N.Y.), Congressman Joseph Crowley (7th District, N.Y.) and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall.

Director Mayorkas (standing left) applauds as New York District Director Andrea Quarantillo and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney cut the ceremonial ribbon

Director Mayorkas (standing left) applauds as New York District Director Andrea Quarantillo and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney cut the ceremonial ribbon

The office, located at 27-35 Jackson Ave., is situated at the center of one of the most diverse communities in the United States and is expected to serve around 500 people each day. It consists of waiting rooms, an Application Support Center (which offers fingerprinting and photographic services as part of the application process), a naturalization ceremony room, and interview and file rooms. Director Mayorkas noted during the ceremony that the office is part of an ongoing effort to “provide services where our customers live.”

USCIS staff, community leaders, and members of the media listen to opening remarks
USCIS staff, community leaders, and members of the media listen to opening remarks

USCIS Supervisory Immigration Services Officer Yvette Lugo is one of approximately 100 employees who helped get the office running. She now works there on a permanent basis and noted that previously, “Many Queens residents had to take a very long trip to the Long Island Office, where sometimes they would have to take a cab and pay $60.” She is also confident that the new office will relieve pressure on other offices in the region, and cut down on wait times for applicants.

Antonio Meloni, the Executive Director of a community-based organization in Queens that assists immigrants, believes that the office is an important step in making services more accessible for local citizens and immigrants. “We’ve all stood in line and we all understand how stressful it is…and you may not finish because there are too many people…and now that won’t happen because this new office alleviates that.” He also believes the new office will also save many residents long trips to either Manhattan or Long Island offices, often through tough New York traffic. “It’s a big, big step, a large accommodation for the people.”

In an emotional moment for USCIS staffers, a portion of the new office in Queens was dedicated to former Field Office Director Gwynne K. MacPherson-Williams, who passed away in March 2011 after 38 years of distinguished public service in New York City. A plaque was placed in the new naturalization ceremony room in her memory.

For more information on our new office, please see our website.

18 January 2012

Make a New Year’s Resolution to Use E-Verify

It’s the start of a new year and you might have jotted down a few resolutions to help your business in 2012. If you’ve been thinking about enrolling in E-Verify, 2012 is the perfect time to do it. Using E-Verify has never been easier and it’s a big step towards ensuring a legal workforce.

To learn more about E-Verify, watch our video on how to enroll, or sign up for one of our daily, free webinars. Below are a few links to resources that will set you and your business on the path to enroll in E-Verify.

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16 January 2012

Honoring Dr. King

On this day that we commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., take a moment to read this inspiring post on the recently dedicated memorial in his honor, and this post on a special naturalization ceremony hosted by the King Center in Atlanta.

11 January 2012

USCIS and DHS Fight Human Trafficking

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

Every year, millions of men, women, and children are exploited for labor and commercial sex.  In 2010, Secretary Janet Napolitano launched the Blue Campaign, a first-of-its-kind initiative to coordinate and strengthen the Department’s efforts to combat human trafficking.  DHS stands together with our federal partners this month to reaffirm our pledge to prevent human trafficking, protect victims, and investigate and prosecute traffickers.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plays a vital role in the overall fight against slavery and human trafficking by providing immigration assistance to protect victims.  By encouraging victims to report crimes and assist law enforcement, T and U visas serve as a law enforcement tools to help eliminate human trafficking and fight crime in local communities. T and U visas protect victims by allowing them to remain in the United States, and permit certain family members to join them.

USCIS has produced a video  to educate individuals about trafficking and the available resources for victims.  This video highlights the stories of two trafficking survivors and the role that the T visa played in their path to freedom.  We invite you to learn more and help get the word out about the availability of T and U visas.


06 January 2012

USCIS Proposes Regulatory Change to Decrease the Time U.S. Citizens are Separated from Family Members who are Legally Immigrating to the U.S.

Posted by Alejandro Mayorkas, Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (en español/Spanish version)

Underscoring the Obama Administration’s commitment to family unity and administrative efficiency, this morning U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services posted a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register to begin a regulatory change that would reduce the amount of time that U.S. citizens are separated from their families while their family members go through the process of becoming legal residents of the United States.

Currently, children and spouses of U.S. citizens who have accrued a certain period of unlawful presence in the U.S., and have to leave the country in order to become a legal permanent resident of the U.S., are barred from returning to their families for as long as 3 or 10 years.  They can receive a waiver to allow them to return to their families before that period by showing that their U.S. citizen family member would face extreme hardship as a result of the separation.  But under current procedures, in order to obtain the waiver, these individuals must apply from outside the United States after they have been found inadmissible by a Department of State consular officer. This process can be lengthy and discourages individuals who are currently eligible for this waiver from applying.  To address this problem, the USCIS proposal would allow eligible immediate relatives of U.S. citizens to apply for and receive "provisional waivers" of unlawful presence before they leave the United States for consular processing of their immigrant visa applications, significantly reducing the time U.S. citizens are separated from their spouses, or children.

Not only will this proposal further the Administration’s commitment to family unity, but the change would improve government efficiency by increasing the predictability and consistency of the application process.

More details regarding the proposed process change will be outlined in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, tentatively scheduled to be published this spring and, which will be open for public comment. While we’re still in the beginning stages of the rulemaking process, we’ve posted some initial questions and answers on USCIS.gov to provide additional information. USCIS has also scheduled a teleconference listening session on January 10th at 2PM.  To RSVP for the teleconference, please visit www.uscis.gov/outreach.

To learn more about the federal rulemaking process, visit the Department of Homeland Security’s Rulemaking 101. For more information, see our fact sheet and this Federal Register notice of intent.

USCIS Propone Cambio Regulatorio para Reducir el Tiempo que los Ciudadanos Estadounidenses Permanecen Separados de sus Familiares que están Inmigrando Legalmente a los Estados Unidos

Alejandro N. Mayorkas, Director del Servicio de Ciudadanía e Inmigración de Estados Unidos Departamento de Seguridad Nacional (en inglés/English version)

Poniendo de relieve el compromiso de la Administración de Presidente Obama con la unidad familiar y la eficiencia administrativa, esta mañana el Servicio de Ciudadanía e Inmigración de Estados Unidos publicó una Notificación de Intención en el Registro Federal para comenzar un cambio regulatorio que reduciría el tiempo que los ciudadanos estadounidenses permanecen separados de sus familias mientras sus familiares atraviesan por el proceso de convertirse en residentes legales de Estados Unidos.

Actualmente, hijos y cónyuges de ciudadanos estadounidenses que han acumulado cierto período de presencia ilegal en EE.UU. y tienen que abandonar el país para convertirse en residentes permanentes legales de los Estados Unidos se ven impedidos de reunirse con sus familias por períodos de 3 o 10 años. Ellos pueden recibir una exención para permitirles regresar a sus familias antes de ese período, demostrando que su familiar ciudadano estadounidense enfrentaría dificultades extremas como resultado de la separación. Bajo los procedimientos actuales, para obtener la exención estos individuos deben solicitar desde fuera de los Estados Unidos luego de ser encontrados inadmisibles por un oficial consular del Departamento de Estado. Este proceso puede ser largo y hacer que individuos que son actualmente elegibles para la exención desistan de solicitar. Para atender este problema, la propuesta de USCIS permitiría a familiares inmediatos elegibles de ciudadanos estadounidenses solicitar y recibir “exenciones provisionales” de presencia ilegal antes de que salgan de los Estados Unidos para el procesamiento consular de sus solicitudes de visa de inmigrante, reduciendo significativamente el tiempo que los ciudadanos estadounidenses están separados de sus cónyuges o hijos.

Esta propuesta no sólo adelantaría el compromiso de la Administración con la unidad familiar, sino que el cambio mejoraría la eficiencia al aumentar la previsibilidad y consistencia del proceso de solicitud.

Más detalles acerca del cambio propuesto en el proceso serán esbozados en la Notificación de Propuesta de Reglamentación, tentativamente programada para publicación esta primavera y la cual estará abierta a los comentarios del público. Mientras aún estamos en las etapas iniciales del proceso de elaboración de la reglamentación, hemos publicado una serie inicial de preguntas y respuestas en USCIS.gov para proveer información adicional. USCIS también ha programado una sesión de audio por teleconferencia el 10 de enero a las 2:00 PM. Para confirmar su participación (RSVP) en esta teleconferencia, por favor, visite www.uscis.gov/outreach.

Para aprender más acerca del proceso de elaboración de reglamentación, visite el enlace Rulemaking 101 del Departamento de Seguridad Nacional. Para más información, vea nuestra Hoja de datos y esta Notificación de Intención del Registro Federal.