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28 June 2012

Nancy Newton: Preparing Future Citizens for Life After Their Citizenship Test

Located in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., Montgomery College serves one of the most diverse communities in the country, and was recently awarded a grant by USCIS for its Citizenship Preparation Program. The director of the program, Nancy Newton, emphasizes "that the journey to citizenship is not just about passing the test."

Students are encouraged to volunteer, attend community functions such as Parent Teacher Association meetings, and participate in other activities that get them out of their comfort zone and allow them to share in civic life. The program strives to "prepare one immigrant citizen at a time."

Nancy Newton (right), the director of the Citizenship Preparation Program at Montgomery College, talks with Integration Advocates Phil Breen, Annena Younger and other guests.
Nancy Newton (right), the director of the Citizenship Preparation Program at Montgomery College, talks with Integration Advocates Phil Breen, Annena Younger and other guests.

Newton, who is a native of Cheshire, England, and a recently naturalized citizen, understands what it means to be an immigrant. She first came to the United States as an au pair after completing her undergraduate studies in England. She later completed her master’s degree at Georgetown University where she met her husband. As a student, Newton did volunteer work teaching English to children and found that she loved teaching language.

After graduation, she joined Montgomery College and taught for seven years. Newton later became an administrator and ultimately joined the Citizenship Preparation Program. She remembers what it was like before the program received a grant from USCIS.  Her program had to charge tuition and saw a decrease in the number of people taking the class. Since receiving the grant, the Citizenship Preparation Program has seen an increase of roughly 70 percent. According to Newton, the program has focused on helping low-level English learners "get out and integrate, and get others involved" while preparing to become new citizens.

A small section of the Citizenship Preparation Program, including instructors, advocates, and newly naturalized citizens pose for a photo with Program Director Nancy Newton.
A small section of the Citizenship Preparation Program, including instructors, advocates, and newly naturalized citizens pose for a photo with Program Director Nancy Newton.

When asked about the program, Newton said: "I wish there were more organizations to do our type of work. With more organizations working toward helping immigrants we’d be able to have more of an impact in our community and society." 

She hopes that people do not underestimate how important immigrants are to the United States' diverse culture and heritage. Newton also hopes that people realize that many immigrants' experiences make them even more appreciative of being able to live in the U.S.

"Some students come from societies where oppression and dictatorship are the norm - and they especially appreciate the meaning of citizenship," she said.

At the conclusion of each group's final citizenship preparation class, Newton asks her students, all aspiring future citizens, a simple yet moving question: "Now it’s your turn - what will you do with freedom?"


26 June 2012

Working this Summer? Self Check is for You!

Are you looking for a summer job? Your next employer may use E-Verify to confirm that you are employment authorized. Did you know that you can use Self Check to make sure your employment authorization information is up to date?

Self Check is a free and reliable system - operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) - that you can use to confirm your work eligibility. Nearly 150,000 people nationwide have already used Self Check. The program is also available in Spanish.

Self Check has four easy steps:
  1. Input your name, address and date of birth.
  2. Complete the short quiz that will confirm your identity. (This makes sure only you can access Self Check. DHS won’t know the questions you’re asked or the answers you give.)
  3. Enter your Social Security Number, an Alien Registration Number or I-94 number, or other document number. 
  4. Get your results. The results page will either tell you that you’re employment authorized (your records are in order) or that a mismatch occurred. If there is a mismatch you can learn how to correct your records before your employer checks your information in E-Verify
Your information is always secure. When it’s this easy, why not try Self Check today?

E-Verify is a free, Web-based service from DHS that is used by employers at over 1.1 million worksites to electronically verify the employment eligibility of new employees. USCIS encourages job seekers to use Self Check. 


22 June 2012

USCIS Spanish-Language Enlace Público


On June 13, USCIS hosted a Spanish-language outreach session (Enlace Público: “A Conversation with USCIS”) as part of an ongoing series of engagements dedicated to underserved and difficult to reach communities, including those with limited English proficiency (LEP).

The event provided an opportunity for customers and stakeholders to interact with agency representatives and discuss immigration-related issues in Spanish. The event opened with highlights of current USCIS initiatives and was followed by an expanded question and answer session. Agency panel members engaged with customers on a broad range of issues including citizenship, Self-Check and the I-601 provisional waiver.

For the first time, customers could participate by submitting questions via Twitter and Facebook in addition to viewing the session via live Web stream, or by asking a question through email or teleconference. We believe use of these enhanced social media methods resulted in a significant increase in participation. More than 800 participants joined the event via teleconference while more than 400 joined online, making this one of the most successful Enlace Públicos to date. 

These Enlaces Públicos continue to provide an ideal forum for us to provide timely updates and information on our policies and procedures, and for our LEP customers to engage with us directly.

Enlace panelists include (left-right): Graciela Thomen (Office of Citizenship), Mariela Melero (CSPE Associate Director), Victoria Porto (Field Operations Directorate), Oscar Lujan (Verification Division), and on the phone Pilar Peralta-Mihalko (Los Angeles Asylum Office).
Enlace panelists include (left-right): Graciela Thomen (Office of Citizenship), Mariela Melero (CSPE Associate Director), Victoria Porto (Field Operations Directorate), Oscar Lujan (Verification Division), and on the phone Pilar Peralta-Mihalko (Los Angeles Asylum Office).

To learn more about USCIS outreach efforts, and for a schedule of future engagements, please see the Outreach section of our website. We also have an “Enlace Público” section on our Spanish-language website.

Exitoso Enlace Público en español de USCIS


El pasado 13 de junio, USCIS fue anfitrión de la sesión de Enlace Público “Conversando con USCIS”, como parte de la serie sesiones informativas dedicadas a brindar ayuda a las comunidades de con dificultad de acceso, como lo son aquellas con dominio limitado del inglés (LEP, por sus siglas en inglés).

El evento proveyó una oportunidad para que el público y los grupos de interés interactuaran con representantes de la agencia y discutieran en español asuntos relacionados con la inmigración. El Enlace inició con información general acerca de las iniciativas que USCIS está llevando a cabo, a lo que siguió una extensa sesión de preguntas y respuestas. Los miembros del panel de la agencia sostuvieron un intercambio con el público sobre una amplia variedad de asuntos, incluyendo ciudadanía, Self Check y la Exención Provisional I-601.

Por primera vez, además de poder ver la sesión por  medio de la línea Web en vivo y enviar sus preguntas por medio de correo electrónico o teleconferencia, el público tuvo la oportunidad de presentar sus preguntas vía Twitter y Facebook. El uso de estos métodos de comunicación social resultó en un aumento significativo en la participación. Sobre 800 personas se unieron al evento vía teleconferencia, mientras que sobre 400 lo hicieron por medio de la línea Web en vivo, lo que hizo de este Enlace uno de los más exitosos hasta la fecha.

Los Enlaces Públicos continúan proveyendo un foro ideal para que podamos brindar actualizaciones e información acerca de nuestras políticas y procedimientos y para que nuestros clientes con dominio limitado del inglés puedan interactuar con nosotros directamente.

Panelistas de Enlace de izquierda a derecha: Graciela Thomen (Oficina de Ciudadanía), Mariela Melero (directora asociada de Servicio al Cliente y Enlace Público), Victoria Porto (Operaciones de Campo), Oscar Luján (Verificación) y en el teléfono Pilar Peralta-Mihalko (Oficina de Asilo de Los Ángeles).

Panelistas de Enlace de izquierda a derecha: Graciela Thomen (Oficina de Ciudadanía), Mariela Melero (directora asociada de Servicio al Cliente y Enlace Público), Victoria Porto (Operaciones de Campo), Oscar Luján (Verificación) y en el teléfono Pilar Peralta-Mihalko (Oficina de Asilo de Los Ángeles).

Para aprender más acerca de las iniciativas de Enlace y para el programa de futuras sesiones, por favor, vea la sesión de  Enlace Público” en nuestro sitio Web.

18 June 2012

USCIS to Host National Stakeholder Symposium on June 26, 2012

Are you one of our many stakeholders looking for an opportunity to engage with USCIS leadership on issues that are of critical importance to you?

The USCIS Public Engagement Division will host the first National Stakeholder Symposium on Tuesday, June 26, 2012, at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C.

The symposium will provide an opportunity for stakeholders to talk about the impact our strategic priorities and recent initiatives have on the diverse communities we serve; and will allow them to engage agency leadership in discussions on our policies and programs.

The symposium will feature full sessions and a series of breakout discussions to address key elements of our strategic priorities in more detail. Topics will include:
  • Attracting Entrepreneurial Talent to the U.S.: The Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR) Initiative and Other Opportunities to Promote Economic Growth
  • USCIS’s Electronic Immigration System (USCIS ELIS): Opportunities and Challenges for an Online Immigration Future
  • Protecting the Integrity of the Immigration System: Trends and Program Enhancements
  • Meeting Today’s Business Needs
  • A Commitment to America’s Humanitarian Responsibilities: Updates from the Refugee, Asylum, and International Operations Directorate
  • Meeting the Needs of a Diverse Customer Base
To participate in the symposium, please email the Public Engagement Division no later than this Thursday, June 21, 2012, at and reference “Symposium” in the subject line of your email.

Following your registration, we will provide an email confirmation with additional details about the symposium, including a detailed agenda, breakout session descriptions, and materials to help plan your travel.

For more information on our upcoming symposium and additional USCIS outreach events, visit, or follow USCIS on Twitter, Facebook, or stay tuned to The Beacon.

We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you at the symposium!  We hope you will be able to attend this mutually engaging event!

14 June 2012

Filing a Form at a USCIS Lockbox Facility? Read our Filing Tips!

Over the past few years, USCIS has been steadily centralizing intake of forms at our lockbox facilities. These facilities allow us to receive your forms more quickly and process payments more efficiently and securely.

This past week, USCIS took another step in this process. Beginning June 4, overseas customers will mail the following forms to the Phoenix Lockbox:  
Mailing forms to a USCIS lockbox is easy. Please be sure to read the following tips:

  • Read the form instructions, ensure your form is neat and legible, and keep all entries within the spaces provided on the form.
  • Use the current form version and mail all pages of the form. The most current forms are always available free of charge at, or can be ordered free of charge by calling USCIS Customer Service at 1-800-375-5283.
  • Use the Adobe fillable forms from our website These forms have helpful features, and their use will ensure the most current form version is being used. 
  • Use black ink if completing forms by hand. Submit all required documentation or evidence as indicated in the form instructions.
  • Sign the form in the correct section (see the form-specific tips below). An original signature is required. If there is no signature or if it is signed in the wrong place, the application will be rejected.
  • Pay the correct fee. Check the form instructions or for the latest fee information. USCIS cannot refund the amount of any overpayments. If the correct fee is not received, the application will be rejected. 
  • Make checks or money orders payable in U.S. dollars, otherwise they will be rejected. Although one check covering multiple applications is acceptable, we recommend submitting separate checks or money orders when multiple applications are filed.
  • Complete the check correctly.
    • The “Pay to the Order of” line should read: U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
    • Ensure the numerical and written check amounts are the same.
    • Ensure the check date is not postdated or stale (over one year old).
  • Submit certified translations for all foreign language documents. The translator must certify that s/he is competent to translate and the translation is accurate. The certification format should include the certifier's name, signature, address, and date of certification. A suggested format is:
Certification by Translator

I [typed name], certify that I am fluent (conversant) in the English and ________ languages, and that the above/attached document is an accurate translation of the document attached entitled ______________________________.
Signature________________________________ Date_________
Typed Name__________________________________________

Do Not:
  • Gray any part of the form or use highlighters or correction fluid. Use of these items prevents USCIS Lockbox scanners from reading the forms, possibly resulting in form rejection. 
  • Submit incomplete forms.
  • Submit unsigned forms or sign forms in the wrong place. 
  • Send items such as a response to a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) to a Lockbox facility; send these documents to the office that requested the information.
Customers may contact with questions regarding applications and petitions that are pending at a USCIS Lockbox facility and those that have been rejected.

05 June 2012

The National Benefits Center: What It Is and What It Does

We have noticed that there is some confusion out there about what our National Benefits Center (NBC) is and what it does.  The NBC serves a unique role within our organization as part of the Field Operations Directorate. The NBC was founded in 2001 in Lee’s Summit, Missouri and was originally called the Missouri Service Center (which is why receipt notices from the NBC will begin with the letters “MSC”).   

The NBC’s primary mission is to prepare applications for adjudication that require an interview at a USCIS Field Office.  A lot goes into preparing an application including conducting background and security checks and reviewing the evidence an applicant submits to support their eligibility for the benefit.

The NBC’s largest workload is Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, and Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.  These two applications will reach well over a million cases in Fiscal Year 2012. 

In the Form I-485 process, an applicant must provide all initial evidence, before the applicant can be scheduled for interview.  If evidence is missing, the NBC will issue a Request for Evidence (RFE).  An RFE places a hold on the I-485 application, as well as the associated applications filed with the I-485 application (for example, Form I-130, Form I-765, Form I-131), until the NBC receives the missing initial evidence. 

Missing evidence will not delay the processing of an N-400 application at the NBC. However, if the missing evidence is not provided at the time of interview in the Field Office, the adjudication of the application may be delayed or the application may be denied. 

Processing times of the Form I-485 and Form N-400 applications are determined by each Field Office, not the NBC, since final adjudication is not conducted at the NBC.  Please check our website at for the processing times of these applications at your local USCIS Field Office. 

If you need to contact the NBC regarding your case, please call our National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 1-800-375-5283.  The representative taking your call will send an electronic message to the NBC that will be answered within 15 days.  Expedite requests, for certain applications, are answered within 5 days.