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20 June 2014

Encuentros Casuales que Atestiguan Cómo Cambian las Vidas de los Refugiados

Como Oficial de Refugio y Asilo, tengo el humilde privilegio de viajar a ciudades y campos de refugiados donde los solicitantes residen, a menudo en el limbo, esperando que se les permita reconstruir sus vidas en Estados Unidos. Me reúno con ellos cara a cara a escuchar sus historias y tomar una decisión sobre sus casos, teniendo muy claro que bien podría ser yo quien estuviese al otro lado de la mesa. Después de cada entrevista, me muevo al siguiente caso. Por supuesto, muchas de las historias individuales se quedan conmigo. Pero en aras del profesionalismo, y a fin de concentrarme en cada entrevista, tiendo a tomar una decisión, estampar los casos y seguir adelante, sin saber qué ha sido del solicitante que se sentó frente a mí.

Aunque mi rol de interacción durante el proceso de reasentamiento se limita a esa entrevista en el extranjero, tengo la suerte de haber trabajado en dos oficinas de reasentamiento del 2006 al 2009. Esto hizo que llegara a mí el círculo completo del proceso de refugio. Muchos de nuestros clientes refugiados consiguieron su primer empleo en Estados Unidos en los aeropuertos locales trabajando en el servicio de alimentos, como asistentes de personas en sillas de ruedas, limpieza de aviones y otros puestos de trabajo.

Above: Refugee girls at a school

Arriba: Niñas refugiadas en una escuela. (Foto cortesía de UNHCR)

Este mes pasado me fui en un viaje corto. Un amigo vino a recogerme en el aeropuerto. Durante una situación con la cual probablemente cualquiera puede identificarse, nos ordenaron mover el auto por haberlo tenido en el mismo lugar durante mucho tiempo. Me volví hacia el caballero que estaba ordenándole a mi amigo salir del lugar. Cuando me vio, dijo: "¿Eres tú?". Me di cuenta que era un antiguo cliente refugiado de África, con quien había trabajado en el 2006. Los dos nos echamos a reír. En el breve período que permanecimos allí en medio del tráfico, nos pusimos al día y me dijo que es un líder de grupo de su comunidad étnica y que ya ha formado su propia familia.

Después de una visita de cinco días, llegó el momento para de regresar al aeropuerto. Estaba esperando en la línea de seguridad, mirando alrededor. Efectivamente, el trabajador de la Administración de Seguridad en el Transporte en la estación próxima a la mía era otro antiguo cliente; un joven que siempre destacó por encima de los demás por su motivación y bondad. La última vez que lo vi, sólo sabía unas palabras en inglés. Yo me sentí orgulloso de verlo trabajar allí…un ciudadano naturalizado, hablando inglés fluido y ahora un compañero de trabajo del Departamento de Seguridad Nacional.


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In Chance Encounters, Seeing How Refugees’ Lives Have Changed

As a refugee officer, I have the humbling privilege of traveling to the cities and refugee camps where applicants reside, often in limbo, hoping they will be allowed to rebuild their lives in America. I meet with them face to face, listen to their stories and make a decision on their cases – keeping in mind that I could very well be on the other side of the table. After each interview, I move on to the next case. Of course, many of the individual stories stay with me. But in the interest of professionalism, and in order to focus on each interview, I tend to make a decision, stamp up the cases and move on, not knowing what became of the applicant who sat in front of me. 

Although my visible role in the resettlement process is limited to that interview overseas, I am fortunate to have worked in two resettlement offices from 2006 to 2009. This has truly brought the refugee process full circle for me. A lot of our refugee clients got their first jobs in America at local airports working in food service, as wheelchair assistants and aircraft cleaners or in other jobs.

Above: Refugee girls at a school
 
Above: Refugee girls at a school (Courtesy of UNHCR)

This past month, I went on a short trip. My friend came to pick me up at the airport. In an experience anyone can probably relate to, his car was shooed away for standing in place too long. I turned to the gentleman who was telling my friend to leave. When he saw me he said, “Is that you?” I realized it was a former refugee client from Africa with whom I had worked back in 2006. We both burst into laughter. In the brief period we had standing there to catch up amid the traffic, he told me that he is a leader of his ethnic community group and has started his own family.

After a five-day visit, it was time for me to head back to the airport. I was waiting in the security line, gazing around. Sure enough, the Transportation Security Administration worker at the station next to me was another former client – a young man who had always stood out to me for his motivation and kindness. The last time I saw him, he only knew a few words of English. I was so proud to see him working there: a naturalized citizen, fluent English speaker and now a fellow employee of Department of Homeland Security.

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19 June 2014

Smithsonian Honra a Ralph Lauren y a nuevos ciudadanos estadounidenses en Ceremonia de Naturalización

Al tiempo que Estados Unidos celebra el 200 aniversario de su bandera, conocida como la Star-Spangled Banner, 15 candidatos recitaron hoy el Juramento de Lealtad a solo pies de la famosa bandera durante una Ceremonia de Naturalización el pasado 17 de junio de 2014 en el Museo Nacional de Historia Americana del Instituto Smithsonian.

“Esta es la mejor parte de mi trabajo”,  dijo el Secretario del Departamento de Seguridad Nacional, Jef Johnson. “Cada uno de ustedes es americano por elección, y nos recuerda a los demás el valor y la importancia de ser ciudadano de esta gran nación. Permítanme ser el primero en darles la bienvenida a ustedes, mis conciudadanos americanos”. 

Speakers and honorary guests included, from left, Ms. Sarah Taylor, Washington District Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Ralph Lauren, Chairman and CEO, Ralph Lauren Corporation, Dr. G. Wayne Clough, Secretary, Smithsonian Institution, and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

 Entre los oradores e invitados de honor estuvieron, de izquierda a derecha, Sra. Sarah Tylor, Directora del Distrito de Washington del Servicio de Ciudadanía e Inmigración de Estados Unidos (USCIS); Jeh Johnson, Secretario de DHS; la exsecretaria del Departamento de Estado, Hillary Clinton; Ralph Lauren, Director y Principal Oficial Ejecutivo de Ralph Lauren Corporation; Dr. G. Wayne Clough, Secretario del Instituto Smithsonian, y la senadora por Alaska, Lisa Murkowski.
 
La Directora del Distrito de Washington de USCIS, Sarah Taylor, recitó los países y presentó a los candidatos al Secretario. Los nuevos ciudadanos provienen de Australia, Canadá, El Salvador, Grecia, Guatemala, India, Iraq, Italia, Kenia, Lituania, México, Filipinas, Romania, Sierra León y Corea del Sur. Los organizadores del evento eligieron 15 candidatos de 15 países para representar el correspondiente número de estrellas y franjas en la bandera estadounidense.

The Oath of Allegiance
 
El Juramento de Lealtad
 
La ceremonia fue parte de una celebración más amplia del Proyecto de Preservación de la Star-Spangled Banner, financiado en gran parte por el icono de la moda Ralph Lauren. Él respondió al llamado de la ex primera dama Hillary Clinton durante su campaña “Save America’s Treasures” (Salvemos los Tesoros de America) en 1998. Lauren donó $ 10 millones para el proyecto de restauración de la bandera y otros $ 3 millones para apoyar el programa de Clinton. Clinton ayudó a presentar a Lauren la Medalla James Smithson del Bicentenario por su trabajo asegurando que la bandera esté disponible para las generaciones futuras.

Hillary Clinton and Dr. G. Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, present the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal to Ralph Lauren
 
Hillary Clinton y el Dr. G.Wayne Clough, Secretario del Instituto Smithsonian, entregan la Medalla James Smithson del Bicentenario a Ralph Lauren
 
El objetivo de Clinton con su campana "Save America’s Treasures" fue proteger los lugares culturales e históricos del país. Durante su discurso la ex Primera Dama abundó sobre la gran promesa de Estados Unidos: los inmigrantes ya no tienen que buscar la "liberarse de" las cosas y en su lugar pueden concentrarse en la "libertad de" lograr sus sueños.

"Ralph respondió al llamado", dijo Clinton. "Él no tenía que hacerlo, pero entendió porque en su interior sabía que gran parte de lo que conlleva ser americano está en reciprocar”.
Lauren, el hijo menor de padres inmigrantes, dijo a los nuevos ciudadanos de Estados Unidos que recuerda a su madre a estudiando para la prueba y la importancia de lo que ser un ciudadano americano significaba para ella. Al él no le gusta que le llamen filántropo y dijo que se sintió obligado a ayudar a preservar una pieza tan valiosa de la historia.

"Me siento inspirado por Estados Unidos", dijo Lauren. "Yo sólo creí que era lo correcto y lo que debía hacer."

Para más fotos de la ceremonia, vea www.facebook.com/uscis


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18 June 2014

Smithsonian Honors New U.S. citizens and Ralph Lauren at Special Star-Spangled Banner Naturalization Ceremony


As America celebrates the 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner, 15 candidates recited the Oath of Allegiance just feet away from that famous flag during a naturalization ceremony on June 17 at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.

"This is the best part of my job," said Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. "Each of you are Americans by choice, and you remind the rest of us of the value and importance of being a citizen of this great country. Let me be the first to welcome you, my fellow Americans."

Speakers and honorary guests included, from left, Ms. Sarah Taylor, Washington District Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Ralph Lauren, Chairman and CEO, Ralph Lauren Corporation, Dr. G. Wayne Clough, Secretary, Smithsonian Institution, and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Speakers and honorary guests included, from left, Ms. Sarah Taylor, Washington District Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Ralph Lauren, Chairman and CEO, Ralph Lauren Corporation, Dr. G. Wayne Clough, Secretary, Smithsonian Institution, and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Washington District Director Sarah Taylor called the countries and presented the candidates to the secretary. The new citizens hailed from Australia, Canada, El Salvador, Greece, Guatemala, India, Iraq, Italy, Kenya, Lithuania, Mexico, the Philippines, Romania, Sierra Leone and South Korea. Event organizers chose 15 candidates from 15 countries to represent the corresponding number of stars and stripes on the Star-Spangled Banner.

The Oath of Allegiance

The Oath of Allegiance

The ceremony was part of a larger celebration of the Star-Spangled Banner Preservation Project, funded largely by fashion icon Ralph Lauren. He answered the call of former First Lady Hillary Clinton during her "Save America's Treasures" campaign in 1998. Lauren donated $10 million to the flag restoration project, and another $3 million to support Clinton’s program. Clinton helped present Lauren with the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal for his work ensuring the flag will be available for future generations.

Hillary Clinton and Dr. G. Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, present the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal to Ralph Lauren

Hillary Clinton and Dr. G. Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, present the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal to Ralph Lauren

Clinton's goal of "Save America’s Treasures" was to protect the country’s cultural and historic landmarks. In her keynote remarks, she discussed the great promise of America: where immigrants no longer needed to seek "freedom from" things and could instead focus on their "freedom to" accomplish their dreams.

"Ralph responded to the call," Clinton said. "He didn't have to, but he understood because it was deep within him that part of being an American is giving back."

Lauren, the youngest son of immigrant parents, told the new U.S. citizens he remembers his mom studying for the test and the importance of what being an American citizen meant. He dislikes being called a philanthropist and said he felt compelled to help preserve such a treasured piece of history.

"I am inspired by America," Lauren said. "I just believed it was the right thing for me to do."

For more photos of the ceremony, see www.facebook.com/uscis

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09 May 2014

Five Questions about Advance Parole

Advance parole is most commonly used when someone has Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status, pending.  If you depart the United States while your I-485 application is pending without first obtaining advance parole, your case will be denied, unless you fit into a narrow exception for those maintaining certain nonimmigrant statuses.

Do I need advance parole if I am flying from the continental United States to Puerto Rico?  What about Hawaii, Alaska, Guam, or the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands?

No, advance parole would not be needed if you travel directly between parts of the United States, which includes Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Swains Island and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), without entering a foreign port or place.

Can I travel outside of the U.S. when my application for advance parole is pending?

If you travel outside the United States while your Form I-485 application is pending and you do not have a valid advance parole, your case may be denied for abandonment.  There is a narrow exception for individuals maintaining certain nonimmigrant statuses. 

I have an emergency and need to leave the country, but do not have advance parole.  What can I do?

If you are experiencing an extremely urgent situation, you may visit your local USCIS field office to request an emergency advance parole document.  When visiting a field office to request emergency advance parole, you should bring the following items:
  • A completed and signed Form I-131, Application for Travel Document
  • The correct I-131 filing fee or receipt of a pending Form I-131 
  • Evidence to support the emergency request (e.g. medical documentation, death certificate)
  • Two passport-style photos.
I’m going on a cruise, do I need advance parole?

Maybe - it depends on where you are going on your cruise.  As discussed in question one above, if you are traveling directly between two parts of the United States (e.g., between Florida and Puerto Rico), an advance parole will not be needed.  If you will be traveling to other countries or non-U.S. territories, advance parole would be necessary. 

I am in H-4 nonimmigrant status, have a Form I-485 pending, and am traveling abroad, do I need advance parole?

If the H status principal’s adjustment of status application is approved while you are abroad, you would no longer be considered to be in valid H-4 status.  In this situation, your Form I-485 may be denied for abandonment because you did not have advance parole. 

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Cinco preguntas sobre el Permiso Adelantado de Reingreso

El Permiso Adelantado de Reingreso es más comúnmente utilizado cuando alguien tiene pendiente un Formulario I-485, Solicitud para Registrar Residencia Permanente o Ajuste de Estatus. Si usted sale de Estados Unidos mientras su solicitud I-485 está pendiente, sin primero obtener un Permiso Adelantado de Reingreso, su caso será denegado a menos que usted caiga dentro de una excepción muy limitada para personas que mantienen ciertos status de no inmigrante.

¿Necesito un Permiso Adelantado de Reingreso  si estoy viajando desde el territorio continental de Estados Unidos a Puerto Rico? ¿Qué hay de Hawai, Alaska, Guam, o la Mancomunidad de Islas Marianas del Norte?

No. Usted no necesita un Permiso Adelantado de Reingreso si  viaja directamente entre territorios de los Estados Unidos, lo que incluye Guam, Puerto Rico, Islas Vírgenes de EE.UU., Samoa Americana, Isla Swains y la Mancomunidad de las Islas Marianas del Norte (CNMI, por sus siglas en inglés), siempre y cuando no entre a un puerto o lugar extranjero.

¿Puedo viajar fuera de los EE.UU. cuando mi solicitud de Permiso Adelantado de Reingreso está pendiente?

Si viaja fuera de los Estados Unidos mientras su Formulario I-485 está pendiente sin tener un Permiso Adelantado de Reingreso, su caso puede ser denegado por abandono. Hay una excepción muy limitada para personas que mantienen ciertos status de no inmigrante.

Tengo una emergencia y necesito salir del país, pero no tengo Permiso Adelantado de Reingreso. ¿Qué puedo hacer?
Si está experimentando una situación de extrema urgencia, puede visitar su Oficina Local de USCIS para solicitar un documento de Permiso Adelantado de emergencia.  Cuando visite la Oficina Local para solicitar un Permiso Adelantado de emergencia, debe traer lo siguiente:
  • Un formulario I-131, Solicitud de Documento de Viaje completado y firmado
  • La tarifa de presentación del Formulario I-131 correcta o el recibo de un Formulario I-131 pendiente
  • Evidencia para apoyar la solicitud de emergencia (por ejemplo, documentación médica, certificado de defunción)
  • Dos fotos tipo pasaporte.
Me voy en un crucero, ¿necesito un Permiso Adelantado de Reingreso?

Tal vez; depende de a dónde va en su crucero. Como se discutió en la pregunta anterior, si va a viajar directamente entre dos territorios de Estados Unidos (por ejemplo, entre la Florida y Puerto Rico), no será necesario un Permiso Adelantado de Reingreso. Si usted va a viajar a otros países o territorios fuera de Estados Unidos, necesitará un Permiso Adelantado de Reingreso.

Yo estoy en estatus H-4 de no inmigrante, tengo un Formulario I-485 pendiente y estoy viajando al extranjero. ¿Necesito un Permiso Adelantado de Reingreso?

Si la Solicitud de Ajuste de Estatus del no inmigrante H principal se aprueba  mientras está en el extranjero, ya no se le considerará en un estatus  H-4 válido. En esta situación, el Formulario I-485 puede ser denegado por abandono, debido a que no tiene un Permiso Adelantado de Reingreso.

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02 May 2014

USCIS Hosts First Google Hangout Engagement in Spanish

Posted by Maria Pastrana Lujan, USCIS Multilingual Engagement Coordinator at the Office of Public Engagement

On April 9, 2014, USCIS expanded its ongoing stakeholder outreach with its first ever Google Hangout in Spanish. Viewers tuned in from around the country, and representatives from Latin American consular networks and their stakeholders gathered in Washington, D.C.; Raleigh, N.C.; and Los Angeles to participate in the discussion.

A wide range of topics were discussed during the Google Hangout including deferred action for childhood arrivals, immigrant visas, and the unauthorized practice of immigration law.

USCIS' Mariela Melero, Associate Director for the Customer Service and Public Engagement Directorate; Susana Bolanos, Immigration Officer; and Guillermo Roman-Riefkhol, Adjudications Officer; responded to a number of questions related to eligibility requirements, enrollment start dates, authorized immigration providers and resources for in-language assistance. The representatives took questions from participants during the event and also took questions from the general public via email and Twitter.

Susana Bolano and Mariela Melero host a Google Hangout in Spanish on April 9, 2014. Photo courtesy of Rodney Remson.
 
Susana Bolano and Mariela Melero host a Google Hangout in Spanish on April 9, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Rodney Remson)

Roman-Riefkohl answered questions about deferred action for childhood arrivals, a topic of ongoing interest since it was implemented nearly two years ago. To date, USCIS has received more than 650,000 requests for deferred action for childhood arrivals.

"The Deferred Action and Employment Authorization Documents granted in the early part of the initial process will expire beginning September 2014." He said. "For this reason, we ask that you play close attention to official announcements on the renewal process."

Bolanos provided in depth information about the immigrant visa fee changes and explained how to pay the fee online.

"We want to remind you that since Feb. 1, 2013, foreign nationals who wish to obtain an immigrant visa and legal permanent resident status in the U.S. need to pay an additional fee of $165.00, known as the immigrant visa fee." She said. "The new fee is in addition to the fees associated with the immigrant visa application charged by the Department of State. In order to pay the immigrant visa fee, beneficiaries should first go online and use USCIS ELIS online to establish an account."

Melero provided information on how customers can avoid immigration scams, including how to spot phone scams, as well as how to recognize fraudulent websites and notary public scams.

"Our agency has a commitment to educate the community on how to not become a victim of immigration fraud." She said. "We are focusing our efforts nationally to enable communities of immigrants and all individuals so that they know to avoid unscrupulous people and businesses who practice unauthorized immigration law, since getting the wrong help can hurt."

The large turnout and the enthusiasm of the participants were helpful in starting conversations about important immigration topics and underscores the importance of providing information to our customers in the languages they speak. USCIS plans to host additional Google Hangouts in other languages. 

You can register to receive GovDelivery alerts about upcoming multilingual engagements. 

30 April 2014

Starting May 5, USCIS Will Only Accept the Current Form N-400, Application for Naturalization

Are you thinking of applying to become a U.S. citizen? It is important to know that starting on May 5, USCIS will only accept the current edition of Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, dated 9/13/2013.

You can download the current edition of the N-400, for free on our website. You can also order paper copies by mail or phone (1-800-870-3676).

You can find the edition date at the bottom of any Form N-400 page.

You can find the edition date at the bottom of any Form N-400 page.

USCIS will reject and return all naturalization applications that use versions of Form N-400 with an edition date before September 13, 2013.

We issued the current edition of the N-400 on February 4, 2014. As we transitioned to the redesigned form, we allowed applicants to continue using previous versions for a 90-day period. This transition period ends on Sunday, May 4.  

About the revised Form N-400

The revised form has an improved, user-friendly look and feel and clearer instructions. It also has enhanced 2D (two dimensional) barcode technology that improves efficiency and data accuracy, resulting in fewer rejected forms. For more information on the changes to Form N-400, please watch our “USCIS Revises Form N-400, Application for Naturalization” video, available on our YouTube channel.

Please note that the naturalization eligibility requirements have not changed. Individuals who are unable to fill out the revised Form N-400 electronically may still print the form and complete it by hand in black ink. 

Before submitting Form N-400, be sure to sign it and include the correct filing fee and supporting documentation to avoid any delays.

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