Q: I am a green card holder and have lived in the United States for 18 years. What are the advantages of becoming a U.S. citizen?
A: As a permanent resident (green card holder), you are subject to some restrictions regarding the length of time you spend outside the United States. Individuals on green card who travel for extended periods may be regarded as having abandoned their permanent resident status.
Additionally, permanent residents can lose their status and be removed from the United States if found guilty of certain crimes. This is a complex area, but as a permanent resident, if you are arrested for any reason, you should seek immigration advice.
Permanent residents must also continue to advise the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) of any address change using form AR-11. Failure to file the form within 10 days of moving is technically a removable offense.
As a U.S. citizen, you do not have to be concerned about the above issues. Besides having the right to vote, citizens are also provided the ability to petition for certain family members without extended delays. Under the family preference system, the United States limits the number of visas issued in each family category every year. This means that there are substantial waiting times for visa numbers in certain categories. Citizenship can either eliminate or reduce this waiting time. For “immediate relatives” of U.S. citizens—spouses, parents, and minor unmarried children—there is no limit to the number of visas issued each year.
Q: I am 67 and had my naturalization interview in January 2004. I was told that I passed the interview, but have not received an appointment for the oath ceremony yet. Why is it taking so long?
A: Technically, USCIS must issue a decision within 120 days of your naturalization interview. I suggest you consult an immigration attorney or seek assistance from your congressional representative.
Q: I have an L-2 visa and EAD (both valid till June 2005) and I’m currently working. Unfortunately, my husband has to convert to H-1 and he applied for his H-1 and my H-4. His attorney says that I can’t work once I get my H-4 receipt number. Another attorney friend of mine says I can work till my H-4 is approved. How long can I work?
A: Your L-2 status is derived from your husband’s L-1 status. Therefore, if your husband is no longer maintaining his L-1 status, you are no longer maintaining your L-2 status. Since your EAD is based on your L-2 status, it is safer to assume that you are no longer authorized to work.
Please note: All non-immigrants, applicants for any immigration benefit and lawful permanent residents are required to keep the USCIS informed of their current address in the United States. Failure to do so may result in imprisonment, fines, loss of status, loss of eligibility for future benefits, and removal from the United States. To report your new address to the USCIS, submit form AR-11 within 10 days of your move. You may obtain a copy of this form on the USCIS website (www.uscis.gov).
Immigration and business attorney Indu Liladhar-Hathi has an office in San Jose. (408) 294-7999.