BY Susan M. Brazas for Lawyers.com
What's in a name? Hundreds of immigrants had their applications for citizenship put on hold while federal authorities performed "name checks" before passing their applications. Immigrants from the Los Angeles area reached a settlement over these delays.
Settlement Over Citizenship Application Delays
In 2007, the ACLU and the National Immigration Law Center sued in federal district court, over delays to 350,000 applicant "name checks". Since then, staffing and technology improvements have reduced the backlog. Name checks for current applicants are now generally within 30 days
In November 2009, there was a settlement in the case. Immigration authorities must process applications within six months for the more than 400 applicants in the southern California area who have been waiting on the status of their applications for years.
Similar settlements in cases filed in New York and Seattle have been reached. The ACLU filed suits in federal courts around the country trying to bring urgency and attention to the delayed applications.
Citizenship or Residency Can Be Lengthy
Many immigrants are bewildered by the massive paperwork, delays, and requirements when applying for residency and, especially, for citizenship. Once they do apply, it could take months or even years before their applications are reviewed and granted or denied.
The California case brought attention to the lengthy delays caused by the FBI "name check" process in some U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices. The process was so cumbersome and often resulted in staff manually checking files to verify any problems or concerns based on the name on the application.
Seek an Immigration Attorney
The regulations for citizenship applications provide that the USCIS has 120 days to complete the paperwork after the applicant meets requirements for citizenship and interviewed.
Navigating the immigration paperwork maze can be intimidating. Seek the assistance of an attorney if you’re applying for residency or citizenship. Law schools and legal aid organizations may offer free or reduced-rate assistance with immigration matters.
If you’re experiencing excessive delays, an attorney can find out if you could join in one of the pending lawsuits, or if you might benefit from the settlement agreements reached in California, New York, and Seattle.
Immigration law is a highly specialized area, so it’s best to seek the assistance of an attorney to help guide you around the maze of requirements for your situation.
Question for Your Attorney
- How can I apply for U.S. Citizenship?
- How often should I check up on the status of my citizenship application?
- I don't want to become a U.S. citizen, but I want to become a lawful permanent resident. How can I do that?