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Louisville Immigration Law Blog

Immigration Services

No government tracking on noncitizen veterans

The men and women who serve in the United States military dedicate their lives to ensuring that the rest of their compatriots are safe and secure. Throughout Kentucky countless individuals have left their families to travel great distances in an effort to protect the nation and its people. What readers may not know is that not all of those who have served have been citizens of this country.

Noncitizen veterans are individuals who served in the United States military but who are not citizens of this country. Technically, these individuals may be deported if they are in the country illegally but under policies promulgated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement their cases should be given special consideration and review. Military service and a clean record may afford a noncitizen veteran an opportunity to remain in the United States under the discretion of ICE.

When can committing a crime lead to deportation?

Sometimes mistakes are made, and a non-citizen in Kentucky or elsewhere in the nation commits a crime. However, particularly if the crime they are convicted of is a felony (or even certain misdemeanors), the consequences could go far beyond the fines and jail time that citizens would expect -- the person may face deportation and removal. Whether this happens depends on the person's status, what crime was committed and the specific facts of the person's case.

Specifically, the most egregious penalties for non-citizens are for those who commit aggravated felonies and crimes of moral turpitude. These individuals may not be able to pursue relief from deportation and may also be banned from the U.S. Thus, they will not be allowed to reenter the country in the future.

More immigrants obtain U.S. citizenship in 2018 than 2017

Immigration is a much-debated topic in the political scene these days, but honestly many immigrants are in our nation legally, and are simply here to have a better life for them and their loved ones. Many of these immigrants in Kentucky and across the nation will one day want to pursue U.S. citizenship. Recent data suggests that, despite crackdowns on illegal immigration, those who are currently permanent residents of the U.S. are obtaining citizenship at a greater rate than they had in the past.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in the first three quarters of fiscal year 2018, over 544,000 individuals gained U.S. citizenship. This is a 15 percent uptick from the same period in 2017. It is also a notable finding, due to the tightening of immigration laws and policies in recent years.

Winners of Green Card lottery selected

There are numerous ways that a foreign-born individual can immigrate to the U.S., including right here in Kentucky. One way is through the Diversity Visa Program -- also known as the green card lottery. The 2020 fiscal year winners of the green card lottery have been randomly selected and will thus be eligible to apply for a green card if they qualify. The green card lottery benefits those who do not have a sponsor that can help them legally immigrate to the U.S.

There are several steps a person must take if they have been selected for U.S permanent residency through the green card lottery. First, the person must submit the appropriate paperwork to apply for permanent residency. A person can qualify for a green card in such situations if they fall under two categories. One category is if the person was born in one of several listed countries. People from certain countries may not be eligible to receive a green card through the green card lottery. The second category is that the person has a high school diploma or two years of work experience that requires two or more years of training over the previous five years.

Exceptions to naturalization requirements

Holding a green card in the United States has provided you with many benefits. You can live and work in Kentucky or any other state. You can take advantage of government protections. You can attend public schools and access federal health care programs. However, perhaps you feel that the current climate for immigrants in this country places even your permanent residency at risk. Maybe you would like to participate in the next upcoming election.

Are you hesitating to take the test that will determine your eligibility for citizenship? If you have reasons for putting off your citizenship, you may be interested in knowing that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services offers exceptions and accommodations to many who qualify under certain conditions.

Some people at risk of deportation choose voluntary departure

Undocumented immigrants in Kentucky and elsewhere are at constant risk of being caught and deported. However, the deportation and removal process can require a lengthy detention period and the immigrant will not get to choose where in their home country they will be deported. Moreover, it may be years before they can reapply to enter the U.S. As recent numbers show, many immigrants in such situations are choosing to voluntarily leave the country.

Data from the Justice Department reveals that in the 2018 fiscal year the number of immigrants who applied for voluntary departure increased two-fold from the 2017 fiscal year. In 2018 there were almost 30,000 voluntary departure applications. Per U.S. law, if a person is deported, a certain number of years must pass before the person is eligible to apply for a visa to reenter the U.S. However, those who depart voluntarily do not have to wait as long and will not face incarceration if they are unlawfully in the country. Applications for voluntary departure require judicial approval.

Applying for immigration benefits in the digital age

The heralding in of the digital age has made life easier for many in Kentucky. It seems like these days people can shop, make financial transactions, pay bills and do just about anything online -- including applying for immigration benefits.

In fact, since the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services gave legal immigrants the option to apply for immigration benefits through the Internet, more than one million individuals have done so. Of these people, 61 percent used the USCIS online system to replace their green card and 37 percent used the USCIS online system to apply for U.S. citizenship.

Legal help is available to those seeking U.S. citizenship

Many people who come to Kentucky from abroad will ultimately seek U.S. citizenship. Doing so may be one of the most important decisions they will ever make. Because so much is at stake, those seeking U.S. permanent residency or U.S. citizenship will want to make sure they do not miss any steps in the application process.

For example, to become a U.S. citizen you must be able to read, write and speak English. In addition, there are residency requirements. If the person seeking citizenship is currently a permanent resident under a marriage visa, the residency requirement for citizenship is three years. All others seeking citizenship must be permanent residents for five years. In addition, a person seeking citizenship must have a physical presence in the U.S. for 30 of the past 60 months.

Working with marijuana could lead to a denial of U.S. citizenship

Marijuana use is starting to become more acceptable to many in our country, to the point that some states have even legalized the possession of small amounts of recreational or medical marijuana. However, the possession and sale of marijuana is not legal in Kentucky or under federal law. In fact, simply working in the marijuana industry in any state could bar an immigrant from obtaining U.S. citizenship.

Even in states where marijuana is legal to a certain extent, the possession of the drug or merely working in industries involving the drug, still violates federal law. Thus, per a policy clarification issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, immigrants who do so may be unable to claim they meet the "good moral character" standard for U.S. citizenship. Marijuana is classified as a "Schedule I" drug under federal law.

Applying for a visa as a religious worker

Living a life of faith is admirable. If you have felt drawn to devote your life to your religion, you may be fortunate to have found work within the denomination with which you identify, perhaps as a minister or lay worker. This type of work can be demanding but satisfying. While you may not earn much money, you may find your rewards in other ways.

Working fulltime in a religious organization may also present new opportunities, such as traveling to different countries. If you are planning to come to the U.S., perhaps to work in one of the several religious institutions in Kentucky, you must first navigate the country's complex immigration system.

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