The Law Office of S.A. Peterkin Prevails in Client’s Fight for Citizenship
June 24, 2020
Despite having lived in the United States for more than half her life, being a U.S. lawful permanent resident since 2011, and taking all the necessary steps to live in America legally with the expectation to apply for citizenship before her legal permanent resident card (commonly referred to as “green card”) expired, our client’s 2017 Naturalization application was denied by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The person responsible with helping our client file her initial immigration paperwork didn’t advise her that a $1,000 penalty fee was required with the lawful permanent resident application, and when she went through the application process to become a lawful permanent resident in 2010, the adjudicating immigration officer also failed to mention she needed to pay the $1,000 fee. The USCIS officer approved her application for residency anyway.
Nearly ten years later, after applying for Naturalization, USCIS rejected her application because they claimed she was not eligible to adjust her status to a lawful permanent resident—ten years ago when she applied—because she failed to maintain lawful status. When applying for permanent residence under 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, there is no requirement to maintain lawful status as there is in normal circumstances. The problem was that the immigration officer who handled her case approved her case under the wrong immigrant category and provision of law, and therefore never requested or collected the mandatory $1,000 fee and supplemental form from the applicant.
The client solicited our help to find another way to move forward and achieve her dream of becoming an American citizen. Our office filed an appeal within USCIS , arguing that the client was in fact eligible to become a permanent resident when she applied because she qualified to adjust her status under 245(i) of the Immigration Nationality Act, pursuant to the law, she was not required to maintain lawful status, and USCIS should accept the penalty fee late as opposed to denying her citizenship. However, it took several other steps and efforts made to get the case resolved.
USCIS had been dealing with similar unusual cases that had been appearing across the country, whereby immigration officers fail to collect the required $1000 penalty fee and years later the agency denies citizenship, even if the applicant is willing to pay once the issue is brought to their awareness. Some cases were being resolved by allowing the applicant to pay the $1000 penalty fee late to proceed with the Naturalization process. Unfortunately, the cases were often resolved only after the client had in good faith applied for Naturalization and passed their Naturalization test, completely unaware that there was any issue with their permanent resident application process—that is until their applications for Naturalization were denied by a USCIS immigration officer.
Our client was deserving of citizenship despite the claims regarding her residency, so we put in a good fight to get her that chance. What’s unfortunate is that she had to wait a long time and overcome such a complicated hurdle to get there. It took over a year after the case was denied, but as a result of our fight our client was scheduled for a Naturalization Oath Ceremony and has fulfilled her dream of becoming a United States Citizen. Her fight for citizenship has been won!
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