US Naturalization N 400
Categories News & Updates

U.S. Naturalization: The N-400 Interview and Exam

As business immigration attorneys, we do a lot of work for companies looking to sponsor foreign workers. We represent those workers as they seek to get work visas and green cards. But a full picture of employment-based immigration law would be incomplete without naturalization. Naturalization is often the endgame for workers who come to the United States. 

Our immigration attorneys are naturalization experts. We offer a variety of naturalization services, including assistance in completing the N-400 form and preparing for the naturalization interview and exam.

If your business employs foreign workers who have decided to become U.S. citizens, you can help them in that endeavor by taking advantage of our naturalization services. Anything you can do to help your employees realize their dreams of U.S. citizenship will be much appreciated by them. Most employers require employees to pay naturalization costs out of pocket, but simply having an established relationship with a strong immigration firm is very valuable. 

The N-400 Form

As with anything related to the U.S. government, becoming a naturalized citizen starts with filling out a form. The form is known as N-400. Its purpose is to verify an applicant’s eligibility for naturalization. In addition, the form collects all the personal information required for approval.

In order for your workers to complete and submit the form, they must be at least 18 years old on the date they apply for naturalization. Assuming they received their green card based on employment, they must have held their green card for at least five years.

The Interview and Test

U.S. immigration law requires that any foreign national wishing to become a U.S. citizen must undergo an interview and test with a U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) officer. The good news is that the interview and test take place at the same time.

The interview portion is designed to verify the information contained on the applicant’s N-400 form. It is an opportunity for the officer to ask questions that may clear up any confusion. It is also an opportunity for the applicant to more fully introduce themselves and speak to the information they provided in their application.

As for the actual N-400 test, it consists of both English and civics sections. The English section is divided into three categories:

  • Speaking – Applicants must demonstrate an ability to communicate in English, at least at a basic level. Speaking and comprehension are assessed through a series of questions that applicants must answer orally.
  • Reading – Applicants must demonstrate their ability to read English by correctly reading aloud at least one of three sentences.
  • Writing – Likewise, applicants must demonstrate the ability to write English by correctly writing out one of three sentences.

The civics portion of the test measures the applicant’s knowledge of U.S. government and history. There are two different tests. The 2008 test is given to applicants who submitted the N-400 form before December 1, 2020, and after March 1, 2021.

Applicants who filed between those two dates can choose between the 2008 and 2020 tests. The 2008 test involves ten questions of which the applicant must answer at least six correctly. The 2020 test involves twenty questions of which twelve must be answered correctly.

Exemptions and Accommodations

Immigration law does allow certain exemptions and accommodations for the N-400 interview and test. For example, if an applicant is at least 50 years old and has continuously and legally resided in the United States for 20 years, they are exempt from the English portion of the test. Likewise, applicants can take the civics portion of the test in their native language as long as they bring an interpreter with them to the interview.

As immigration attorneys, we know all the ins and outs of the naturalization process. We would be happy to assist you or your employees as they seek to become U.S. citizens. Please contact us at: 408 715 7067; or info@grahamadair.com.

Farm Workers Lawyers
Categories News & Updates

Will the Farm Workforce Modernization Act Pass the Senate?

One of the most important immigration bills put forth by Congress in recent years continues to languish in the Senate. The bill, known as the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA), will be beneficial to farmers and their H-2A workers should it ever become law. But at the time of this writing, passage was still not guaranteed.

Though the House has passed various versions of the bill over many years of wrangling, the Senate has not been able to reach a compromise. The main sticking point this time around is expansion of another labor law that would ultimately allow temporary agricultural workers to sue their employers.

As immigration attorneys and experts in immigration law, we have seen this sort of thing before. Whenever Congress sets their minds on changing some aspect of U.S. immigration, congressional leaders must walk that fine line of balancing the interests of workers against those of their employers. The current wrangling over FWMA is no exception.

What the Bill Would Accomplish

The main thrust of FWMA is allowing farmers to hire their H-2A workers permanently. As the law currently stands, H-2A workers are temporary workers only. Such workers make up the vast majority of the ranks of migrant workers who travel the country following growing seasons.

As the thinking goes, passage of the bill would benefit farmers by giving them access to a greater pool of permanent workers. They would not have to worry about recruiting and hiring on a seasonal basis. Likewise, it would benefit workers by offering considerably more stability than they currently enjoy.

Proponents of the bill say it could potentially lower food prices by inviting more foreign agricultural workers to apply for the H-2A visa. A larger labor pool would help farmers produce more, thereby bringing prices down.

Why Some Senators Are Resisting

On its face, the FWMA seems like a bill that should pass quickly. So why are some Senators resisting? It goes back to the fear of lawsuits.

Existing legislation known as the Migrant and Seasonal Agriculture Workers Protections Act (MSPA) already protects the rights of agricultural workers to some degree. The law even allows such workers to sue their employers if they believe labor laws have been broken. But when the MSPA was written, it excluded H-2A workers from the lawsuit provision based on the fact that such workers were deemed temporary.

The FWMA seeks to expand the MSPA in order to allow H-2A workers the same right to sue. A number of agricultural industry groups, particularly in the southeast, are wary of such expansion. They fear that passage of the law would embolden unions to go after farmers with frivolous lawsuits.

Farmers and industry trade groups out West say they are not worried about that sort of thing. Many of them utilize a mixture of domestic and H-2A workers, meaning their operations are already subject to the MSPA’s lawsuit provision. They say they do not really have issues because they take care of their workers.

It’s Up to the Senate Now

The fate of the FWMA rests squarely in the hands of the Senate. It is up to them now, and time is running out. If the bill does not pass prior to the November elections, it’s not likely to get done this year. Furthermore, it is quite possible that both the House and Senate will change hands in 2023.

Immigration law is a complicated thing. But the politics behind changing the law are even more complicated. That’s why we practice immigration law. We make the complex simple by offering expert representation in business immigration and other related areas.

Please contact us with any questions or inquiries: 408 715 7067; info@grahamadair.com.

Business immigration lawyers near me
Categories News & Updates

H-1B Basics: What You Should Know About the Popular Work Visa

The H-1B visa is a work visa that allows foreign nationals with certain skill sets to live and work in the U.S. H-1B is considered a dual-intent status, which enables H-1B visa holders to pursue permanent residency (green card). It is one of the more popular visas in use today. But as is the case with all things immigration related, obtaining and keeping an H-1B can be complicated.

As a law firm specializing in immigration law, we understand the H-1B visa intimately. We can provide you with a qualified H-1B visa attorney more than capable of helping work through your employee’s case in a timely manner. In the meantime, here are the basics of the H-1B visa:

Limited Availability

The H-1B visa program is not open-ended in the sense that anyone can apply at any time. By law, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) can only approve 85,000 new H-1B visas annually. For all practical purposes, employees need to be sponsored by a U.S.-based employer that will file the H-1B visa petition on his or her behalf.

The law favors foreign nationals with advanced degrees from U.S. institutions. However, employees may be eligible to apply for an H-1B visa they have a bachelor’s degree in the field of endeavor. Also note that the H-1B limit does not apply to educational institutions, government research organizations, and nonprofits affiliated with institutions of higher education. Such organizations can sponsor employees for H-1B visas at any time.

Eligibility Requirements

In order to be eligible for the visa, employees must hold at least a bachelor’s degree. They must also be offered what is considered a specialty occupation by a U.S. employer, and their degree must align with the job duties for the position being sponsored.

There are a number of criteria by which an employer can classify an open position as a specialty occupation. Applicable criteria may include things like specialized training and job requirements that dictate both formal training and real-world experience. Needless to say, there are various ways to meet the specialty occupation threshold.

Applying for the Visa

The H-1B visa program works on a lottery basis. Employees hoping to work for an employer that is not exempt from the H-1B limit, will need to be registered with USCIS’s new online lottery system. This typically happens in March every year. If selected, employers will then need to complete and submit the required paperwork.

Once the required petition is prepared and filed, it will take USCIS several months to adjudicate. USCIS may require additional information, in which case they will issue a Request for Evidence (RFE). The RFE must be addressed adequately in order to achieve an approval for the employee. The RFE will also likely indicate potential weaknesses in the case. It is helpful to have an experienced immigration attorney involved to improve the likelihood of an approval.

Employers also typically have the option to file H-1B petitions with premium processing. It requires an additional government fee of $2500, but will more the case to adjudication much faster than cases filed with normal processing. In many instances, cases filed with premium processing may be approved in about two weeks instead of several months. This can be especially helpful for F-1 students whose status is expiring soon, as well as those who are changing to H-1B from another status, such as L-1.

Complicated, But Not Impossible

After reading the basics of the H-1B visa process, one may be left thinking that it is too complicated. This happens a lot with companies that have not filed an H-1B petition previously. We encourage such companies to schedule a call with us. We can demystify the process and help companies work through a cost/benefit analysis to determine if H-1B visa sponsorship is right for their employee or job candidate. Obtaining an H-1B visa is complicated, but it is very achievable. We encourage companies to work with an experienced immigration attorney from day one of the process, not only to file a strong case but also to explain the company’s obligations and help it avoid liability.

A skilled H-1B attorney can help companies navigate all the requirements. They can answer questions while providing companies with sound advice.

immigration lawyers near me
Categories News & Updates

Know Your Non-Immigrant Status Before Applying for an SSN

Despite what you may have heard, some non-citizens working in the U.S. still have tax obligations. In order to meet those obligations, a social security number (SSN) is required. Obtaining one can be complicated if the worker in question holds a non-immigrant visa status.

Immigration law classifies non-immigrant workers according to various occupational categories. Non-citizen social security applicants need to be aware of these classifications in order to complete their paperwork correctly. Getting any portion of the application wrong – including worker classification – only delays the approval process. Furthermore, delays create additional tax issues that can ultimately turn into a nightmare.

More Than 20 Classifications

The importance of knowing your non-immigrant status is critically important when you understand that there are more than twenty classifications. Perhaps the most well-known classification is H-1B. This applies to workers in specialty occupations who are sponsored by their employers. Those in H-1B status will need to have their job classified according to the appropriate government occupation.

Here are some of the other common classifications:

  • L-1 – Intracompany transfer employees
  • TN – Trade NAFTA workers from Canada and Mexico
  • H-2B – Temporary non-agricultural workers
  • O-1 – Foreign nationals considered to have “extraordinary ability”
  • E-1/E-2 – International investors

It is important to know that only a few non-immigrant classifications allow workers to live and work in the U.S. without the previous involvement of the employer. In most cases, employers need to at least file a petition to obtain USCIS authorization before employment can officially begin.

Starting employment before meeting all your legal obligations could result in a loss of your status to legally live and work here. The employer sponsoring your employment can guide you through the process of obtaining the correct permission, which is typically done through a law firm that supports their employees’ immigration needs. But if not, do not take any chances. Don’t just assume you can start working on the day you arrive on American soil.

Filing for an SSN

Non-immigrant workers with tax obligations can file for an SSN with the Social Security Administration. Details can be found on their website. Workers can do this independently or with the help of their employer sponsors. At any rate, obtaining an SSN obliges both workers and their employers to file the appropriate paperwork during the annual tax season.

For help filing taxes, you should seek the assistance of a tax professional. You will need to know your non-immigrant status in order to give the tax preparer the correct information. It is never advisable for you to attempt to do your own taxes. There are some mistakes that could impact your future U.S. immigration process.

If you are an employer looking to hire temporary non-immigrant workers, it is imperative that you know and understand how tax laws apply to your situation. With the current political environment such as it is, your company cannot afford to run afoul of tax laws. Know what your obligations are and make sure that you meet them.

Get the Help of an Attorney

U.S. immigration law is incredibly complex. Even something as simple as applying for a social security number can create headaches for both workers and their sponsor employers. We always recommend utilizing the services of an experienced immigration attorney regardless of how minor a task non-immigrant workers are trying to accomplish.

Immigration attorneys specialize in immigration law. Immigration is our specialty here at Graham Adair. We excel in all phases of the immigration process, including non-immigrant classification and obtaining worker visas. If you need assistance obtaining permission to live and work in the United States, feel free to contact us to arrange for a consultation.