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Refugees from Asia, Africa, Mideast sworn in as US citizens

Refugees from Asia, Africa, Mideast sworn in as US citizens

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Tuesday joined immigration officials and well-wishers in welcoming 27 refugees from the world’s trouble spots as they were sworn in as US citizens.

“This is now officially your country,” Obama said in a televised message that was beamed into the black-glass headquarters building of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services in Washington.

“In America, no dream is impossible. Like the millions of immigrants who have come before you, you have the opportunity to enrich this country through your contributions to civic society,” Obama said before a technical glitch cut short his address to the brand new US citizens.

Moments earlier, the 27 men and women who years ago had fled wars, oppressive regimes and persecution in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, had raised their right hands and pledged loyalty to the United States.

The mass naturalization ceremony was held almost 30 years to the day that president Jimmy Carter signed the Refugee Act into law on March 17, 1980.

“This ceremony speaks of our country as a refuge for people who are fleeing despair or circumstances that our country does not tolerate within its borders,” Alejandro Mayorkas, director of the USCIS, told AFP after the ceremony.

The new citizens came from Bhutan, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan and Vietnam.

Around three quarters of all refugees resettled every year come to the United States, said Lori Scialabba, associate director of the refugee, asylum and international operations directorate at USCIS.

Since the refugee act became law, the United States has offered protection to approximately 2.5 million refugees and 500,000 asylum seekers. Last year alone, USCIS processed 110,000 refugee applications from 109 countries and completed 33,867 asylum applications.

In the past decade, some 5.6 million people have taken the oath to become become US citizens.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2010 in Refugees

 

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How Can I Become A Citizen?

Naturalization ceremony. White House photo by Eric Draper

For many immigrants, the final step in the quest for the American Dream is to become an American citizen.

Benefits of Being a United States Citizen

Citizens have the right to vote, thus help to strengthen our democracy and lobby for their interests. Citizens can obtain a United States Passport, making travel much easier as many countries do not require visas for United States citizens. Citizens can never be deported nor have any need to deal with the bureaucracy of the USCIS. Citizens can sponsor their foreign spouses, children and parents for lawful permanent residency without having to wait for a visa to become available.

United States Citizens Have Responsibilities

United States citizens must swear allegiance to the United States and may be required to serve in the armed forces. United States citizens must obey United States laws both in and out of the United States.

Becoming a United States Citizen

Individuals born in the United States and certain individuals born to or adopted by U.S. citizens outside of the United States become American citizens automatically. Immigrants to the U.S. have the opportunity to apply for citizenship through a process called Naturalization (USCIS Form N-400). United States citizenship does not prohibit dual citizenship. One can be both a citizen of Canada and a citizen of the United States. Only under very extreme circumstances can an individual be stripped of his or her citizenship.

Who Can Naturalize?

Occasionally, I get calls from individuals who ask about applying for citizenship before they are even eligible. Generally, only individuals who have been a lawful permanent resident for 5 years can apply to naturalize. However, if you received your lawful permanent residence because you are married to a U.S. citizen, then you will be eligible to apply to naturalize after only 3 years. You must also have been physically present in the United States for those years, have good moral character and know basic English and U.S. Civics ( there are some exceptions to the English language and civics knowledge requirement for the elderly and disabled).

While physical presence and good moral character sound like simple requirements, they often become problematic. Frequent or long trips abroad may affect your eligibility. Petty crimes or certain character traits may also affect your eligibility. Even if you meet these requirements, however, you may still not be eligible to naturalize if you have ever committed a crime, even if you weren’t convicted. It is important to consult with a licensed immigration attorney to find out whether or not you are eligible to naturalize as the simple act of applying for citizenship when one is not eligible may lead to deportation proceedings if it is found that conditions of your permanent resident status has been violated.

If you live in or near Seattle, Washington or Phoenix, Arizona and are interested in becoming a United States citizen you may schedule a consultation with OLIVIE LAW at (206) 724-1940 or email olivielaw@ymail.com

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2010 in Immigration Law

 

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