There is Still Time Left to Apply for Naturalization Before the November 2016 Election
Attention all permanent residents! If you have been a U.S. permanent resident for at least 4 years and 9 months (or at least 2 years and 9 months if you obtained permanent residence through marriage to a U.S. citizen and the marriage is still valid), you may be eligible to become a U.S. citizen in time to vote in the November 8, 2016 Presidential Election
This year’s election may be one of the most important elections in recent history, as it will determine the course of immigration, health care, gun control, foreign policy, and other important issues for the United States in the next four years and beyond. For example, in relation to immigration, Donald Trump (the Republican frontrunner at the time this article was written) wants to end birthright citizenship, effectively end the work visa program by increasing prevailing wages and requiring petitions to be sent to the unemployment office instead of USCIS, terminate the J-1 visa program, pause permanent residence petitions by employers, and build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
Senator Ted Cruz (currently second in the Republican race) also wants to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and will end President Obama’s Executive Actions giving some protection to certain members of the undocumented population on his first day in office. He will also suspend the work visa program, halt any increase in legal immigration, and increase deportations.
More importantly, neither of these candidates supports comprehensive immigration reform which would allow a pathway to legalization for those without lawful status.
Senator Bernie Sanders (currently essentially tied with Hillary Clinton for the lead in the first two Democratic Primaries), on the other hand, wants to expand President Obama’s Deferred Action programs, reduce application fees, expand parole-in-place policies to include undocumented relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents and also provide deferred action for relatives who came to the U.S. on a visa but fell out of status, restore discretion to judges and allow them to consider the unique circumstances of an individual’s case, fight to end federal, state and municipal contracts with for-profit private prisons within two years, end family detention, and establish a whistleblower visa for workers reporting labor violations.
Hillary Clinton will maintain President Obama’s Executive Actions and support comprehensive immigration reform, allow parents of DREAMers (undocumented students who grew up in the U.S.) and others with a history of service and contribution to their communities to be able to be eligible for deferred action as well, and end family detention and private immigrant detention centers.
The processing times for naturalization cases has recently been between three to six months in the Chicago office, so if you apply in the next couple of months, you should still have enough time to become a citizen and register to vote (official last day to register in Chicago is October 11, 2016, but there is a grace period after that up until Election Day).
In order to naturalize, you will need to take civics, writing and reading tests, as well as be able to converse in English and not have certain crimes or other issues that would disqualify you. These can be complex issues, so please let us know if you need our help. We will review your background and let you know whether you are qualified, as well as help you with any potential exceptions.
Don’t let this once in a lifetime opportunity pass you by. Make sure your voice is heard. Become a U.S. citizen and vote!