N-400 (Application for Naturalization Form)
On November 11, 2015, CLINIC submitted comments to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in response to its proposals to change the Application for Naturalization Form (N-400) and related documents. CLINIC’s Advocacy and Capacity Building teams worked closely together to analyze and provide constructive feedback on the lengthy list of items set forth by USCIS for comment, including Form N-400, Form N-400 Instructions, guidance to the public about the naturalization process and requirements, and N-400 Online Form and process. CLINIC’s Advocacy team also reached out to affiliates to raise awareness of the proposed changes, listen to concerns about the current process, and to further our understanding of the impact of the proposed changes in the field. CLINIC’s comments acknowledge the challenges faced by the 8.8 million immigrants living in the United States who are eligible for naturalization but have not yet applied. Our comments also raise up concerns from practitioners in the field who regularly provide direct services, naturalization workshops, and citizenship preparation.
While CLINIC applauded certain initiatives by the USCIS to address barriers for naturalization, including the implementation of credit card processing for payment of the naturalization fee, CLINIC’s comments mainly provided constructive feedback on the following:
- Form length – CLINIC opposed the increased length of the form to 22 pages. CLINIC provided several recommendations to USCIS that would significantly reduce the length of the form while maintaining the integrity of the form and adjudicatory process.
- Collection of Third Party Data – CLINIC opposed the collection of data through the proposed Form N-400 that is not directly connected to an eligibility factor.
- Certifications and Statements – CLINIC opposes the proposed addition of lengthy and complex statements, certifications and acknowledgements for the applicant, interpreter and preparer.
In addition, CLINIC provided comments on the proposed USCIS Online Form, applauding USCIS’s transition to automation. CLINIC provided feedback and recommendations to USCIS about how the proposed online process may be improved to include more direct information about the availability of fee waivers. In its comments on proposed changes to the Guide to Naturalization, CLINIC provided over a dozen suggestions on improving the clarity of language and instructions. CLINIC’s comments were joined by several affiliates and partners. Overall, USCIS received 75 comments. We expect further developments on Form N-400 in the coming months.
I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative)
On December 14, 2015, CLINIC submitted comments to USCIS regarding changes to Form I-130, Form I-130A, and Form I-130 and I-130A Instructions. CLINIC’s comprehensive comments and suggestions focused on several key areas previously discussed in our summary of the proposed forms.
- Clear Language - CLINIC commended USCIS’s efforts to use clearer language on forms
- Form Length - CLINIC voiced concerns about the overall pace and volume of form changes proposed and provided specific suggestions for reducing the form length.
- Public Engagement - CLINIC requested greater public engagement on substantial form changes
You may access the Forms, Instructions, Tables of Changes, as well as additional information, by visiting the Federal eRulemaking Portal site and entering USCIS-2007-0037 in the search box.
Draft “Extreme Hardship” Policy
On November 23, 2015 CLINIC submitted comments to USCIS regarding its proposed guidance interpreting the term “extreme hardship” as it is applied to certain waiver of inadmissibility applications. CLINIC’s comments and suggestions focused on several key areas previously discussed in our summary of the draft guidance.
- Extreme Hardship through A Single Scenario - CLINIC commends USCIS on the proposed change that would allow an applicant to establish extreme hardship to the qualifying relative based upon a single scenario
- Aggregate Hardship Consideration - CLINIC supports the established principle that hardship should be considered in the aggregate
- Reclassification of 5 Extreme Hardship Factors - CLINIC supports the reclassification of the 5 extreme hardship factors and requests that USCIS keep education a stand-alone factor
- Presumption of Extreme Hardship - CLINIC strongly urges USCIS to create a presumption of extreme hardship
Overall, CLINIC applauded the proposed guidance that, when implemented, is expected to improve consistency in adjudications and broaden the use of this critical program for families facing hardship and separation. Comments to the draft guidance were due on November 23, 2015. You may access the Forms, Instructions, Tables of Changes, as well as additional information, by visiting the Federal eRulemaking Portal site and in the search box.
- CLINIC’s Summary of the Proposed Guidance
- Draft Policy Guidance: Policy Manual, Volume 9, Part B - Extreme Hardship
Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) Recognition and Accreditation Program
More than 20 years have passed since the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) last made substantive change to the rules and procedures governing the BIA Recognition and Accreditation Program (R&A) program. On September 16th, EOIR announced a new set of proposed changes. Recognizing the significance of the proposed extensive changes, CLINIC reported on the proposed rule in a free webinar on Sept. 21.
CLINIC also conducted a survey, requesting feedback on key issues raised for comment by EOIR. This feedback and the many questions and concerns raised by affiliate programs helped to prepare CLINIC, as we attended each of the three stakeholder meetings held by EOIR since September.
CLINIC updated our BIA R&A toolkit by adding a section dedicated to the proposed rule changes The new section includes links to webinars, a summary of the changes, key government links, as well as model comments and tips for organizations that planned to submit comments.
In addition to CLINIC’s outreach, our advocacy team organized and led discussions with national partners and other stakeholders, including World Relief, the American Bar Association, CARECEN, the International Rescue Committee and the New York Immigration Coalition. A second, free webinar lead by CLINIC and hosted by Immigrant Advocates Network had more than 300 participants.
These efforts culminated in the submission of CLINIC’s comments to EOIR on Nov. 17 and the subsequent submission of comments by CLINIC affiliates. The comments offered program-specific examples of how the proposed changes may affect service delivery and program performance.
According to the Federal Rulemaking Portal, EOIR received 64 comments to its proposed rule. A vast majority of the 42 publicly available comments are consistent with CLINIC’s recommendations and many directly reference and support CLINIC’s suggestions.
While we do not know what the final rule will look like, we are grateful for the opportunity to work closely with our affiliates and other stakeholders who presented comments or otherwise contributed to the development of our submission. Our advocacy is strengthened and informed by you.
CLINIC shared its comments to EOIR publicly so that the scope of the proposed changes is known and our perspectives are understood. Other comments may be found at: www.regulations.gov and more directly at this link.