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Revisions are coming to the U.S. citizenship test

There are many steps to becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States. From securing the appropriate documentation to come to the U.S. in the first place, a person must also meet the age requirement and have lived as a lawful permanent resident for five years or longer. Another step to becoming a citizen is to pass the citizenship test. Immigrants living in Louisiana who have been studying for that test should be aware that it will be revised soon.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recently announced that the revisions are intended to create a more accurate measure of the civics knowledge of applicants and to help new citizens develop a deeper understanding of citizenship and American values. This is not the first revision, either. The 1986 test has been revised multiple times, most recently in 2008. It is not entirely clear when the USCIS will debut the new test, but the current plan is for the new tests to launch around late 2020 or even early 2021, and a pilot version of the revisions will go into use fall of 2019.

Is Louisiana state law different than federal US immigration law?

Most people already know that there are federal laws governing the immigration process in the United States. However, states also enforce their own laws on a variety of matters, including requirements for employment, driver's licenses and more. For certain matters, immigrants should be sure to adhere to Louisiana state law. However, when state law may seem at odds with federal immigration law, federal law typically controls.

An example of state law is that all public and private employers in Louisiana have to use E-verify with new hires. This process confirms that an individual is eligible for employment in the U.S. and may prevent undocumented immigrants from finding employment. The state also regulates the information that people must provide when applying for IDs or driver's licenses. Immigrants must be able to establish their identities and birth dates, which can be accomplished through a number of documents.

New US immigration law policy involves expedited removal

Expedited removal is a process by which an immigrant without documentation of proper legal status can be detained and removed from the country without a hearing. In the past, the expedited removal was relatively limited. A new policy for U.S. immigration law expands how agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- ICE -- can apply the policy both in Louisiana and the rest of the United States.

The previous policy only allowed immigrants to be detained and removed if they had been in the country for less than two weeks and were located within 100 miles of any land border. The new policy allows ICE agents to detain anyone they believe to be an undocumented immigrant anywhere within the country. Those who have lived in the Unites States for fewer than two years can face expedited removal.

How do I get an immigrant visa number for permanent residency?

An immigrant visa number is necessary for becoming a permanent resident. Since the United States limits the availability of immigrant visa numbers both by year, and by country, those hoping to live in Louisiana and achieve permanent residency may feel frustrated with the process if they do not receive a number soon after applying. There is also a preference system for these numbers, so it is a good idea for a person to understand which preference he or she falls into.

Immigrant visa numbers are not something that people directly apply for. Instead, a relative or employer will first send a visa petition to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on another person's behalf. Once approved, the petition is sent to the Department of State's National Visa Center. The visa petition then stays at the Center, and the individual will be contacted once an immigration visa number is available. 

Dealing with ICE: Rights under US immigration law

Any encounter -- even one that seems to go well -- with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents can be extremely distressing for immigrants in Louisiana. Some ICE agents may try and act as if they have the authority to engage in a wide range of behaviors, even those that are not necessarily in line with U.S. immigration law. It is important for people to understand their rights when dealing with these government representatives.

Without a search warrant, agents may not enter a person's home. Agents also cannot arrest a person without a warrant unless there is evidence that he or she has committed a crime. Some people might confuse administration warrants -- which are signed by immigration judges -- with search warrants. An administration warrant does not give an agent the ability to arrest a person or enter his or her home without permission, so an individual who is facing ICE agents should be sure to clarify what type of warrant is being used.

How to avoid fraudulent US immigration services

From applying for visas to appealing orders of removal, submitting any type of document or application can be extremely time-consuming and stressful. U.S. immigration law is an understandably confusing matter to deal with, and it can be easy to make mistakes. It can be tempting to try out methods that seem too good to be true, but this usually causes more problems than anything else and could even constitute fraud. Here are a couple things that immigrants living in Louisiana should do their best to avoid.

Businesses that offer exclusive filing services guaranteeing success should generally be avoided. There is no way to guarantee that a certain method of filing will guarantee a person a visa, green card, employment authorization document or more. Immigrants are also often told that their applications or petitions will be processed faster. Not only are those types of claims not possible, but these businesses usually charge extremely high fees.

Protections against deportation in US immigration law

Securing a visa to travel to or live in the United States is an incredible opportunity, and immigrants who choose to spend their time in Louisiana often enjoy everything the state has to offer. However, having a visa does not necessarily protect an individual from deportation. For people who want to be certain that they have the full rights of U.S. residency, here are some important highlights from U.S. immigration law.

The immigration system is notoriously slow in processing applications and renewals. Since immigrants should be aware of when their visas or green cards expire, it is a good idea to submit applications as early as possible. Once a person's visa or green card has expired, he or she can be arrested and deported. Demonstrating that an individual has already submitted a request for renewal is not sufficient protection from these actions.

US immigration law: What is an extreme hardship waiver?

It is possible for some undocumented immigrants who have been living in Louisiana to become legal residents. This is sometimes accomplished by voluntarily leaving the United States and then serving a reentry ban for a period of 10 years. Not everyone can safely or realistically leave the country for 10 years, though. An extreme hardship waiver can possibly help immigrants in this situation.

The extreme hardship waiver -- also known as a 601 waiver -- can help a person delay a deportation order while adjusting his or her immigration status. This waiver does not guarantee that a person will be able to gain permanent legal residence, though. There are also a number of reasons for which a person may not qualify for the 601 waiver, such as living undocumented in the United States for a period of longer than a year.

Employment immigration tricky for international students

Summer break is usually the perfect opportunity for college students to work a part time job and earn a little extra cash. This situation is a little trickier for international students who are studying at Louisiana universities. Similar to other forms of employment immigration, students must apply for separate visas in order to work during school breaks. A recent delay in these applications is leaving some of these students without the opportunity to work.

International students can legally work in the United States through the Optional Practical Training program. This gives students the ability to work for as long as a year so long as the field is related to their area of study. Students can only apply for authorization through the program 90 days prior to their start date. In the past, wait times never exceeded 90 days. Current projected wait times are five months.

What's going on with family immigration?

Helping loved ones successfully immigrate to the United States is a priority for many immigrants who are already living here in Louisiana. As it currently stands, family immigration is a cornerstone of the process. However, changes that would compromise the success of family immigration could be on the horizon.

President Trump recently announced a proposal that would shift the focus away from family immigration to a more merit-based system in which applicants would have to accrue points. This plan would prioritize those with certain skills and educational backgrounds over those who have family ties in the United States. For those who are still hoping to sponsor their family members, this new proposal may be extremely upsetting.