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Citizenship applications facing serious backlog

Coming to the United States is often the first step for immigrants who have a much greater goal in mind -- becoming a citizen. However, wait times for citizenship applications are currently much longer than they used to be. With the process taking up to two years in some areas of the U.S., some people hoping to make Louisiana their permanent home could be in for a significant waiting game.

In the past, applications for citizenship were typically processed in about six months or so. Now, as changes from the federal government complicate the already difficult immigration process, those wait times have lengthened significantly. Over 700,000 immigrants are currently waiting for their applications to be processed.

Have you heard these immigration myths?

Separating fact from fiction is not always easy, especially when virtually anyone can post a quick opinion on the internet. Unfortunately, some of the misinformation concerning immigration may make some people feel hesitant to move forward with their dreams of coming to the United States. Here are a few myths that Louisiana hopefuls do not have to worry about.

Rather than being a burden, immigrants actually help boost the U.S. government. In 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released a study that highlights the positive impact immigrants have on economic growth. In general, immigrants pay more in taxes than they receive in government benefits. In fact, second-generation immigrants are some of the strongest economic and fiscal contributors in the country. Even undocumented immigrants contribute an estimated collective $11.6 billion in taxes annually.

Does US immigration law protect against deportation?

Potentially facing deportation can be an incredibly overwhelming experience for anyone confronted by this possibility. However, removal from the United States is not always necessary. Under U.S. immigration law, undocumented individuals living in Louisiana have options to avoid removal.

If an immigration judge orders that a person must be deported and that individual or the Department of Homeland Security disagrees, he or she can file an appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals. The appeal must be submitted to the BIA within a period of 30 days, starting from when the judge issued the order. If the BIA upholds the judge's decision, a person may take things a step further by filing an appeal with the Federal Courts of Appeal, which must also be done within 30 days.

Achieving permanent residency as an undocumented immigrant

Those who were brought to the United States as children often face enormous struggles as they grow up. For many, it is difficult to be undocumented in the only home they have ever known. While many of the young adults in this situation in Louisiana applied for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, its uncertain future has some people unsure of what to do next or how to achieve permanent residency. 

One such man was brought to the U.S. as a 2-year-old with a tourist visa. The family did not leave when the visa expired, though, leaving him in the precarious situation of being undocumented. He applied to DACA and ultimately went on to attend law school. While studying law, he met and fell in love with his future wife -- a citizen -- who he recently wed.

Who is given preference in family immigration?

Bringing family members to the United States is a goal for many citizens, but not everyone understands that there is a preference system to who may use this immigration path. When sponsoring a loved one through family immigration, his or her relationship to the sponsor, age and marital status will all be taken into account. Sponsors and immigrants alike should be prepared to provide proof of these requirements. 

For citizens or permanent lawful residents to sponsor a family member's path to Louisiana, a certain level of family relationship must be established. This includes a spouse, unmarried children, siblings over the age of 21, parents if the sponsor is over the age of 21 and more. However, just demonstrating a relationship is not enough. Sponsors also have to prove that they can provide for the relative at a point of 125 percent over the poverty line. 

Army vet fights for daughter's citizenship

Louisiana families who hope to grow their family through adoption often turn to international adoptions, which is sometimes a more affordable and quicker process than those available domestically. While most parents are able to easily obtain citizenship for their children, it can be a bit trickier when it comes to older children. A retired Army officer and his wife are still trying to get their daughter's citizenship approved years after the adoption process was finalized. 

The veteran and his wife initially brought their niece to the United States from South Korea back in 2012. She was 15 at the time, and although they planned on finishing the adoption, the family decided to put the process on hold until after the father returned from a deployment. At the time, they were told that they could delay the adoption until their daughter turned 17 without any legal repercussions. 

Which US immigration law visa should I use for travel?

Traveling to Louisiana for vacation is a popular choice for many international visitors, but obtaining the right visas to do so can be somewhat confusing. While individuals who plan to stay in the United States for extended period of time must obtain immigration visas, visitors need non-immigrant visas. U.S. immigration law grants these visas to visitors under a variety of circumstances. 

The B-2 visitor's visa is only for those who plan to stay in the U.S. for limited periods of time. This is the visa that tourists will need, but it is also for business professionals who are traveling to the country for conferences and conventions. Individuals seeking medical treatment may also travel with a B-2 visa. This visa can also be used for athletes competing in amateur events or for performers in musical, theatrical or other performances, but only if these individuals will not receive compensation for their efforts. 

Business schools are hurting under U.S. immigration law

American institutions of higher learning draw students from not just within the United States, but from all across the globe. U.S. business schools in particular have a global reputation for excellence, but they say they are losing out on some of the best students. Because of current U.S. immigration law, fewer foreign students are applying to study in Louisiana and elsewhere. 

Bill Boulding -- the dean of Duke University's Fuqua School of Business -- recently spoke about the dwindling enrollment of international students. Fuqua experienced a 6.2 percent drop in applications for the school's full-time MBA programs, which it attributes to a sudden decrease in international applicants. Boulding says Fuqua is not unique, and that many other business schools cannot find enough students to fill all of the spots in their MBA programs. 

Will esports suffer because of US immigration law?

Esports are increasingly popular across not just the United States, but the entire world. Louisiana gamers are probably already familiar with the industry, which pits professional video game players against one another in large tournaments. Since esports is a global industry, there are serious considerations when looking at how U.S. immigration law may impact the future of tournaments held in America. 

Esports is just one of many industries that heavily relies on foreign talent, and it is feeling the impact of immigration changes made over the past year or so. A very recent policy change went into effect on Sept. 11, 2018, which gets rid of RFEs -- Requests for Additional Evidence. RFEs are important for visa applicants, as they give individuals the opportunity to submit additional material that supports their application. Instead, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services now plans to simply deny any requests that it believes does not include enough supporting material. Deference for prior visa approvals during extension considerations is also no longer in practice. 

How does US immigration law handle student visas?

Buying books, purchasing supplies and finding the perfect decorations for a dorm room are all part of the college experience, but international students have a bit more on their plate. Students from other countries who wish to study at a Louisiana university or educational institution must first acquire a nonimmigrant student visa. U.S. immigration law requires applicants to meet three criteria to qualify for these types of visas. 

Although student visas are most closely associated with college students, individuals seeking vocational or other nonacademic studies may also qualify. First and perhaps most importantly, students must first be accepted as full-time students at a U.S. vocational, educational or language-training program. The institution must also be considered valid by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.