March 2013

Vol. 2, Issue 2
Assisting immigration clients around the world

 Ida Keir Law 


Green Card &
 Immigration Updates
Can You Pass the Citizenship Test?

Can you pass the civics test for U.S. citizenship? Just answer 6 right, of 10 that you'll be asked. Here's a sample of the 100 possible questions, (answers at the bottom).


1. How many amendments does the Constitution have?

2. If both the President and the Vice President can no longer serve, who becomes President?

3. What is the highest court in the United States?

4. When is the last day you can send in federal income tax forms?*

5. When must all men register for the Selective Service?

6. Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?

7. The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers.

8. Who was the first President?*

9. Who was President during World War I?

10.When do we celebrate Independence Day?*


There are 12 million green card holders in the U.S., and over 8 million - often here for many years - are eligible to apply for citizenship. Why don't they apply?  Because it costs $680, there's a complicated application, and civics and English tests, and other requirements:

In This Issue
Can You Pass the Citizenship Test?
How Long Is That Immigration Line You Keep Hearing About?
New Sliding Fee Scale
2011.11.18 IK headshot more light big
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  • At least 18 years old;
  • Lawful Permanent Resident (have a green card);
  • Five years of continuous residence (only three if you're married to a U.S. citizen).
  • Physical presence for half of the five years;
  • Good moral character;
  • Pass English and civics tests (see below for exceptions);
  • Take an oath of loyalty and be attached to the U.S. Constitution.

Many things can prevent you from having "good moral character" and can even lead to deportation, so you have to be careful and know the law.  Not paying taxes, lying to get immigration benefits or claiming to be a U.S. citizen, helping someone enter the country illegally, avoiding the draft, and committing or even admitting certain crimes, are all possible bars. Even "minor" crimes such as possession of more than 30 grams of marijuana can be a problem; it's important to know more before you apply. 


Your English will be tested through conversation during your naturalization interview, and you are also required to read and write one sentence of English. There are some exceptions. The questions for the government and history test are publicly available in English, Spanish and Chinese, where you can also watch a video of an interview. You can often take local English and civics classes. If your income is low, you might qualify for a waiver of the $680 application fee.  The government's website has more detailed information on citizenship and naturalization.


The New Americans Campaign works with local groups to promote citizenship and holds free local clinics where immigrants get help with a simple application and fee waiver, including legal screening. I've volunteered at several clinics, and always enjoy the excitement of helping people apply for citizenship. Once you file your application, it normally takes several months to get an interview, and the length of wait depends on the backlog at your local immigration office.   


Answers to the government and history questions above:

1. 27

2. the Speaker of the House

3. the Supreme Court

4. April 15

5. at age 18, or between 18 and 26

6. American Indians, or Native Americans

7. (James) Madison; (Alexander) Hamilton; (John) Jay; Publius

8. (George) Washington

9. (Woodrow) Wilson

10.July 4



How Long Is That Immigration Line You Keep Hearing About?

You've probably heard that undocumented immigrants should "get in the back of the line" to get a visa. But there's no such line; here's an overview of the many lines.


There are two main types of visas - "immigrant" visas, or green cards, which allow you to live in the U.S. permanently; and "non-immigrant" visas such as student and tourist visas, which don't. How can you get an immigrant visa, or green card? If you don't fall into any of the following categories, there is no general line to join for a green card!  


Family reunification: some categories have per-year and per-country quotas and some don't.

There are no quotas for a spouse, single child under 21, or parent of a U.S. citizen, although it can take months or even years to get through the paperwork and processing. There ARE per-year and per-country quotas for other categories of family members. It can take 20+ years for Mexican or Filipino siblings or adult children because there are so many applicants from those countries. Some family members, such as cousins, grandparents or grandchildren, and same-sex spouses, don't qualify at all.


Employment - there are no waits in some skilled employment categories, but others may take 10+ years. Again, there are per-country limits, so Indian and Chinese employees often have the longest waits, even though their skills are needed. 


Refugee or asylees - can apply for a green card 1 year after their entry or grant of asylum status, and there's no quota. They must prove persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, and/or membership in a particular social group or political opinion.


Diversity visa lottery - up to 50,000 visas are granted each year to applicants from countries with low immigration rates, such as Australia, Nepal and African countries. Applicants must meet education, work, and other requirements.


So you can't just line up to enter the U.S. because you want to. Reform proposals center on increasing the numbers and types of visas available. The U.S. places a priority on family reunification, while other countries take a variety of factors into account. A wonderful and thoughtful resource on international migration issues and statistics is the Migration Policy Institute Stay tuned! 

We Introduce a Sliding Fee Scale / Low Bono Practice Model

And now a word from your sponsor.  Ida Keir Law is proud to announce that we are now offering a sliding fee scale to make immigration representation available and affordable to as many people as possible.  You've probably heard of pro bono, which is work done voluntarily for the public good, and which we do regularly. But pro bono work is often limited in scope. As a low bono lawyer, I want to make legal services available to low and middle income clients with all sorts of immigration questions.  Please contact us for more information.  

Spring is springing where I am. May Spring's hope and optimism be with you!

Ida Keir, Esq.