Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘American Citizenship’

10th August 2013

Millions of people around the world wish to take up residence in the United States of America and often wish to become American Citizens. However, it would appear that some Americans are cutting ties with the USA and renouncing their United States Citizenship. Names of all those Americans who renounce their United States Citizenship are recorded and published in the United States Federal Register. These lists are generally not particularly newsworthy. However, in the most recent quarterly publication regarding US Citizenship renunciation it would appear that the number of Americans renouncing their United States Citizenship has jumped by over 60% when compared to previous quarters. In the last quarter 1,131 people renounced their United States Citizenship. This number is a large increase from the previous quarter which saw only 679 renunciation. Although, when compared against the same quarter of the previous year which saw only 188 renunciations the 1,811 figure is rather staggering. Is this simply a one-time anomaly or is this the sign of a growing trend?

While some are speculating as to what this trend means in a broad socio-economic context, I feel that some analysis is necessary to put some perspective on these numbers. A reader looking at the Federal Register’s official posting regarding these numbers will likely note the following information:

For purposes of this listing, long-term residents, as defined in section 877(e)(2), are treated as if they were citizens of the United States who lost citizenship.

The casual reader may wonder: what does this mean? Well to quote directly from the Cornell Law School’s website which lists sections 877 (e)(1) and 877(e)(2):

(1) In general

Any long-term resident of the United States who ceases to be a lawful permanent resident of the United States (within the meaning of section 7701 (b)(6)) shall be treated for purposes of this section and sections 2107, 2501, and 6039G in the same manner as if such resident were a citizen of the United States who lost United States citizenship on the date of such cessation or commencement.

(2) Long-term resident

For purposes of this subsection, the term “long-term resident” means any individual (other than a citizen of the United States) who is a lawful permanent resident of the United States in at least 8 taxable years during the period of 15 taxable years ending with the taxable year during which the event described in subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (1) occurs. For purposes of the preceding sentence, an individual shall not be treated as a lawful permanent resident for any taxable year if such individual is treated as a resident of a foreign country for the taxable year under the provisions of a tax treaty between the United States and the foreign country and does not waive the benefits of such treaty applicable to residents of the foreign country.

Therefore, based upon the information provided by the Federal Register and the United States statutes noted above some of those listed in the Federal Register as those renouncing their Citizenship could be United States Lawful Permanent Residents (colloquially referred to as “Green Card” holders) who have chosen to give up their permanent resident status. This explanation probably does not account for all of the “Citizenship renunciations” listed in the recent Federal Register publication, but it may account for some of these numbers. In any event, the number of those expatriating from the United States remains high compared to previous points in American history. The question remains, why are higher numbers of Americans renouncing their citizenship?

There are some who contend that the recent spike in citizenship renunciation may stem from American policy regarding taxation of United States Citizens living abroad. American Citizens (as well as lawful permanent residents) are taxed on their worldwide income, regardless of where they physically reside. This situation is in stark contrast to the tax policies of virtually every other country in the world as most countries only tax those of their citizenry who reside in their country. There are exceptions to the previous statement as issues such as domicile play into many countries’ foreign taxation policies. Many feel that the recent increases in the number of renunciations is driven by Americans with high foreign derived incomes seeking to rid themselves of the need to pay American taxes. In a major story from last year it was noted that one of the founders of Facebook had renounced his United States Citizenship before the IPO of that company’s stock. It should be noted that some argue that his tax obligations at that time may not have actually decreased as a result of his decision to give up his citizenship (due to American tax laws such as the so-called “Expatriation Tax” or “Exit Tax”), although his future tax liabilities may be reduced as a result of that decision. Perhaps more Americans are taking the (somewhat drastic) step of renouncing their citizenship in order to save some money from the tax man. Without knowing each former-American’s motivations for renouncing United States Citizenship we are left to speculate.

There may be another impetus behind the recent increase in the number of Americans renouncing their Citizenship: the FATCA. The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) compels financial institutions outside of the United States to report information about accounts maintained by American Citizens or lawful permanent residents to the Internal Revenue Service. Furthermore, foreign financial institutions are also required to report on accounts maintained by foreign corporations in which Americans or Lawful Permanent Residents own a significant interest. The FATCA’s implementation has been pushed back until July of 2014. Could the looming specter of the FATCA be the reason for the recent uptick in American’s renouncing their citizenship? One of the many upshots of the FATCA is the fact that the regulatory requirements imposed by the American government on foreign banking and financial institutions can be rather burdensome. One way that these foreign institutions can relieve themselves of these burdens is by refusing to accept American customers. If there are no Americans holding accounts at a given foreign bank, then the bank does not necessarily have to comply with the provisions of the FATCA. This has lead to a situation where more and more overseas banks are refusing to provide services to Americans living and working abroad. By renouncing United States Citizenship and naturalizing to the Citizenship of another country a former American could bank in much the same manner as other foreign nationals.

The decision to renounce one’s U.S. Citizenship is a significant one and should not me made lightly. There are many benefits to being an American Citizen so those thinking of renouncing their Citizenship should review not only their tax situation, but also the intangible and tangible benefits of their American citizenship (including the US Passport). Will this trend continue? It remains to be seen, but there are many who feel that as American oversight of global taxation matters becomes more ubiquitous there will be more American’s who question the value of their citizenship.

–Benjamin W. Hart is an American attorney who resides in Bangkok, Thailand.

For related information please see: Citizenship Renunciation.

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6th July 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has been noted by various media outlets for launching a new ad campaign to encourage those present in the United States as lawful permanent residents to naturalize to American Citizenship. In order to provide further insight into these developments it is best to quote directly from the website of China Daily, ChinaDaily.com.cn:

NEW YORK – The US Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has launched its first ever paid ad campaign urging roughly 7.9 million green card holders to become naturalized citizens. The $3.5 million multilingual campaign will be used for three years and is part of an $11 million allotment from Congress meant to promote integration of immigrants. This year’s campaign in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese will run in print, radio and digital formats between May 30 and Sept 5, primarily in states with large immigrant populations, such as California, New York, Florida and Texas. ”You’ve got to create that sense of urgency, and until they’ve reached that sense of urgency, they’ll just coast,” Nathan Stiefel, division chief of policy and programs for the Office of Citizenship at USCIS, told the Associated Press…

This blogger asks readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read this article in detail.

For those who are unfamiliar with matters pertaining to American immigration it should be noted that those who enter the United States of America on a CR-1 visa or an IR-1 visa are accorded lawful permanent residence (also colloquially referred to as Green Card status). After spending a specified period of time physically present in the United States it may be possible for an immigrant to naturalize to American citizenship. There are many benefits to be had by undergoing the naturalization process including, but not limited to: the right to vote, the right to a US Passport, as well as the various privileges and/or immunities of citizenship. Those interested in learning if they are eligible for such benefits are encouraged to contact a licensed American attorney.

In somewhat unrelated news, it recently came to this blogger’s attention that the government of Japan is apparently preparing to conduct tests on various nuclear facilities in that country. For further insight it is necessary to quote directly from the Channel News Asia website at ChannelNewsAsia.com:

TOKYO : Japan said Wednesday it will run “stress tests” on all its nuclear reactors in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi accident sparked by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster. The ongoing crisis, the world’s worst atomic accident since Chernobyl 25 years ago, has ignited debate in Japan about the safety of nuclear power, which before the disaster accounted for a third of its electricity needs. The centre-left government ordered a round of initial tests on the country’s other atomic power plants after the disaster, and said the new stress tests aimed to reassure the public that the facilities are safe…

The administration of this blog asks readers to click on the appropriate hyperlinks above to read this article in detail.

For those unfamiliar with the ongoing situation in Japan it should be noted that an Earthquake which occurred in March of this year resulted in a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima facility noted above. This situation had tremendous ramifications for both the Asia-Pacific region and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). As this tragic state of affairs continues to play out it is hoped that positive endeavors can mitigate some of the damage caused by this disaster. No doubt the Japanese citizenry remain in the hearts and minds of conscientious people the world over.

For related information please see: Certificate of Citizenship or Certificate of Naturalization.

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27th May 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has called for the nomination of a candidate for the post of IMF Managing Director who hails from Asia or a developing nation. To quote directly from a very interesting article apparently written by Umesh Pandey and posted on the official website of the Bangkok Post, BangkokPost.com:

TOKYO : Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan has called on Asian countries to jointly nominate a candidate for the post of managing director of the International Monetary Fund. As the leading engine of global economic growth, Asia needs to assert itself in the way international institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF operate, Mr Surin said yesterday. “The time is for Asia to field a candidate and it doesn’t have to be an Asian. They could be a member of a Third World country but not the European Union and they surely must not be a North American,” said the Asean chief.

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click on the hyperlinks noted above to gain further insight into this developing story.

Clearly, the economies which comprise the ASEAN community are becoming increasingly important in a global context. This fact coupled with the fact that there seems to be little tangible reason why the IMF directorship should continue to be exclusively held by a European leaves one to wonder what the nationality of future IMF directors will be. It seems both likely and logical that an Asian will eventually take the helm of the International Monetary Fund, but the question remains: when? Hopefully this question will one day be answered to the satisfaction of all concerned.

On a somewhat unrelated note, it also came to this blogger’s attention that a United States Senator has recently introduced legislation to provide immigration benefits to families of America’s brave servicemen and women. To quote directly from an article written by Elise Foley and posted on the Huffington Post website, HuffingtonPost.com:

WASHINGTON — Sen. Robert Menendez introduced a bill on Thursday that would allow the immigrant parents, spouses and children of active duty military service members to gain legal status, part of a push by Democrats to allow small sectors of the undocumented population to avoid deportation. “I just can’t believe that you can risk your life for America, and America can’t let you stay united with your family,” the New Jersey Democrat said at a press conference. “It seems to me that’s more than a fair trade-off.” The Military Families Act, which so far has zero Republican supporters, would grant legal permanent residence to the immediate family members of military men and women in active duty…

Readers are urged to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to learn more from this insightful and interesting article.

This blogger was relieved to hear that Senator Robert Menendez has taken up the cause of America’s military families as it is unfortunate that current law and regulation can sometimes result in adverse consequences for alien family members of those serving in the United States Armed Forces. Hopefully the proposed legislation will create a more compassionate immigration environment for the families of American Armed Forces personnel. It should be noted that those non-US Citizens serving in the American military are often eligible for expedited immigration benefits including, but not necessarily limited, expedited naturalization to United States Citizenship.

Those who read this blog with any frequency may also be aware that there is currently legislation being proposed in the American federal legislature which would go far in uniting American same-sex bi-national families. The passage of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), the Reuniting Families Act, and/or the Respect for Marriage Act would likely result in changes to relevant American law thereby allowing those who have entered into a same sex marriage, or similar marital union, to obtain federal benefits (including immigration benefits) in the same manner as their different-sex counterparts. How this legislation will fare in the current legislature remains to be seen, but hopefully passage of such legislation, along with the Military Families Act, will result in a tangible benefit to all American families.

For related information please see: Certificate of Naturalization.

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5th May 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has recently updated some of the information with regard to that agency’s official fact sheet pertaining to I-864 affidavits of support. To quote directly from the official website of USCIS:

In determining inadmissibility, USCIS defines “public charge”as an individual who is likely to become “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance, or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.” See “Field Guidance on Deportability and Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” 64 FR 28689 (May 26, 1999). In determining whether an alien meets this definition for public charge inadmissibility, a number of factors are considered, including age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education, and skills. No single factor, other than the lack of an affidavit of support, if required, will determine whether an individual is a public charge.

Those reading this blog are encouraged to click on the hyperlinks above to read more and gain insight into the issues associated with the I-864 affidavit of support.

It should be noted that the issues associated with the I-864 affidavit of support are significant and should not be overlooked by those seeking immigration benefits. Furthermore, the issues associated with the I-864 affidavit of support pertain not only to USCIS in the United States, but also impact the Consular processing phase of U.S. Immigration process for those who are seeking United States immigrant visas, such as the IR-1 visa and the CR-1 visa, abroad. Meanwhile, seekers of visas such as the K-1 visa (for fiancees of US Citizens) must submit a similar document to a US Embassy or US Consulate abroad in the form of an I-134 affidavit of support. Bearing this in mind, the reader should take note of the fact that the issues surrounding the I-864 affidavit of support are likely to come to the forefront for K-1 visa holders when they eventually apply for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence.

There was an interesting notation on the aforementioned website:

Note: In general, lawful permanent residents who currently possess a “green card” cannot be denied U.S. citizenship for lawfully receiving any public benefits for which they are eligible.

The reader is encouraged to bear in mind the fact that the above quotation is speaking in generalities, but the issue of naturalization in the context of the affidavit of support may be of interest to Americans thinking about bringing a loved one to the USA. The reason that Americans may find the issue of naturalization interesting when discussing family immigration stems from the fact that upon a foreign spouse’s naturalization to US Citizenship, the encumbrances placed upon the American Citizen within the provisions of the affidavit of support are extinguished as upon becoming a United States Citizen a previous foreign national becomes eligible in their own right for government benefits (where applicable). Therefore, the previous sponsor(s) are no long liable to the United States government should the newly-naturalized citizen take government benefits.

For related information please see: Certificate of Citizenship or Child Citizenship Act.

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15th April 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that new In Vitro Fertilization methods could see future children born with 3 parents. Although this may sound like something from science fiction, clearly this is a real issue which could have real world implications. In order to provide a degree of insight to the reader on this topic it may be best to quote directly from Wikipedia:

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a process by which egg cells are fertilised by sperm outside the body, in vitro. IVF is a major treatment in infertility when other methods of assisted reproductive technology have failed. The process involves hormonally controlling the ovulatory process, removing ova (eggs) from the woman’s ovaries and letting sperm fertilise them in a fluid medium. The fertilised egg (zygote) is then transferred to the patient’s uterus with the intent to establish a successful pregnancy. The first successful birth of a “test tube baby”, Louise Brown, occurred in 1978. Robert G. Edwards, the doctor who developed the treatment, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2010. Before that, there was a transient biochemical pregnancy reported by Australian Foxton School researchers in 1953 and an ectopic pregnancy reported by Steptoe and Edwards in 1976.

The administration of this blog strongly encourages readers to click on the hyperlinks above in order to gain perspective and insight into the way that IVF actually works.  According to recent reports, it would appear that new IVF methodologies may allow for a child to be born with three biological parents.  To quote directly from the official website of the BBC at BBC.co.uk:

Embryos containing DNA from a man and two women have been created by scientists at Newcastle University.

They say their research, published in the journal Nature, has the potential to help mothers with rare genetic disorders have healthy children…The work raised several ethical problems… including safety risks, children with DNA from two mothers, and making genetic changes to unborn children.

IVF and medical procedures of the same ilk may have been considered of little concern in the legal and immigration contexts during years past, but new developments, such as those noted above, could have tremendous implications for future seekers of a US Passport, Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or similar identity documentation acquired both domestically or at US Embassies and US Consulates abroad. For further insight this blogger felt it prudent to quote directly from a blog post by PrideAngelAdmin on PrideAngel.com:

The first baby with three biological parents could be conceived next year after the Government announced a major review of Britain’s fertility laws.

The move would allow doctors to use a revolutionary IVF technique that prevents incurable, deadly genetic illnesses being passed down from mothers to their children.

Babies created with the therapy – called three-parent IVF – would inherit 98 per cent of their DNA from their ‘real’ parents. The rest would come from a female donor.

The scientists say the donor genes would not alter the children’s appearance or personality, but would stop them dying from painful diseases of the heart, liver and brain.

As can be seen from the above cited quotations, most of the dialogue that is occurring with respect to the issue of 3 parent IVF is emanating more from Great Britain than from the United States, but it should be noted that these issues could have an impact upon the way in which possible future American immigration benefits are bequeathed. Meanwhile, new IVF methodologies may require changes in the rules and protocols regarding issuance of Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBA) since there never really seem to have been provisions in place for a child born with three biological parents. It remains to be seen how these new technologies and procedures will impact American jurisprudence regarding United States Immigration, Family Law, and the rules and regulations regarding US Citizenship.

In this blogger’s personal opinion, the implications of possible 3 parent IVF could be as important in an American Citizenship context as the promulgation and enactment of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. Who can say if it might not be possible in the future to see a child receive a Certificate of Citizenship based upon a parent-child biological relationship stemming from shared mitochondrial DNA? As humanity’s technological prowess becomes more defined legal issues may be increasingly raised in contexts that few in the past would have dreamed could even exist at all.

For the LGBT community, the citations noted above should be borne in mind especially by those who may wish to start a family in the future as it may one day be possible to see children born as a result of increasingly creative medical breakthroughs.

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12th December 2010

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has created a new website in an effort to combat the unlicensed practice of United States Immigration law. The following is a direct quotation from the new website:

Only a licensed lawyer or accredited representative is authorized and qualified to assist you with your immigration case or green card application. Unlike consultants, immigration lawyers have completed extensive education and training before being licensed to represent clients. You can check whether an immigration lawyer is in good standing and licensed by contacting your state bar or state Supreme Court. You can also check to see if the immigration lawyer has been suspended or expelled from practice before the immigration court, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), or the immigration service (USCIS).

For those who are unaware of the current problem in the United States and abroad, there are those who prey upon unsuspecting individuals claiming to have expertise in American immigration matters. In the State of New York, Attorney General Cuomo, now Governor-Elect, has taken measures to counter this problem. Specifically, the Attorney General’s office has pursued companies which may have engaged in crimes involving immigrants and the unlicensed practice of law. To quote directly from a page on the New York Attorney General’s Office website:

The Attorney General began an investigation and issued subpoenas to these companies after receiving information that they were engaged in fraudulent and illegal business practices. The illegal conduct included, among other things, misrepresenting their authorization to submit documents on behalf of immigrants to the government and giving legal advice to immigrants. Further, some of these companies involved attorneys who aided others in the unauthorized practice of the law and simply lent their name to provide legitimacy to the business. Collectively, these companies abused hundreds of immigrants.

In a previous posting on this web log it was noted that a man in the United States was stripped of his US Citizenship and charged with marriage fraud after an investigation by the United States Customs Enforcement Service (USICE). Clearly, it is evident that authorities in the US States and the Federal government are more serious about enforcing US immigration laws. Hopefully, the creation of the new website noted above, in combination with efforts by law enforcement agencies, will result in leass fraud perpetrated upon the United States government, the American immigrant community, and the public at large.

For related information please see: US visa fraud.

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27th October 2010

It recently came to this author’s attention that the Department of Homeland Security’s United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has promulgated a new Naturalization Certificate. The new document has enhanced security features and is updated in order to comport with current law. To quote directly from a recent press release distributed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA):

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today announced it has begun issuing a redesigned, more secure Certificate of Naturalization (Form N-550) as part of its ongoing efforts to enhance the integrity of the immigration system. The agency anticipates that over 600,000 new citizens will receive the enhanced certificate over the next year.

It really can seem rather astounding that the United States grants citizenship to so many people each year as there are many countries throughout the world that do not take in immigrants at nearly the rate of the United States. Furthermore, of the countries that admit immigrants it would seem that the United States is more eager to grant citizenship to those who have obeyed the immigration laws and sought naturalization through the proper channels.

The aforementioned press release went on to note some frequently asked questions posed by those interested in the U.S. Naturalization process:

Q1. What is a Certificate of Naturalization (Form N-550)?
A1. The Certificate of Naturalization serves as evidence of your citizenship. You receive it after taking the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. Citizenship qualifies you to vote and travel with a U.S. passport, among other rights. In many instances, a Certificate of Naturalization is accepted as a valid form of identification.


Q2. Why did USCIS redesign the naturalization certificate?
A2. The previous Certificates of Naturalization featured hard-copy photos of the candidates. The redesigned certificate features the naturalization candidate’s digitized photo and signature embedded into the base document. Eliminating the requirement to affix the hard-copy photo and hand-stamp the USCIS director’s signature cuts cost in man-hours and improves security.


Q3. What’s different about the new certificates?
A3. The naturalization candidate’s digitized photo and signature are embedded in the security-enhanced certificate. Its background features a color-shifting ink pattern that is difficult to recreate. Additionally, USCIS will use a more secure printing process, making it more tamper-proof.


Q4. When will USCIS issue the security-enhanced naturalization certificates?
A4. USCIS will begin using redesigned certificates at all offices beginning today. USCIS offices in Atlanta, Denver and Baltimore will begin to utilize the automated production process this week, including digitizing photos and signatures on all certificates. USCIS will deploy the automated production system agency-wide by the end of the calendar year.


Q5. Following the agency-wide transition to the new document, will all new citizens receive redesigned naturalization certificates with digitized photos?
A5. While all new citizens will receive the redesigned, security-enhanced certificate, certain, limited categories of naturalization candidates, including overseas military and homebound candidates, will receive documents with hard-copy photos affixed to their certificates.


Q6. I’ve already obtained a Certificate of Naturalization. Will I have to apply for the redesigned security-enhanced version?
A6. No. All previously issued Certificates of Naturalization will remain valid.

Q7. How does the issuance of the redesigned naturalization certificate impact applicants?
A7. The issuance of the redesigned Certificate of Naturalization will not impact Application for Naturalization (N-400) processing times. USCIS Application Support Centers (ASCs) will still require applicants to submit their fingerprints and two hard-copy photos. The ASCs will also capture a digital photograph and digital signature for each N-400 applicant.


Q8. If ASCs will capture digital photos of N-400 applicants, why must applicants still provide hard-copy photos?
A8. The hard-copy photos will be required as a back-up in case of unforeseen issues, allowing them to continue their naturalization process without delay.


Q9. Will USCIS update any of its other certificates?
A9. Yes. USCIS intends to digitize its other citizenship-related certificates, but no completion dates have been set.


Q10. Will the wording of the naturalization certificate change?
A10. Yes. USCIS has revised the wording to better reflect the current provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. In particular, obsolete language stating that the candidate resides in the United States and “intends to reside in the United States when so required by the Naturalization laws of the United States” has been removed. These changes affect the form of the certificate only and do not alter any legal requirements for naturalization or USCIS application processing.

This author found it interesting to note that the FAQ’s quoted above mentioned that other citizenship documentation may be updated soon. It remains to be seen whether or not the Certificate of Citizenship, which signifies US Citizenship, but for those who are Citizens not by naturalization, but through either some extraneous set of circumstances of by operation of law; will be enhanced to safeguard against fraud. Certificates of Citizenship are likely to be more common in the future particularly since the promulgation of the Child Citizenship Act, but it remains to be seen how the Certificate of Citizenship might be upgraded.

Naturalization to United States Citizenship is a serious undertaking and those interested in becoming United States Citizens should research the process thoroughly in an effort to understand the requirements and ramifications of United States Citizenship. Hopefully, this new Naturalization Certificate will result in increased security in the form of more tamper resistant documentation.

Fore related information please see: USCIS processing time, Child Citizenship Act, or Legal.

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