VIDEO: Naturalization victory on appeal

Hi, I am Immigration and Naturalization attorney Jim Hacking, practicing out here in St. Louis, Missouri. Today, we’re going to talk about a naturalization success case that we had adjudicated this week. This case was extraordinary, and that we had to file an appeal of a denied naturalization case.

Just so you know, the naturalization process starts with someone filing what’s called an N-400. That is the application for naturalization. Any green card holder who has had their green card for five years, in North America US citizen for three years can apply for naturalization, and if they meet the certain statutory requirements, then they are allowed to naturalize and become a US citizen. Then, they receive all the benefits that go along with naturalization like being able to vote or on juries, those kinds of things.

In this particular case, our client who is from Iraq. We’ll call him Achmed. Achmed came to the United States many years ago as a refugee from the war in Iraq. He has had his green card for seven or eight years. He applied for citizenship on his own. When he went for his interview, the interviewing officer asked him about his prior marriage and his divorce. Specifically, she wanted to know whether Achmed had supported his ex-wife and his child that they’ve had as a result of the marriage during the time that he was in Iraq, and then also when he was in the United States.

Now, Achmed had become separated from his wife after divorce. He had taken care of her and the son that the couple had during the time that he was in Iraq, but then when the war broke out, he and his ex-wife, and his son became separated and he had thought that they had gotten killed in the bombing in Baghdad. He did not have contact with them for three or four years.

One day, his sister was visiting a family in Jordan, and she came across his ex-wife and his son, and she found out that they were still alive. At that point, Achmed started making payments to the wife and started supporting the son once again.

Now, at the immigration interview, that is a naturalization officer, the officer had asked him about this, and this particular officer spends a lot of time that interview just asking about child support issues. It’s an important issue for her and something that she spends a lot of time on. You recall that Achmed had filed this without an attorney, and apparently there is a confrontation between the officer and Achmed during the interview where she basically accuses him of abandoning his child and abandoning his obligations under the law to his ex-wife. She denied him naturalization claiming that he had bad moral character because he had failed to support his son.

Now, when Achmed came to see us, we thought that this result is pretty ridiculous. It seemed to suggest that the officer gave a no cognizant to the fact that he had been in a war zone that he and his ex-wife had gotten separated and that he had always supported the son both before and after the separation, and that this officer was just being ridiculously myopic in thinking that everything in Iraq is like it is in America. We filed an N-336 which is an administrative appeal.

Now, we don’t always put a lot of stack in this administrative appeals. We often tell our clients that it’s something that we may have to do in order to get judicial review over the N-400 later on down the line. With an N-336, when you file this application, that typically means that you’re just going down the hall and asking another officer to decide differently than the prior officer had. You’re basically asking a coworker to rule that their coworker made a mistake.

We don’t fill out this document but we told our client, “Well, down the road, you can have a judge look at this and decide on his or her own whether or not he gets to naturalize. We have to go through this intermediary process.” That involves filing the N-336 and going for an interview.

Achmed and I went ahead and filed the N-336. He paid the filing fee and he paid me to represent him. We filed the administrative appeal. When he went to the interview, the new officer adjudicating the case told us that if we could come up with documentation from the ex-wife that Achmed had been supporting the son and have supported her under his legal obligations after the divorce decree that she would grant him naturalization.

Achmed was upset about this. He thought that getting his ex-wife to sign an affidavit would be almost impossible but we went ahead and prepared it, translated it into Arabic; and long behold, the ex-wife did in fact signed it, and we submitted it to the immigration service late last week.

Yesterday, we got a notice in the mail that Achmed’s naturalization application had been approved. The prior decision had been reversed and that he was going to naturalize. We think that’s a good result. I think it’s a sound result. I supposed that if Achmed had had that documentation with him in the first place that his case wouldn’t have been denied, at least at the position that USA is taking now.

We’re just happy that our client is going to be able to raise his right hand and swear his allegiance to the United States, and become a US citizen. We think the prior decision was wrong and that the new officer was correct in granting the appeal, the N-336 was approved. The N-400 was approved. Our client is going to be able to become a citizen.

If you have any questions about N-336 or administrative appeals of decisions of a green card or a citizenship application, we can help you with that. Give us a call, 314-961-8200 or you can e-mail me, Jim@HackingLawPractice.com. Thanks.