Published March 22, 2021

By Richard Hanus, Esq.

The Biden Administration recently removed two significant Trump-era obstacles for applicants seeking lawful permanent residence (Green Card) and U.S. Citizenship.  These obstacles were seen by many as purposeful government strategies aimed to cut down on the issuance of U.S. immigration benefits for foreign nationals and without a solid public policy purpose.  Just as important, it seemed the Trump administration’s implementation of the rules were designed to send a loud political message to a particular audience, that we have enough foreigners as part of U.S. society, even ones with legal status.

Obstacle to Green Card Removed:    In the modern era of U.S. immigration law, virtually all intending immigrants have been required to demonstrate they will not become burdens on U.S. society, or a “public charge”.  For decades this requirement, in the family immigration context, has been addressed by a petitioning family member signing a legal guarantee known as an Affidavit of Support, promising the U.S. government that the intending immigrant would not fall dependent on government resources.  This document gives recourse to the U.S. authorities to seek reimbursement from the “sponsor”  if the intending immigrant receives certain types of “means tested” subsidies.

In the past year though, the Trump administration introduced a new form to the pile of bureaucratic red tape I-485 applicants in the U.S. must cut through to obtain a green card in the U.S.   The I-944 “Affidavit of Self Sufficiency” could have been better named – “Affidavit to Scare Any Intending Immigrant into Rethinking their Decision to Live in the U.S.”.  The form, which was the subject of ongoing litigation challenging its legality in recent months, contained the scariest language that would make any immigrant reconsider the thought of ever asking our government for even life saving assistance.  Further, the type and volume of documentation required to support the affidavit made the filing more like a complicated mortgage application, and where you practically needed to be an MBA or an attorney to decipher all its terms.  Not to worry, pursuant to a Biden administration directive last week , Form I-944 along with the inch and a half thick’s worth of required supporting documentation is no more.

Obstacle to Naturalization Removed:   Someone in the Trump administration thought the civics test portion of the naturalization process was too easy and came up with the idea of making it twice as hard. That meant lawful permanent residents submitting N-400 Applications for Naturalization after December 1, 2020, faced a new requirement of having to answer 12 out of 20 civics questions correctly in order to pass – as opposed to just 6 out of 10 questions.  As of earlier in the month however, that new requirement has now been reversed, and the lesser (6 out of 10) civic test requirements is back in play.  And no, most American born friends of yours would be unable to pass either of the civics test versions, at least not without putting in a couple days of study.

As a reminder, certain applicants are excused from the English and civics testing requirements, including individuals with physical, developmental or mental disabilities which interfere with their capacity to learn or demonstrate their knowledge.  Furthermore, longtime residents in specified age ranges are excused from the English language requirement and are given the opportunity to take the civics portion in their native language, specifically, those 50 years and older and with 20 or more years of lawful permanent residence as well as those 55 years and older, and with 15 years of lawful permanent residence.

PUBLISHED March 22, 2021– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2021, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois