July 30, 2010


By Gary Endelman and Cyrus D. Mehta

Dear Mr. Mayorkas:

Please forgive us. It has been far too long since we last wrote to you, http://www.cyrusmehta.com/News.aspx?SubIdx=ocyrus20103925436. Times are hard all around. You are bleeding revenue with caseload dropping. Our clients are lost in limbo and there seems to be no exit. Maybe now is the time to try something new.

Ali (let’s do away with formality), facts are indeed stubborn things. Here are some of them. As you told the House Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee on March 23, 2010, FY 2009 was not the best of times: “In fiscal year 2009 USCIS experienced a marked decline in revenue. Revenue declined 15 percent- a drop of approximately $345 million- from the estimate in the fiscal year 2007 fee rule and approximately 8 percent (or $164 million) from our estimate just one year ago. We have not seen a material increase in filing volumes for fiscal year 2010. This is clearly unsustainable.” USCIS closed FY 2009 with a $164 million shortfall though some posit a $200 million gap. Faced with these numbers, we understand full well why you felt that you had to raise user fees. Ali, this will not work in the long run. Remember what happened with N-400 naturalization applications when USCIS raised the filing fee to $675 in 2007? The number of new cases plunged from 1.4 million to just over 525,000 in a single year. In a painful and protracted recession, people will simply keep their hands in their pockets. Look at the numbers from your own 3rd Quarter FY 2009 report to Congress on October 5, 2009: the drop in applications was not confined to naturalization but spanned the full spectrum of all main product lines:

- “There has been a significant reduction in year-to-date employment filings.”
- “The non-immigrant worker I-129 year-to-date filings are at 67 percent and the immigrant worker I-140 filings are at 35 percent of anticipated annual receipts”
- “Naturalization applications N-400 year-to-date receipts continue to be below forecasted levels at 64 percent of anticipated annual receipts.”

Volume is going through the floor. Ali, you said it best yourself in the Oct 2009 report card to Congress: “It would appear the economy is having an effect on immigration.”

What to do? If you cannot squeeze more out of existing customers, how about trying to get some new ones? Yes, we know it is an election year and Congress is unlikely to enact Comprehensive Immigration Reform. That does not mean that all is lost. We have a way for USCIS to end its financial woes while still doing the right thing by our clients! Imagine that, making money and doing justice at the same time! The best thing about it Ali is that you do not have to go hat in hand to Congress nor even endure the tender mercies of APA rulemaking. Settle in for what comes next.

Ali, how many I-140s and I-130s have your folks approved since the adjustment of status window closed on August 16, 2007? You probably do not capture these numbers in a discrete fashion but let’s agree it is a whole bunch. These are not immigrant petitions tied to any pending adjustment of status cases since the gulag of visa retrogression has put even this faint hope out of reach. So long as you do not challenge the tyranny of priority date, http://scr.bi/i0Lqkz, so long will you be going broke. There is a better way. You too have realized it. While we were composing this letter, we chanced upon a leaked undated USCIS Memo addressed by your colleagues to you entitled Administrative Alternatives to Comprehensive Immigration Reform (“Alternatives to CIR Memo”), http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/6800/memo-on-alternatives-to-comprehensive-immigration-reform.pdf, suggesting use of executive discretion to provide remediation to the current inequities. Nothing in the INA would prevent you from allowing provisional submission of an adjustment of status application in the absence of a current priority date following approval of an I-140 or I-130 immigrant petition. USCIS would not approve this provisional submission in the absence of a current priority date but everything else could be done in anticipation of this blessed event. You are already doing much of this pre-adjudication right now. You do not even have to change any of your regulations. You could do it through the positive exercise of your discretionary authority, precisely as the USCIS did in July 2007 when, without any regulatory change, it threw open all employment categories for one month due to the communication snafu over visa availability with your Foggy Bottom colleagues at the State Department. If, out of an abundance of caution, you want to play by the numbers, we have prepared an appropriate amendment to 8 CFR 245.1(g)(1) for you to consider ( new language in bold italics):

An alien is ineligible for the benefits of section 245 of the Act unless an immigrant visa is immediately available to him or her at the time the application is filed. If the applicant is a preference alien, the current Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs Visa Bulletin will be consulted to determine whether an immigrant visa is immediately available. An immigrant visa is considered available for accepting and processing the application Form I-485 [if] the preference category applicant has a priority date on the waiting list which is earlier than the date shown in the Bulletin (or the Bulletin shows that numbers for visa applicants in his or her category are current) (“current priority date”). An immigrant visa is also considered available for provisional submission of the application Form I-485 based on a provisional priority date without reference to current priority date. No provisional submission can be undertaken absent prior approval of the visa petition and only if visas in the preference category have not been exhausted in the fiscal year. Final adjudication only occurs when there is a current priority date. An immigrant visa is also considered immediately available if the applicant establishes eligibility for the benefits of Public Law 101-238. Information concerning the immediate availability of an immigrant visa may be obtained at any Service office.

If Congress wanted to ratify what the USCIS had done, it could certainly do so after the fact. Everything that we now consider to be the adjustment of status process could take place before the priority date becomes current. Nothing could be simpler. Ali, you have it within your power to end all of the USCIS’ financial woes. You will create an entire new class of customers by the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands and you can charge as much as your want for their provisional adjustments- the sky is the limit for the price of hope is never too high. Until now, Ali, you have listened to your policy gurus who have told you the USCIS is trapped in a zero sum game with no alternative but to make those already inside the tent pay more. We offer a better way. Sure, there will be expenses to service the tsunami of customers but, as with legalization and 245(i), the sheer volume of cases will overwhelm the added costs, particularly when economies of scale and attendant efficiencies are factored in to the equation.

There are other innovative ideas, though not as audacious as our first idea, you can think of too, Ali. The Alternatives to CIR Memo indicates that you have thought of granting EADs to spouses after the H-1B spouse has maximized the six years. How about granting the EAD earlier on, at the very outset, like L-2 or E spouses? These spouses of H-1Bs who also had careers in their home countries need not sit at home twiddling their thumbs while patiently waiting for the day they can file an adjustment application or obtain work authorization. Not only will they rev up our economy, but the filing of tens of thousands of EAD applications will be another source of fees for the USCIS. Can you also think of the revenues you would generate if you allowed for the pre-adjudication of waivers of the 3 and 10 year bars to re-entry prior to departure? This too has been thought through in the Alternatives to CIR Memo, and we applaud your people for doing so and for even considering a lower hardship standard. Most folks with approved I-130 or I-140 petitions who have accrued unlawful presence in excess of 180 days do not want to take the chance of leaving the US unless they know that they can obtain the waiver. Not only will this generate fees, but it will also reduce the undocumented population if people are assured of coming back with green cards after they trigger the 3 or 10 year bars upon departure.

In case you still consider our revenue generating schemes too outlandish, how about some plain vanilla ideas, already proposed in the Alternatives to CIR Memo such as subjecting more applications to premium processing? The EAD presently takes 90 days to renew. Many people forget to file applications in advance of 90 days, and then have to stop working if USCIS does not renew before the expiration of the EAD. Could you consider premium processing of EADs for the thousands of desperate people who want their work permits renewed before the expiration date so that their employment is not disrupted? You could also consider the simultaneous premium processing of advance parole permits? Here are other variations on a premium processing theme: Allow premium processing for stand alone I-539 applications for extension or change of status; premium processing for biometrics for those who wish to leave the US soon after filing the I-131 for a Re-entry permit; charge more for multi-year EADs and parole, and add a further premium for a combined multi-year EAD/Parole. Finally, increase the premium for a 7 day turn around as opposed to a 15 day turnaround. This would also make USICS more efficient. In the 2007 USCIS report to Congress, your agency explained that premium processing involved fewer employees, less repeat steps and less delay.

Take note, Ali, that premium processing will never eliminate the backlog. Those who can pay will pay the higher premium fees. Those who cannot but still need the work permission will pay and wait as the line grows ever longer. No matter how high the fees go, the line remains. Since fees came into existence as the principal USCIS funding mechanism in 1988, the fees and the backlog have both increased. The only way to get rid of the backlog is to change the rules of the game, to expand the universe of clients rather than getting more out of the current universe. That is what provisional submission of adjustments would do. Like 245(i), it creates an entirely new revenue stream that provides the funding for a project dedicated to backlog elimination, not just reduction. In the end, this will save taxpayer money and achieve USCIS efficiencies in a way that higher fees will not make possible. Our proposal also goes hand in hand with the expansion of use of Parole In Place, that has been suggested in the Alternatives To CIR Memo.

Be strong and of good courage Ali. The Alternatives to CIR Memo is a great first step, and we will stand by you despite the fact that critics will think you are bypassing the will of Congress. We have cogently argued in Tyranny of Priority Dates and companion blog pieces that this is not the case as Congress has already given you authority in the existing INA to use executive discretion to ameliorate the hardships of applicants, http://www.cyrusmehta.com/News.aspx?SubIdx=ocyrus20105711018. You are a student of history. Remember what Lincoln said to Congress on the occasion of his second annual message dated December 1, 1862: “The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise -- with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country” Worth a try right?

July 28, 2010


In Round 1 of the legal battle against Arizona's Immigration Law, S.B. 1070, the Constitution triumphed. Judge Susan R. Bolton agreed with the United States that the State of Arizona had invaded into an area that has always been occupied by the federal government, http://www.scribd.com/doc/35017735/USA-v-Arizona-Order-Granting-Preliminary-Injunction. The judge blocked the most controversial provisions - allowing local enforcement to determine immigration status based on a reasonable suspicion that one is unlawfully present and criminalizing failure to carry registration documents.
The following extract from Judge Bolton's order is particularly revealing of the mischief that SB 1070 would unleash tomorrow, July 29, 2010, if these provisions were not preempted under the Supremecy Clause of the Constitution:

Requiring Arizona law enforcement officials and agencies to determine the immigration status of every person who is arrested burdens lawfully-present aliens because their liberty will be restricted while their status is checked. Given the large number of people who are technically “arrested” but never booked into jail or perhaps even transported to a law enforcement facility, detention time for this category of arrestee will certainly be extended during an immigration status verification. (See Escobar, et al. v. City of Tucson, et al., No. CV 10-249-TUC-SRB, Doc. 9, City of Tucson’s Answer & Cross-cl., ¶ 38 (stating that during fiscal year 2009, Tucson used the cite-and-release procedure provided by A.R.S. § 13-3903 to “arrest” and immediately release 36,821 people).) Under Section 2(B) of S.B. 1070, all arrestees will be required to prove their immigration status to the satisfaction of state authorities, thus increasing the intrusion of police presence into the lives of legally-present aliens (and even United States citizens), who will necessarily be swept up by this requirement.
Under our Constitution, a court can block and subseuqently strike down a law that is ultra vires, however popular it might be among the people. It is true that SB 1070 had broad support among people in Arizona. Even in national polls, a majority of people were in favor of this law. Yet if the majority were to have its way, the minority would get oppressed in the same way that a tyrant or despot would trample upon a despised group of people, which is why the term tyranny of the majority, coined by Tocqueville, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyranny_of_the_majority, has gained added significance after the passage of SB 1070 . If the majority of people in a town hypothetically supported a proposal and passed into law a provision to banish all immigrant children from its public school and playgrounds, notwithstanding their status, this would surely be struck down even if it was most popular. The court would serve as a check against the majority, and be guided by the bill of rights and other provisions in our Constituion.
As a lawyer and a naturalized US citizen who might have potentially gotten ensnared under SB 1070 if I ever visited Arizona (but I have chosen to boycott the state until SB 1070 gets completely extinguished), I am proud that the Constitution won over the views of the majority in Round 1. This issue is going to ultimately land up in the Supreme Court, and I do hope that the Constitution will continue to triumph all the way till the end!

July 21, 2010


By Gary Endelman and Cyrus D. Mehta

In all the media frenzy over SB 1070, the extent to which Arizona has abridged the constitutional right of interstate travel has largely been overlooked. Indeed, when seeking to strike down SB 1070, the Justice Department almost exclusively based its objections on preemption by IRCA under the supremacy clause, devoting no attention to other constitutional infirmities. We write now to raise attention to another issue, which has largely been overlooked. Realizing full well that larger issues are at stake, it remains our view that infringement of the right to travel merits serious comment and stands as yet one more reason why Arizona’s initiative should trouble us all.

What about SB 1070 would discourage citizens and lawful resident aliens from travelling to Arizona? Consider the following scenarios and feel free to invent your own:

You are a naturalized American citizen born in Karachi, Pakistan. On a vacation to the Grand Canyon, you are stopped for speeding. Does the State Trooper then have “reasonable suspicion” to believe that you are “unlawfully present” in the United States?

You are a lawful permanent resident born in Honduras. Taking a vacation from your job with Kodak in Rochester, New York, you are trying to find the best directions to visit your old college roommate in Tempe. Not sure what to do, you make the mistake of asking local law enforcement at the next town. Suspicious, they demand to see your “green card” which you left in the motel safe so as not to lose it on the trip. Before you know it, the city police refuse to let you leave since there is no proof of your legal status and it will be the next day until federal authorities can verify it.

Your sister from Ciudad Juarez is getting married in Phoenix and you have to be there. Unfortunately, your car insurance has expired and, right before you leave, you file to renew it but there is not enough time to get a new insurance card before you have to drive from your home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. You get stuck at a random check point where all the drivers have to produce proof of insurance. Not having that, you show your Mexican birth certificate and most recent I-94 showing an expired H1B status for which an extension has been filed but not yet approved since your employer did not want to pay for premium processing. True, law enforcement officials in Arizona are not supposed to consider your “race, color, or national origin” but will they do that anyway under the rationale that this is permitted by the Arizona Constitution?

The semester is over and your whole dorm at Arizona State University has a keg party to celebrate. Things get louder than planned and the campus constabulary pays a not so friendly visit to see what is going on. Your friend from the University of Iowa has come to visit you and he remembers that back home in Cairo such situations do not always end happily. Will he want to come again next year?

Sure, these are made up concerns but are they that far removed from reality? In each of them, how hard is it to believe that the police officer or state trooper making the arrest or conducting the investigation would not claim probable cause to believe that you are removable from the United States? Who among us would be eager to travel to Arizona to find out? These questions are more than free-floating anxieties for they illustrate why SB 1070 strikes at one of the most basic constitutional freedoms, the liberty to travel from one state to another in a civilized and secure manner. Let’s find out what is at stake.

SB 1070 provides a safe harbor by stating that a person is presumed not to be an alien who is unlawfully present in the US if the person provides, inter alia, a valid Arizona driver license. What about a license or another form of identification issued by another state or other federal or state agency? The authors credit David Isaacson for pointing this out. Section 11-1051 states that another identification will only provide a safe harbor if the governmental entity “requires proof of legal presence in the United States before issuance, any valid United States Federal, State or Local government issued identification.” Not every state requires proof of “legal presence” before issuing a driver’s license. For instance, a perusal through New Mexico’s Department of Motor Vehicle’s website, http://www.mvd.newmexico.gov/Drivers/Licensing/How-to-get-a-New-Mexico-Driver-License.html, indicates that the state will accept a Matricular Consular Card, foreign birth certificate or valid foreign passport as proof of identification number and identity. If a US citizen with a driver’s license issued by New Mexico, who was originally born in India, is driving from Santa Fe to San Diego, her driver’s license will not help if an Arizona state trooper stops her if she was going at 58 mph instead of 55 mph and is not carrying other proof of being lawfully present, such as a US passport. If this person is prudent and aware of the dangers of SB 1070, she would rather avoid passing through Arizona and take an extremely circuitous route via Colorado, Utah, and Nevada in order to get to San Diego in California, her final destination.

Let’s read the Constitution for a bit. The Fourteenth Amendment reminds us that Arizona cannot “deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The term “person” when used for this purpose includes both citizens and aliens here under color of law. Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 US 356 (1886). Any attempt by Arizona to classify travelers based on their where they come from is “inherently suspect and subject to close judicial scrutiny.” Graham v. Dept. of Pub. Welfare, 403 US 365, 372 (1971).Taken together, each of the individuals noted above belong to a “discrete and insular” minority, United States v. Carolene Products Co., 304 U.S. 144, 152-153 n.4 (1938) and we would do well to remember that “ the power of a state to apply its laws exclusively to its alien inhabitants as a class is confined within narrow limits.” Takahasi v. Fish & Game Comm’n, 334 US 410, 420 (1948).All those who come here, not just citizens, can claim the Constitution as their own.

We take for granted our freedom to move from state to state but, precisely because not everyone can, the Constitution protects it. The right to mobility has repeatedly been recognized and upheld by the Supreme Court. See, e.g., Memorial Hospital v. Maricopa County, 415 US 250, 255 n.7 (1974); Oregon v. Mitchell, 480 US 112, 237(1970); Edwards v. California, 314 US 160(1961); Twining v. New Jersey, 211 US 78, 97 (1908). This is a right that is “firmly embedded in our jurisprudence, “ United States v. Guest, 383 US 745, 757 (1966), a freedom so central that it is “assertable against private interference as well as governmental action…a virtually unconditional personal right, guaranteed by the Constitution to us all.” Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 US 618, 643 (1969) ( Stewart, J, concurring ). Whoever they are, wherever they began, regardless of why they arrive, those who come to Arizona enjoy the “right to be treated as a welcome visitor rather than an unfriendly alien…”Saenz v. Roe, 526 US 489, 500-501 (1999). Whatever authority Arizona has, it is not so great as to decide who has the right to live or visit; indeed, the very exclusivity of SB 1070 runs directly counter to the fundamental spirit and essential character of the Fourteenth Amendment itself, an expression in Mr. Justice Cardozo’s ringing words of the “theory that the peoples of the several states must sink or swim together, and that in the long run prosperity and salvation are in union and not division.” Baldwin v. G.A. F. Seelig, Inc., 294 US 511, 523 (1935)(Cardozo, J). The chilling effect that SB 1070 must have on the right of interstate travel can “produce nothing but discord and mutual irritation, “ as Chief Justice Taney so eloquently expressed in his celebrated dissent in Passenger Cases, 7 How. 283, 492, 12 L.Ed. 702 (1949).

Those who defend SB 1070 correctly note that the right of interstate travel has traditionally been regarded as a privilege of national citizenship. While the Supreme Court has not taken a step further to establish an explicit nexus between the right to travel and alienage, it is no less true that the Court has neither prohibited such a connection nor opined against it. “There are millions of aliens within the jurisdiction of the United States, “Mr. Justice Stevens reminds us in Matthews v. Diaz, 426 US 67, 77(1976), “ The Fifth Amendment, as well as the Fourteenth Amendment, protects everyone of these persons from deprivation of life, liberty, or property without due process of law…(citations omitted) Even one whose presence in this country is unlawful, involuntary or transitory is entitled to that constitutional protection.”

Critics will rightly note that the word ”travel” nowhere appears in the text of the Constitution itself. Some liberties are so intrinsic that they need not be mentioned by name. Before we had our present charter, Article IV of the Articles of Confederation, our first constitution, guaranteed that “ the people of each State of each State shall have free ingress and regress to and from any other State.” Professor Zechariah Chafee teaches us that, whatever its constitutional provenance, freedom to travel, no less than freedom of speech, press, religion or assembly, is a basic human right whose exercise comes under the full panoply of due process of law. Zechariah Chafee, Three Human Rights in the Constitution of 1787 at 185. http://www.constitution.org/cmt/zc/zc_3hrc.htm

Why oppose SB 1070? Mr. Justice Jackson gave us the answer in Edwards v. People of State of California, 314 US 160, 184 (1941) when he refused to allow California to bar poor people : indigence was not a contagion that must be quarantined. The Arizona legislature has already recognized why SB 1070 is so troubling to so many and, through its subsequent enactment of HB 2162, advised law enforcement authorities not to “consider race, color or national origin,” except to the extent allowed under the Arizona or US constitutions. Despite this, we know in our bones that the impermissible invocation of these invidious and immutable characteristics is the only way for this evil law to be enforced; its very existence is an irresistible invitation to government overreaching the protection against which is "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.” Palko v. Connecticut, 302 US 319, 325 (1937)(Cardozo, J).

July 8, 2010


Gary Endelman and Cyrus D. Mehta

As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, the world seems to be getting far more flat than what Tom Friedman originally envisaged with people being able to deliver services and products to the US and other countries from anywhere via the internet. Also, coinciding with this flat world is the most severe US recession in living memory, which compels people, including immigrants, to find jobs in other parts of the world and yet remain firmly rooted with the US.

Gone are the days when immigrants came to the US in sailboats and steamships, destined never to return home. In today’s globalized flat world, with access to cheap direct flights across continents, broadband internet, Blackberries, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and video conferencing, an immigrant can continue to maintain deep ties and bonds even if absent from the country. It is quite typical for a US company to assign its key employee, a freshly minted green card holder, working in the US to set up operations in Mumbai or Shanghai for a few years, with the intention of ultimately returning to the US. Yet, this person’s ability to become a US citizen can get jeopardized as a result of this overseas assignment. In our previous article on a related subject, Home Is Where The Card Is: How To Preserve Lawful Permanent Resident Status In A Global Economy, 13 Bender’s Immigration Bulletin 849 (July 1, 2008), we focused on strategies to preserve permanent residence. In this blog post, we examine the tension between our citizenship laws and the global economy, and the challenges it poses to those who desire to naturalize.

An applicant must meet certain threshold eligibility criteria in order to become a US citizen. Pursuant to § 316(a) of the Immigration & Naturalization Act (INA), the applicant must establish that immediately preceding the filing of the application, he or she has resided continuously within the US for at least five years after being lawfully admitted for permanent residence. If the applicant has been in marital union with a US citizen spouse for three years, the continuous residence requirement is three years instead of five years. Moreover, under INA § 316(a), the applicant must also establish that he or she has been physically present in the US for periods totaling at least half of that time and has resided within the State or district of the Service where the applicant filed the application for at least three months.

Furthermore, INA § 316(a)(2) also requires the applicant to establish that he or she has resided continuously within the US from the date of the application up to the time of citizenship. INA § 316(a)(3) requires the applicant to establish, inter alia, that he or she is still a person of good moral character during the relevant 5 or 3-year period.

INA § 316(b) states that an absence from the US of more than six months but less than one year during the 5-year period immediately preceding the filing of the application may break the continuity of such residence. INA § 316(b) notes that should such a presumption arise, it may be rebutted if the applicant can establish that he or she in fact did not abandon his or her residence during such period.

This is the killer provision, which we focus on in this post, and which creates problem when a permanent resident is based overseas and wishes to naturalize after completing 3 or 5 years, but is not able to continuously reside in the US even though he or she still returns to the country frequently and maintains extensive ties. Naturalization is a most desired goal, since paradoxically, once the person successfully naturalizes, he or she is no longer required to maintain a residence in the US. However, in order to naturalize, the applicant must maintain continuity of residence, and this is often thwarted by the fact that he or she is working overseas. The spouse who is overseas because he or she is accompanying the other spouse and who is often caring for the children, also suffers as a result.

There appear to be two views of what constitutes residence. INA § 101(a)(33) states: “The term ‘residence’ means the place of general abode; the place of general abode of a person means his principal, actual dwelling place in fact, without regard to intent.” Note that the concept of domicile, which considers the applicant’s intent rather than the place where he or she actually lives, is not relevant in determining whether the applicant for naturalization has resided continuously in the US. Under this provision, an applicant may be deemed to not being a resident regardless of the number of days he or she is away from the US. An applicant who is getting nowhere during the naturalization interview because of the examiner’s invocation of § 101(a)(33) should remind the examiner that the statute requires not mere residence but continuous residence in the US, and must point him or her to 8 C.F.R. § 316.5(c)(1)(i), which provides that an absence of between six months and one year shall disrupt the continuity of residence unless the applicant can establish otherwise to the satisfaction of the Service. Thus, unless the applicant was outside the US for six months or more but less than a year, he or she should argue that there was no disruption of continuous residence. Yet the authors have known of naturalization examiners improperly clubbing two back to back lengthy trips although each one was less than 180 days. Remember, if your client did not stay away one year, he or she must be considered a resident of the same state where they lived before leaving. 8 C.F.R. 316.5 (b)(5). See Accardi V. Shaugnessey, 347 US 260(1954); Morton v.Ruiz, 415 US 199, 235 (1974)(“Where the rights of individuals are affected, it is incumbent upon agencies to follow their own procedures.”).

What if the person was out of the US for more than six months and less than a year and has disrupted continuity of residence? Don’t lose hope. 8 C.F.R. § 316.5(c)(1)(i) provides examples of the types of documentation which may establish that the applicant did not disrupt the continuity of his or her residence. Specifically, the regulation states that the evidence may include “but [is] not limited to” evidence that during an extended absence:

(A) The applicant did not terminate his or her employment in the US;
(B) The applicant’s immediate family remained in the US;
(C) The applicant retained full access to his or her US abode; or
(D) The applicant did not obtain employment while abroad.

In Li v. Chertoff, 490 F.Supp.2d 130 (D. Massachusetts 2007), a federal district court held that an applicant who had absences of more than six months but less than 1 year as a student in Canada did not disrupt the continuity of residence even though she had obtained permanent residence in Canada. The plaintiff, after being downsized from a US employer, went to Canada to pursue an opportunity to study in a dental program at the University of Alberta. Her husband accompanied her to Canada and took up a job with the same contractual term as the plaintiff’s course of study. The rest of the plaintiff’s family still lived in the US and she retained a home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where mail was delivered and she also continued to file tax returns in the US. While rejecting the application of the generic definition of residence in § 101(a)(33) in favor of continuous residence, the court clarified that that the four criteria in 8 C.F.R. §316.5(c)(1) may establish that the applicant did not disrupt the continuity of her residence, but also noted that it may consider other relevant factors. Although the court did not accept her argument that she did not terminate her employment in the US under prong (A) since her employer forcibly terminated her, the court accepted the fact that her extended family remained in the US under prong (B), even though her most immediate family member, her husband, accompanied her to Canada, and it was undisputed that she retained access to her home in the US under (C) and she did had not obtained employment in Canada under (D).

Compare Li v. Chertoff with an earlier case In Re Bartkiw, 199 F.Supp. 762 (E.D. Pa. 1961), where the former INS granted naturalization based on incorrect information, not knowing about Bartkiw’s relocation to Canada. The district court in Pennsylvania in denying Bartkiw’s claim that she had not disrupted residence made an observation which was redolent of an era prior to feminism’s onset a few years later:

We find it impossible to conclude that this young woman, married, with her husband holding a responsible position in Canada where he was a citizen, and who thereafter maintained a home with him, did not intend to live in Canada as a resident. It may very well be, as stated in our findings of fact, that both she and her husband hoped that at some time in the future she would become a citizen of the United States; that he would obtain employment in the United States and that they would live here permanently as husband and wife. But, unfortunately for the position of the respondent, that hope for the future and not a present fact.

Bartkiw, 199 F.Supp. at 766.

Clearly, Li v. Chertoff is the better decision, and naturalization examiners ought to be taking into account other factors besides the four factors set forth in 8 C.F.R. § 316.5(c)(1). What if the accompanying spouse of the rotational executive is pregnant with complications and both are unable to return to the US within 180 days? Should this not be considered a relevant factor? After all, the regulation suggests that the evidence that may be used to rebut the disruption of continuity of residence need not be limited to these four factors. In analogous cases involving the abandonment of permanent residence, which can be avoided if the trip abroad was temporary, the term “temporary visit abroad” has recently been subject to interpretation by the Circuit Courts. The Ninth Circuit’s interpretation is generally followed:

A trip is a “temporary visit abroad” if (a) it is for a relatively short period, fixed by some early event; or (b) the trip will terminate upon the occurrence of an event that has a reasonable possibility of occurring within a relatively short period of time. If as in (b) the length of the visit is contingent upon the occurrence of an event and is not fixed in time and if the event does not occur within a relatively short period of time, the visit will be considered a “temporary visit abroad” only if the alien has a continuous, uninterrupted intention to return to the United States during the visit.

See Singh v. Reno, 113 F.3d 1512, 1514 (9th Cir. 1997); Chavez- Ramirez v INS, 792 F.2d 932 (9th Cir. 1985).

The Second Circuit, with respect to the second prong, has further clarified that when the visit “relies upon an event with a reasonable possibility of occurring within a short period to time…the intention of the visitor must still be to return within a period relatively short, fixed by some early event.” See Ahmed v.Ashcroft, 286 F.3d 611, 613 (2d Cir. 2002); see also Hana v. Gonzales, 400 F.3d 472 (LPR status not abandoned where LPR was compelled to return to Iraq to resume her job and be with her family while they were waiting for immigrant visas to materialize).

Practitioners should creatively argue on behalf of their clients that unforeseen events may have delayed a return back to the US in less than 180 days. Moreover, even if one’s intent is not relevant in determining disruption of residence, unlike the law on abandonment of permanent residency, these decisions can still be helpful to argue that there were relevant factors to assess whether or not residence had been abandoned for purposes of naturalization. We should also forcefully argue that working for a US corporation overseas on a temporary basis ought to be a relevant factor and not a negative. See Matter of Wu, 14 I&N Dec. 290 (R.C. 1973) (denial of reentry permit was erroneous since the LPR was employed for an American firm overseas and had successfully applied for preservation of continuity of residence for purposes of naturalization).

Finally, while beyond the scope of this post, always explore if there are other ways to naturalize that would obviate the perpetual anxiety of a permanent resident living outside the US. Under INA § 319(b), spouses of US citizens working overseas for US corporations or their subsidiaries, or in certain other capacities, can naturalize without meeting the residency requirements, http://tiny.cc/so5p3. Employees working abroad can preserve their residency by filing Form N-470 if, inter alia, they work for an American firm or corporation, or a subsidiary thereof, that is engaged in the development of foreign trade or commerce of the US. But in order to be eligible, the applicant must demonstrate one year of actual unbroken physical presence in the US after acquiring permanent residency. Matter of Graves, 19 I&N Dec. 337 (Comm’r. 1985); Matter of Copeland, 19 I&N Dec. 788 (Comm’r. 1988). Very few can meet this requirement as even a brief day trip to Canada during that one year period will disqualify the applicant from filing the N-470 application. Remember what an N-470 will do and what it will not do. If approved, the N-470 means that concerns over continuity of residence can be put aside. However, all other substantive requirements for naturalization, including satisfaction of physical presence requirements still must be satisfied. The N-470 may avoid disruption of continuity of residence but your client could still be deemed to have abandoned permanent resident status. That is where and why the re-entry permit can be a lifesaver especially since, if the issue of green card abandonment is raised when the person returns to the US, contrary to what you and your client might expect, there is some recent case authority for placing the burden of proof that abandonment did not occur squarely upon the unsuspecting shoulders of the soon to be surprised permanent resident. And if you are out for more than one year, you will need to accumulate another round of 4 years and 1 day to naturalize. 8 C.F.R. 316.5(c)(1)(ii). This could be true even if it was Uncle Sam that prevented your client from coming back sooner. In Gildernew v. Quarantillo, 594 F.3d 131, 133 (2d Cir. 2010) TSA put the permanent resident on a “No Fly” list for a year while he cooled his heels in Ireland. Ultimately concluding that there was no”derogatory information” against him , TSA let him come home but too late to save his ability to naturalize as he had been out of the US for more than one year.

As the immortal philosopher Will Rogers was fond of saying: “Even if you are on the right track, you'll still get run over if you just sit there.”