Murthy Success Story: Clients Become U.S. Citizens after N-400 Denials

For almost a decade, foreign nationals and their employers have benefited from the provisions of the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (AC21) in employment-based, permanent residence cases. These provisions allow for enhanced employment flexibility as part of the permanent resident (commonly referred to as the “green card”) process. Given the passage of years, AC21 matters can reappear in the context of applications for naturalization to U.S. citizenship. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reviews the naturalization applicant’s green card history as naturalization requires that the green card approval was proper and lawful. This article describes our recent successful efforts at the Murthy Law Firm to overcome the denials of a couple’s citizenship cases, in which the USCIS initially found that the underlying green card approval was improper. We appreciate the willingness of our clients, allowing us to share their story with MurthyDotCom and MurthyBulletin readers. All client information is confidential and none is shared without explicit permission.

Naturalization Case Denials Before Murthy’s Involvement

Prior to our firm’s involvement in this case, the individual applied for naturalization to become a U.S. citizen. This case was filed without the help of an attorney, as he felt that the case was fairly straightforward. The USCIS viewed the matter differently, denying the case for two reasons. Both reasons were related to the legitimacy of the approval of the applicant’s permanent residence. The USCIS denied the individual’s application for naturalization (N-400) because it was believed that his priority date was not current when his I-485 was approved. Additionally, the naturalization adjudicator understood the green card approval to be improper because the required employer petition (Form I-140) had been revoked by the employer prior to the I-485 approval.

USCIS Position: Applicant Had No Lawful GC Approval

One important requirement for naturalization to U.S. citizenship is that the applicant possess the status of a lawful permanent resident for a specific duration. There are instances in which foreign nationals may hold permanent resident status improperly, due to an approval having been inappropriately granted. In USCIS terminology, such individuals do not meet the “lawful” permanent resident requirement, because their approval was not correct under the law. This was the underlying problem in this particular case. The USCIS agreed that the individual had a green card approval, but did not agree that it was a proper, lawful approval.

Murthy Argues GC Approvals Proper Under Law

This individual came to the Murthy Law Firm after receiving a denial in his naturalization case. We also assisted his wife, as her naturalization case had been denied on essentially on the same basis, as she had been a derivative beneficiary in the principal’s green card case. Our attorneys reviewed the case background and determined that valid arguments could be put forth in support of the approval of the original green card case. We showed that concern over the priority date was just a matter of confusion, and so it was fairly easily resolvable.

The AC21 arguments were somewhat more complex, but fit within the USCIS guidance on AC21. We argued that the green card cases for our clients had been properly approved, notwithstanding the sponsoring employer’s withdrawal of the underlying I-140 petition. Our attorneys demonstrated successfully to the USCIS that this case fit within the parameters of the August 4, 2003 USCIS memo from William Yates, which addresses the availability of AC21 portability benefits after the initial sponsoring employer withdraws or revokes the I-140 petition. Under the guidance in the applicable memorandum, in cases where an I-140 is approved and the I-485 is pending 180 days, the foreign national still has eligibility for green card approval, even if the initial employer or sponsor chooses to withdraw or revoke the I-140 petition approval.

Procedural Steps: Murthy Challenges Denials

Procedurally, the filing that is made to challenge the denial of an application for naturalization is an N-336, Request for Hearing on Decision in Naturalization Proceedings. Thus, we prepared the N-336 for our clients, requesting a new hearing on the case, and for the USCIS to reverse the denial of the N-400 naturalization application. We supported this with a detailed brief setting forth the clarifications and arguments regarding the priority date, and the AC21 eligibility.

In support of the AC21 eligibility, we documented that the USCIS had actually reviewed and considered our clients AC21 eligibility prior to approving the green card case. We showed that the USCIS had issued a notice of intent to deny (NOID) the I-485 following the I-140 withdrawal. We documented that, in response to the NOID, the individual had responded with a letter verifying his employment in a new job met the AC21 requirements. The USCIS approved the I-485s for the primary applicant and his spouse following receipt of the NOID response. Thus, the USCIS was aware of the facts in the case, and, after review, had approved the green cards of the couple properly, and lawfully.

U.S. Citizenship Approved After N-336 Hearing

In the end, our clients were interviewed by USCIS a second time at the N-336 hearing. However, this went much better than the initial interview, and the officer determined that the Murthy Law Firm was correct and the couple was indeed eligible to become U.S. citizens. The USCIS determined that our clients had lawfully become green card holders because the primary I-485 applicant had properly used AC21. This case is important to highlight how the USCIS looks back to determine one’s process of becoming a permanent resident, when deciding a naturalization case.

Importance of AC21 Portability Notification to USCIS

This type of issue in a naturalization case again confirms our standard advice at the Murthy Law Firm regarding the need to properly document the use of AC21 portability in a green card case. It is safest in most cases to be proactive. While it is not legally necessary to file the AC21 notification, and some cases receive RFEs and NOIDs that prompt the AC21 notification filing, it is our opinion that it is generally best to provide the notification. This fully documents one’s eligibility for AC21 portability and green card approval on that basis, which can reduce any future uncertainty as to whether the approval was issued correctly, should one choose to file for U.S. citizenship.

Conclusion

As this case demonstrates, it is always helpful to obtain legal advice prior to filing a naturalization case. This can help in identifying potential problems. In some cases, it is important to have legal representation during the entire naturalization process and at the interview.

This case is also a reminder that potential immigration complications do not always disappear after receipt of the green card. The problems in this case were not due to the action or inaction of our client. They do illustrate, however, that it may be critical to understand one’s liabilities and responsibilities in order to obtain green card approval and remain legally in the United States as a permanent resident; eventually filing to become a U.S. citizen, if desired.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.
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