Americans and the Citizenship Test
One of the requirements to become a naturalized citizen of the United States is to pass a civics test. The knowledge contained within the civics test is supposed to be basic historical, social, and political information about the United States. There are many requirements to become a citizen – good moral character, physical presence, continuous residence – but the citizenship test is one that is symbolic of the process.
Ipsos Public Affairs gave the examination to 2,000 Americans. You can see how they performed here.
California Becomes First State to Allow Health Care Insurance Access for Undocumented Migrants
Governor Jerry Brown of California has signed SB10, which allows for some undocumented migrants in the state to have access to health care through the Affordable Care Act. The federal government does not allow for undocumented migrants to receive health care under the Affordable Care Act. California is the first state to pass and sign legislation of this sort. The law would work by having the state negotiate a waiver with the federal government, so that individuals can purchase insurance on the state’s exchange. The point is to expand health insurance coverage and also to lower premiums for everyone.
California is the most populous state in the Union. 7% of its population is constituted of undocumented migrants (approximately 2.6 million – which is also over 20% of all undocumented migrants in the United States). California is the sole state to offer this kind of health insurance access. States are vastly different in various issues that affect their undocumented residents – in state tuition, drivers licenses, insurance.
Birthright Citizenship: Supreme Court Turns Down Review for American Samoans
The Supreme Court turned down an appeal yesterday, meaning that the justices will not review an appeals court ruling that only Congress, not courts, can change the law that birth in the American Samoa does not confer US citizenship. A law passed in 1900 declared that individuals born in the American Samoa are US nationals but not US citizens. The 1900 law reflected the ethos of its time: Supreme Court ruled that people in the newly acquired U.S. territories were not entitled to all the constitutional rights of American citizens. Justice Henry Brown said the “development of the American empire” could be set back by the “annexation of distant possessions,” which are “inhabited by alien races.”
Five American Samoans pointed to the 14th Amendment in bringing their case, which confers birthright citizenship to individuals born in the United States. Other territories of the US received birthright citizenship in the 20th century, but American Samoans remain without it.
Birthright citizenship was enshrined in the 14th Amendment, which is one of the three post-Civil War amendments. The purpose of birthright citizenship is to ensure all individuals born in the United States are citizens, rather than creating classes of citizenship, such as that which existed antebellum.
New H-1B Bill Seeks Fundamental Changes to the Program
A new bill – The High Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2015 – is poised to be introduced by two Californian legislators: Zoe Lofgren (D) and Darrell Issa (R). The bill proposes multiple changes to the H-1B visa and employment-based immigration, particularly to the H-1B lottery. The highlights of the bill are listed below:
- It will fundamentally alter the way the lottery works. The lottery process is shrouded in mystery, hence a lawsuit to extract information. Theoretically, all petitions are equally treated. This bill proposes giving employers who pay their prospective H-1B employees the most over the prevailing wage the best chance at success in the lottery. For example, an IT company that is willing to pay its Software Developer 200% of the prevailing wage will have an advantage over the IT company that is going to pay its Software Developer a dollar above the prevailing wage.
- Wages would not solely determine a petition’s chance at success in the new lottery. Also taken into consideration would be companies that hire US workers mainly. H-1B dependent employers would be prejudiced in favor of those companies.
- 20% of the lottery H-1B visas would be allocated to small companies (firms with fewer than 50 employees). This is to address the complaint of small and medium companies that a few large companies eat up all of the H-1B visas in the lottery.
- H-1B dependent employers currently have to pay a $60,000 salary to count themselves as exempt from the recruitment process. That threshold would increase to $130,000 under the bill. There may be a loophole if the employer petitions the employee for a Green Card.
- Per country caps on employment-based immigration visas would be eliminated. There are 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas available a year. The nationals of a country cannot obtain more than 7% of that number. By sheer population, that puts nationals of India and China at a major disadvantage, and they have to spend extraordinary times waiting for their Permanent Residence, despite approved employment-based immigration petitions.
- The L-1 visa remains untouched by this bill. There is no mention of filing fees, which are due to increase anyway. Certain companies have been hit with an enormous filing fee for H and L visa petitions.
List most legislation concerning immigration reform, this could go by the wayside. The legislative process may create even more changes or dilute some of the proposals.
Backlogged in India: Nonimmigrant Visa Interview Times
If you are planning on having a nonimmigrant visa interview at a US consulate in India, make your arrangements early. All of the US consulates in the country are badly backed up, with waiting times of:
Chennai – 75 days
Hyderabad – 93 days
Kolkata – 96 days
Mumbai – 88 days
New Delhi – 100 days
These are the average wait times for nonimmigrant visas outside of the B, F, and J category, which have different procedures.
There are possibilities for expediting a nonimmigrant interview, provided there is a family or business emergency. Another option could be to process the nonimmigrant visa in a different country’s US consulate, as a third country national.