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Name Check: California Immigration Settlement to Speed Citizenship Applications

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on November 11, 2009 8:50 AM

Check please! This is what approximately 500 California based applicants for American citizenship have been waiting for, some for years.

On November 9th, attorneys announced a settlement approved in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana showing the government has agreed to major changes in its processing of applications for citizenship. The settlement between the National Immigration Law Center, the ACLU of Southern California, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and the firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson for the plaintiffs, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), now prohibits delays of more than 6 months on applications from Los Angeles and surrounding counties . Further, the indefinite delays due to the FBI's name check process are now also prohibited.

As might be expected, a huge increase in names has slowed the FBI process since 2001. The Fresno Bee reports that in 2007, the FBI had as many as 350,000 name checks pending, "but has since bolstered staffing and upgraded technology to reduce the backlog."

The FBI name check process applies to all applicants seeking "privileges" such as citizenship, attendance at a White House function, government employment or security clearance. The process requires the FBI to search all of its files to ensure the name in question was not the subject of, nor even mentioned in, an FBI investigation. Despite the snail pace of the search, according to the FBI only about 1% of those in the name check system show negative, or what is termed "derogatory" information. 

Immediate results of the settlement will be felt by those with pending citizenship applications in Southern California, however there are similar, newly settled cases in both New York and Seattle where applications will also be affected. 

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