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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Emilio González
Under Secretary of Homeland Security
Director, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
July 24, 2006

Dr. Emilio González
I’m happy to join you today to discuss what we do at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). I consider it an honor and a privilege to have been selected by the President to be the Director of USCIS. Only in America, can an immigrant be in charge of immigration, and I am grateful for this unique opportunity to serve my adopted country.

Wendy, from None writes:
Can you tell me what I should do to push my case to get adjudicated without hiring an immigration attorney to file complaint in federal court? Please do not afraid of saying "I don't know".

Dr. Emilio González
Your question does not state whether your case is based on a family relationship, employment, or something else, such as asylum. We post processing times on our website. If you received a receipt from us for your case and it has a receipt number, you can also check the status of your application on our website.

We also have specific criteria to let customers help us by telling us if their case is older than our current processing time, or about certain other problems. They are summarized in a fact sheet on our website,, describing case services for customers who have already filed. I recommend you first use this process.

Juga, from Columbus, Ohio writes:
How long it takes to get your greencard if married to a Us citizen ?Thanks

Dr. Emilio González
One of the most common ways people immigrate is based on a relationship to a U.S. citizen. If your U.S. citizen husband or wife wants to help you immigrate, he/she would start the process by filing a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. This form is available on our website at

If you are already in the U.S., entered legally, and meet certain other requirements, you may be able to file an I-485 application for permanent residence at the same time your husband or wife files the I-130 relative petition for you. This is called adjustment of status. Otherwise the Department of State will invite you to apply for an immigrant visa shortly after we approve the petition. In some cases, the petition itself can be filed directly at the U.S. Consulate.

Now, in terms of how long this takes. That depends on whether you are here and apply for adjustment of status, or apply for an immigrant visa after your husband or wife files the relative petition.

If you file both together, you can check our website for current processing times for the I-485 adjustment application to get a sense of the average processing time at the office at which your case will be processed. We have an office in Columbus, Ohio, where you indicated you live. Right now that office is completing applications for adjustment of status within our 6 month goal processing time.

If you will apply for an immigrant visa, our goal is to have the relative petition processed and to the Department of State within 6 months.

yelena, from None writes:
Dear Mr. Gonzlez My question is on behalf of my relatives who live in Haifa, Israel. Because of the current extreme warfare situation it is impossible to feel save, work and live in Israel. Thus they are forced to considerate another immigration and the only place they fell save and comfortable to go to is United States of America. Is there is a possibility for them to immigrate to America and be granted a status of legal resident, so they can live and work here, contributing their best? Truly Yours, Yelena

Dr. Emilio González
America has a great legacy as a welcoming country for legal immigrants. In most cases, the immigrant visa process begins with the Department of State. They have a very good web site,, that explains the immigrant visa application process. Also, if you live here in the United States, you may be able to sponsor your relatives to begin the immigrant visa process. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services web site,, contains helpful information on sponsoring a foreign national relative for family-based immigration.

Zuhal, from Saint Louis, Missouri writes:
I have been waiting for adjustment of status to Permanent resident for 8 years now (1998-2006). I am an Asylee. Is there any hope for me?

Dr. Emilio González
Until Congress passed the Real ID Act in May 2005, there was a numerical cap on how many people could be granted permanent residence based on having been given asylum. This built up a large backlog of waiting applicants.

The Real ID Act lifted this cap. In response, USCIS developed a production plan to work through the entire backlog of applications and by October 1, 2007 to get processing time down to our goal for this kind of application, which is 6 months.

Since you indicate you filed in 1998, you should anticipate that we will complete processing of your case by the end of this September.

Geof, from McLean VA writes:
I was thriiled to see the notice that the premium processing program will be expanded. When will premium processing be available for I-140 applicants?

Dr. Emilio González
I-140 Premium Processing will be rolled out in several stages. The first stage will involve what is known as the EB-3 category, which relates to what are known as “skilled workers, professionals, and other workers.” USCIS expects to allow filing of EB-3 I-140’s sometime in August. As stated in the notice that you read, USCIS will announce on its website,, the exact date premium processing will become available. We plan to announce additional expansions on the website later this year.

Amit, from St. Petersburg, Fl writes:
Dear Mr. Gonzales, I am an Immigration Attorney and attended your speech you addressed at AILA Annual Conference, San Antonio, TX. I enjoyed it Believe it or not, USCIS efficiency, consistency has improved significantly, altough there is a lot of room for improvement. Thank you, Amit

Dr. Emilio González
Thank you for your important feedback. This year we established a Transformation Program that ensures the progress our agency has made over the last several years will continue into the future. Key to our success will be the establishment of an electronic case management system that will make it easier for our customers to apply for immigration benefits while meeting critical security requirements to keep our Nation safe. During the coming months, information will be provided to our customers regarding these important initiatives.

Donald, from Anaheim, CA writes:
With international adoptions taking much longer to complete, how is the USCIS addressing requests to lengthening the time that I171H and other related documents are valid?

Dr. Emilio González
Thanks for your question, Donald. We are very much aware of this issue and recognize that there are concerns with the process. Currently, USCIS is closely reviewing the existing regulations regarding the I171H which is the inital step in the approval process for parents seeking international adoptions.

Jack, from CA writes:
Is name check delay by FBI really helping the national security?

Dr. Emilio González
Our top priority at USCIS continues to be preserving the integrity of the immigration system in this county. While providing accurate and responsive immigration service is of paramount importance, UISCIS does not do so at the expense of national security or public safety. To this end, USCIS conducts law enforcement checks on all applications and petitions before they are adjudicated, completing approximately 35 million background checks a year.

In addition, USCIS maintains a strict policy requiring that all law enforcement checks be resolved prior to granting an immigration benefit by obtaining necessary information from appropriate law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Ralph, from Boston writes:
What can I do to become a naturalize citizen? I have live here for 15 years under the TPS policy. I am originally from Liberia, West Africa. We are consider an the American Liberians or Congos people that parents originally came from here and went back to africa. Are my options generally to become a Republican, or Democrat, or marry a us citizen? What other options I have to Naturalize. Thanks for the opportunity.

Dr. Emilio González
Naturalization is an important milestone in an immigrant's journey to the United States, and the most valuable benefit granted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Naturalized citizens, by embracing the common civic values that unite all Americans, continue to enrich the social fabric of the United States. In general, the path to naturalization begins with obtaining status as a permanent resident in the United States. Information about this process can be found on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services web site, Also, party affiliation has nothing at all to do with the naturalization process. And, of course, voting is one of the privileges and responsibilities reserved to U.S. citizens.

Matt, from Biloxi, MS writes:
Mr. Gonzalez,Due to the recently enacted IMBRA law, many visa applications (specifically I-129F K-1 applications) are being held up at the California Service Center with no word on when the approval process will begin again. The Vermont Service Center seems to be approving visas but the process at the California Service Center seems to be broke. Could you please tell us when we can expect to see this fixed? Many people have been waiting patiently but are starting to get impatient due to the inactivity and lack of answers from your personnel. Thank you.

Dr. Emilio González
Both the Vermont Service Center and the California Service Center are actively adjudicating petitions for alien fiance (Form I-129F). All those still pending that came in on the old, pre-IMBRA version if the I-129F have recently been sent a request for the additional information required under IMBRA. Once responses are received by the Service Centers, these cases will be completed.

Dana, from Mesa, Arizona writes:
Good afternoon Mr. Gonzalez, First, I would like to congratulate you on the positive infastructual changes which have occured within U.S.C.I.S in assisting the elimination of the historical backlog. My question: I have read the CIRA 2006 and if passed into law how will this affect undocumented immigrants who are in removal proceedings and those who have been ordered removed, both due to a denial of a Cancellation of Removal application.

Dr. Emilio González
Thank you for acknowledging the hard work of USCIS employees to eliminate the backlog. The issue of access to legalization programs by aliens in removal proceedings, or subject to final orders, was vigorously debated in the Senate during consideration of S. 2611. The bill as passed by the Senate is not final legislation, therefore it is premature to comment on possible implications until a final bill is passed by Congress and signed by the President.

Mike, from NYC writes:
Are you a Naturalized Citizen, and if so, when did you become one. Futhermore, how and where did you enter the country. Have yo uundergone a recent background check? Did you pay the appropriate fees and do you have the receipts to prove so? Under which type of VISA did you enter? Were you ever an illegal immigrant, either by choice or circumstance?

Dr. Emilio González
Mike, yes I am a naturalized U.S. citizen. I entered the country in 1961 and became a U.S. citizen in 1966. Since this was so long ago, I do not recall what the fee was but I assume my parents paid it (I was 9 at the time) otherwise I would not have been naturalized and therefore, I have never been an illegal immigrant.

My situation, and that of my family, is proof that the legal immigration system of our great Nation works as it was intended.

Dr. Emilio González
Thanks to everyone for taking the time to send these excellent questions. I would like to leave you with one final thought. USCIS has a responsibility to the American people to maintain the integrity of our national immigration system. Our priority to national security and prevention guides our every action. USCIS was placed in the Department of Homeland Security for a reason -- we play a vital national security role in safeguarding our nation from external threat.

Through these efforts, we remain ever mindful of our responsibility to honor our historic traditions of welcoming lawful immigrants and we support that ideal by keeping America's doors open, but well guarded. It has been my pleasure to answer your questions today and hope to return in the near future.

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