Sayed* came to the United States in 2010 after having served the U.S. military in Iraq as an interpreter for five years. He was forced to leave Iraq under threat of death after his work with our armed forces was discovered by militants opposed to the U.S. presence there. Upon his departure from his country, he was awarded with numerous commendations for his courage, service, and sacrifice which were credited with having advanced the United States’ military mission in Iraq.
In March 2015, after accruing the required five years of presence in the USA as a lawful permanent resident (and meeting all other requirements), Sayed applied with USCIS for naturalization. His application stalled. Despite many attempts to gain information from USCIS about his application, Sayed was kept in the dark for almost three years regarding the status of his case. In late 2017, Sayed hired Walker Gates Vela to help with his case.
First, Walker Gates Vela reviewed Sayed’s application thoroughly. In doing so, we were able to ascertain that there was nothing in the contents of the application itself indicating a problem that could account for the delay.
Second, we submitted a written request for information to the San Antonio office of USCIS, where the application was to be adjudicated. When, after 30 days we did not receive a response to our inquiry, we escalated the case to the USCIS General Counsel in San Antonio. The GC was able to locate Sayed’s file and prompt USCIS adjudicators to schedule the required interview.
The Naturalization Interview
At the interview on his application, Sayed was subjected to questions which far exceeded the scope of what is normally reviewed during an application for naturalization. At the end of his interview, Sayed was instructed to gather and provide an extensive list of additional documentation in support of his application.
WGV helped Sayed gather, organize, and submit all the requested documentation, along with his letters of commendation from U.S. military officers. Not satisfied, however, USCIS then responded with an additional list of items for Sayed to submit. We responded again, only to be sent yet another list.
WGV files Lawsuit in Federal Court
Upon receipt of the third list of requested documents, WGV and Sayed agreed that USCIS had abused its authority with respect to his application and that the adjudication had already taken far too long. Sayed had no criminal record, had answered all of USCIS’s inquiries openly and honestly, and had provided plenty of evidence to demonstrate his eligibility for naturalization. Rather than continue to engage with USCIS regarding his application, Sayed decided to take his case to Federal Court.
Under section 336 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, if USCIS does not issue a decision within 120 days of interviewing an applicant for naturalization, the applicant may file a petition for naturalization with the Federal District Court presiding over his place of residence. Accordingly, in early October 2018, WGV filed a petition on Sayed’s behalf in the Western District of the U.S. District Court in Austin.
Sayed finally becomes a U.S. Citizen
Within approximately one week of Sayed’s District Court filing, USCIS agreed to schedule Sayed for his naturalization oath ceremony. Sayed would not be required to submit any additional documentation or attend any Court hearings or additional appointments with USCIS. On November 15, 2018, Sayed was sworn in as a naturalized U.S. citizen.
WGV is proud and honored to have assisted Sayed, and we congratulate him on his hard-won U.S. citizenship.