(Courtesy of Paul Parsons)
T. Alexander Aleinikoff
Executive Associate Commissioner for Programs
Immigration and Naturalization Service
425 Eye St. NW
Washington, DC 20536
December 14, 1995
Dear Mr. Aleinikoff:
We write to urge the Immigration and Naturalization Service to issue a
letter to clarify that agencies assisting with naturalization applications,
particularly educational testing agencies, are engaged in the practice of
law, and must conform to the representation requirements in 8 C.F.R.
The growing number of citizenship application workshops conducted by non-
legal organizations is alarming. We are concerned by reports from our
local affiliate organizations that certain testing entities offer package
deals including assistance with naturalization applications. These testing
entities rent hotel space for a day or two, advertise broadly, tailor their
instruction to the test questions, administer the test, help the applicant
fill out the N-400, and then leave town. This constitutes unauthorized
practice of law, and a danger to unqualified naturalization applicants.
Section 292 of Title 8, Code of Federal Regulations limits legal
representation in immigration matters. In general, representatives must be
attorneys or “accredited representatives.” The Office of the General
Counsel defines representation broadly, to include selection and
preparation of an immigration form. Please see the June 9, 1992 Office of
the General Counsel Legal Opinion. The Service has stated that
organizations assisting persons to complete naturalization applications
would have to satisfy the representation standards of 8 C.F.R. Section 292.
Please see the April 26, 1994 applications would have to satisfy the
representation standards of 8 C.F.R. Section 292. Please see the April 26,
1994 letter from Lawrence J. Weinig, Acting Associate Commissioner for
Testing entitles that encourage and assist persons to file and complete
naturalization applications should have to satisfy the representation
standards of 8 C.F.R. Section 292. The naturalization applications raises
sufficient legal issues to warrant the requirements for qualified
representation. Assistance with the N-400 must include screening for legal
problems such as failure to register for Selective Service or pay child
support; lengthily absences from the United States; and criminal
convictions. Applicants risk money an time, as well as possible
deportation, when they receive unqualified “legal” assistance.
The testing entities should not be permitted to argue that the assistance
with the N-400s is not legal representation, or does not violate Section
292. Disclaimers to state they are not screening or providing legal
counsel do not remove the testing entities from the purview of Section 292.
According to the OGC’s June 9 1992 memo, even minimal assistance with
preprinted INS forms, if it is not representation, “must be in exchange for
nominal remuneration, if any, and the assistant must not hold himself or
herself as qualified in the area of immigration law and naturalization
Some testing entities charge considerate fees, and effectively hold
themselves out as qualified to provide the entire line of services leading
up to the naturalization interview. An applicant may reasonably believe an
N-400 is ready to be filed if it was completed by a government recognized
testing agency. An applicant may reasonably believe the approved testing
agency is qualified to render legal assistance. Even if the testing
entities were not providing legal representation (which they are), they
would still be violating Section 292 for overcharging and holding
themselves out as qualified in the area of immigration law and
These testing entitles can not be allowed to misrepresent to applicants
that they provided approved legal assistance, and deny to the INS that they
provide legal assistance. Help with preparation of the N-400 constitutes
legal representation, and entity that provides such help must be qualified
under the regulations.
As the interest in naturalization continues to grow, the Service and the
nonprofit immigration services organizations must be vigilant. We ask the
Service to work with us to identify an discourage organizations and
practitioners who take advantage of our clients by engaging in the
unauthorized practice of law. A Service letter to clarify that assistance
with N-400s constitutes Section 292 representation will help protect our
clients against unqualified representation.
Finally, we understand you are drafting criteria to approve testing
entities under 8 C.F.R. Section 312. We urge you to establish the criteria
expeditiously, to ensure that only qualified and ethical organizations are
approved to offer the citizenship test to our clients.
Your attention to these matters is greatly appreciated.
Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.
Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program
Immigration and Refugee Services of America
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services
Texas Immigration and Refugee Coalition