As the Senate debates Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR), the news is full of information about potential changes to the country’s immigration laws. At this time, Congress has not yet passed legislation to reform the immigration system, but it seems likely that some changes in the laws will occur. One possible change is the creation of a new temporary legal status (called Registered Provisional Immigrant or RPI status) for persons who are currently without status, but who meet certain requirements. If you think you might benefit from CIR, you can now begin to prepare in the event a new law is enacted. Steps you can take include:
- Identity records: Obtain original identity documents for you and your family, including birth certificates, adoption records, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, consular identifications, etc. For foreign documents, you may need to contact your country’s consulate;
- Criminal records: Obtain certified final dispositions for any and all arrests and convictions you may have. Even expunged arrests and convictions will need to be disclosed and a certified final disposition provided. These can usually be obtained at the court’s office of records, or from the police department’s records office where the arrest occurred;
- Fingerprints: If you have ever been arrested, an FBI background check should be completed by submitting a completed fingerprint card with fee to the FBI.
- FOIA: If you have ever had any contact with immigration authorities, you should file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the appropriate government agency to obtain a copy of your records. Click here for more information on filing FOIAs with USCIS.
- Taxes: Remember, anyone working and earning income in the United States may be required to file a tax return. This is true even if the person is working without authorization or working for cash. Consult with a qualified tax professional for assistance with filing your tax returns. If you have filed tax returns in the past, but don’t have copies, you can request transcripts of your prior tax filings from the IRS.
- Evidence of presence in the United States: The Senate bill indicates that applicants need to prove physical presence in the United States since December 2011. You should gather a variety of documents to prove how long you have continuously resided in the United States. Objective evidence such as bills, leases, bank accounts, tax filings, paystubs, medical records, school records, church records, insurance records, or other similar documents are generally considered preferable to affidavits.
- Don’t get taken advantage of and be careful of the advice you receive: At this time, there is no new law and it is not yet possible to file an application under the Senate bill. Seek advice from a qualified attorney or organization accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals. Notaries or “notarios” are not attorneys and are not qualified or authorized to give immigration advice — to do so would be considered notario fraud.
If you have questions about the Senate bill and actions you can take now to prepare for possible changes to the immigration laws, contact the Chicago immigration attorneys at MMHPC.