Getting Ready for Legalization: Criminal Issues


While the immigration reform bill introduced on Wednesday by Senator Chuck Schumer and the “Gang of Eight” is still a long way from becoming law, many undocumented immigrants may want to get together the materials they’ll need to apply ahead of time.

This is the second in a series on Getting Ready for Legalization. The first part looked at the desirability of obtaining a passport now. This installment will discuss the criminal bar to applications.

Under the proposed law, anyone who was convicted of committing a felony or more than two misdemeanors is ineligible to apply for the legalization. If you want to apply and have ever been arrested – even if the charges against you were later dropped – you’ll need to obtain a “Certificate of Disposition” of your case. In New York, these are relatively simple forms that you can obtain from the court that had jurisdiction over your case.

Be sure to obtain a “certificate of disposition” for each time that you were arrested or summoned to court. The certificate of disposition will indicate when you were arrested, when you went to court, whether you were convicted or not, what you were charged with and/or convicted of, and what your punishment was, if any. You can get the certificate of disposition by going to the court and paying a fee, which in New York State is $10.

Sometimes people may lie about their name when they get arrested. They think they are safe from discovery, but when they apply for an immigration benefit they are fingerprinted and that lie will come back to haunt them. If you were ever arrested under a false name, make sure to let your lawyer know about that when you are filling out your application.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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