Getting Ready for Legalization

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A deal on immigration reform has reportedly been struck by the so-called Gang of Eight in the Senate. That’s good news, but it is only the first step.

We have yet to see an actual bill, and we won’t for at least another two weeks. The bill could be subject to extensive amendment and might change substantially over time. In addition, the more conservative House of Representatives will have to pass its own immigration reform bill. Although we may be closer to legalization now than we have been at any time in the last 11 years, a lot could still go wrong.

While legalization inches closer to reality, it is important for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants to remain careful and not become too enthusiastic about the program just yet. Now is the time to join the struggle for passing immigration reform.

Now may also be a good time to begin gathering documentation for your application, but it is much too soon to pay anyone any money for legal services. There are a small, but alarming number of reports of immigrants on Long Island going to notaries or lawyers and being charged hundreds of dollars for help.

You should not do this.

First, you should never seek legal advice form a notary and it is illegal for a notary to give you immigration advice. Second, it is still too early in the process for anyone to give you meaningful help.

There are a few things you can do now that will help you get ready for legalization. I’ll be writing about the steps you can take in further detail over the coming months.

Although the bill has not yet been written, now is a good time to begin gathering your documentation together to apply.

The first document you’ll need is a passport. You can get this from your home country’s consulate. If a legalization program is passed, there will be a massive rush of immigrants to consulates to obtain their passports, so the sooner you can get the process started, the better. If you already have an unexpired passport that will be good for at least another year, you don’t need to get a new one; otherwise, get to a consulate as soon as you can.

If you need to renew an expired passport, the process is fairly easy. However, if you have never had a passport before, you may need to get your birth certificate and other documentation proving your identity to obtain one. Do not delay. Getting a new passport can take weeks, or even months, and waits may grow to six months or more if legalization is passed.

I’ll have more tips and advice for you in upcoming articles. In addition, CARECEN will offer free meetings on the legalization program when a bill is written.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is Director of Legal Services at CARECEN and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra University. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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