By Peggy Gleason
Regardless of what legalization program is eventually enacted and implemented, applicants will need to submit supporting documents to establish that they qualify. What documents are likely to be needed? What is the best way to organize them? How should clients now be counseled on ways to gather these documents? By looking at the prior legalization under the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986, and at the current proposals, we can estimate what may be required once a new legalization program is enacted.
- Basic Elements. Most legalization proposals require proof of identity, continuous physical presence/ residence in the United States, and employment history. The time period over which applicants need to prove these elements will depend on the final version of the statute. Date and manner of entry to the United States are also likely to be facts that applicants will have to establish.
- Warning. While continuing to plan for the day when legalization is implemented, it is necessary to warn clients once again that no legalization exists at this moment. They should not pay fees to anyone to file an application. Nonetheless, clients
can be advised that should legalization pass, it is best to be prepared with an organized set of documents.
- Save that Piece of Paper. Immigration practitioners are accustomed to helping their clients gather documentation since most immigration applications require supporting proof. Many immigrants have already learned to become hoarders of documentary records, as well. They have learned through personal experience that the Immigration Service or some other government entity may ask them to prove where they have been during a given period time, what they have been doing, and whether they paid taxes while doing it. Those who have not learned this yet need to be counseled.