What should you, a loved one, friend, or coworker be doing as of now to prepare for potential immigration reform?
1. Do NOT pay anyone to get in line for immigration reform; hold your paper work or open a file on your behalf to get a head start!
Ethically, an Immigration attorney cannot retain a case for some form of relief until it has been passed or approved by the Immigration Service.
2. Start gathering proof for the years that you have lived in the United States. Make sure all documents have your name and the date. Examples of documents that could be helpful are: pay check stubs, income taxes, doctor/dentist receipts, rental agreements or receipts, school records, vehicle registrations, insurance documents, car purchase contracts, letters addressed to you with a dated postal stamp, memberships to establishments, bank statements, vital statistics e.g. birth records, marriage, divorces (all occurring in the U.S.).
3. Request a valid passport from the consulate from your country of origin within the U.S.
4. Request a certified copy of your birth record from your home country through family living abroad or through the consulate.
5. Save, save, save! Congress is suggesting heavy fines payable to the Immigration Service as part of Immigration Reform. The last fine I witnessed was for 245i protection in 2001 and it was for $1,000.00 per person. Surely any new fine will be a significant amount.
6. If you have not paid income taxes, you must start now.
7. Establish a paper trail by opening bank accounts, memberships to clubs, save all correspondence in your name with the U.S. Postal mark that includes the date.
8. Get copies of any past run ins with the police and get the outcome or record from court. This will be vital to determine whether or not you will be eligible. Take care of all unpaid traffic tickets.
9. Visit your accountant and get copies of past income tax returns.
10. If you have attended school in the U.S., get your school records.
Please do keep in mind that Immigration Reform has NOT passed but instead is in the discussion phase in Congress. I will continue to inform you of the progress of said debates. Follow me on Facebook where I will post developments on this proposal.
Alma Rosa Nieto is a Los-Angeles-based expert immigration legal analyst for local and national television, radio and print. She is a regular contributor for Telemundo television news.