by Michael J Gurfinkel

There is a lot of news and excitement about “Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” which could benefit the approximate 11 million illegal aliens in the US. Democrats and Republicans, as well as labor and business, are all coming together, acknowledging that something needs to be done to enable these people to achieve their “American Dream” and pursue a pathway to legalization and citizenship.

There have been several proposals, such as a “W” visa, for people working in lesser- skilled jobs (such as  caregivers at nursing homes or housekeepers at hotels), as well as the DREAM Act for young people who arrived in the US at an early age. However, all of these are still only proposals, and not yet laws. You cannot “apply”  under a proposed law.  All immigration proposals still would need to be passed by both houses of Congress , and then signed by the president. But things are looking up, and moving in the right direction.

Even though immigration reform is still being debated and “proposed,” there are many things that you can do right now, so that if and when there is a new immigration law , you will be “ready to go.” One thing that you can start doing is gather documents which could establish your eligibility. For example, some of the types of documents you should already have in your possession, or should start gathering would include:


  • Documents relating to your entry into the US. This might include your I – 94, visa, or other such entry document. In other words, how did you get into the US? Gather the documents that prove this.


  • Current and expired passports. Gather all your old/expired passports, and make sure you have a current, unexpired passport. Usually, when a person applies for immigration benefits, these documents are requested.


  • Documents evidencing presence in the U.S.  Expect the USCIS to look into your actual presence in the United States, showing the time you lived in the US. Acceptable proof of such presence are  your income tax returns, school records, credit card records, medical records, if any,  your Facebook or Twitter accounts and activities.


  • All filings with USCIS.  Gather all petitions, applications, and other forms that you have ever filed with USCIS. If you don’t have those documents, there are ways to obtain them from the government. And it is necessary to see your immigration “history,” in the same way that a doctor might want to see a patient’s medical history or file.  It is important to see what you filed in the past, and the information and documents you previously provided to DHS.


  • All notices, decisions, and denials from USCIS or immigration court. Did you ever file something with USCIS and were denied?  Were you ever put in removal\ deportation proceedings and/or ordered removed/deported? Copies of those documents will be important in determining whether that old removal order can be reopened, terminated, and the like. You just don’t walk into USCIS with a pending removal order. It needs to be evaluated and resolved.


  • All criminal records.  Were you ever arrested or subject to any kind of criminal/court proceedings? Were you charged with or convicted of a crime? Criminal matters could have immigration consequences.  But while waiting for immigration reform, your  criminal matters\convictions should be addressed now, by possibly having the criminal matter reopened and dismissed, or by any other  post conviction relief.


  • Divorce\remarriage  Are you separated from your spouse, and now living with another person whom you want to marry and include in your case? Now may be the time to pursue a divorce and remarriage, versus waiting for comprehensive immigration reform to pass and then  start with these “personal” matters.


I again want to emphasize that we are still waiting for comprehensive immigration reform to pass. But, as you can see, in the meantime, there are many things that can already be done in terms of gathering documents and getting yourself ready if and when it finally does pass.  If you are uncertain about your immigration history, or its effect on your future, you may want to already consult with an attorney, who can evaluate your case and situation, and advise you on the best course of action.