Immigration Legalization Services

How can I start to prepare for a Legalization Program?:

As a member of Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville, adopts the recommendations of The Catholic Church in the United States regarding immigration matters. The Catholic Church recommends people living in the U.S.A. without documentation obtain valid proof of their identity.

Such documentation might include:

  • An expired or un-expired valid passport from the foreign national’s home country
  • An original birth certificate or a certified copy from the foreign national’s home country (you will need to obtain a certified English translation of any document in a foreign language)
  • Other valid photo identification issued by the home country, such as a matricula consular or other documents issued by any federal, state, or local government of the United States

(NOTE: Because an undocumented foreign national runs the risk of being placed in removal (i.e., “deportation”) proceedings if s/he comes to the attention of the U.S. government, the Catholic Church recommends that undocumented foreign nationals first seek advice from a licensed immigration attorney or a BIA-recognized agency before approaching a government agency to seek documentation of identification). BEWARE of people or agencies that offer to get immigration “papers” or “identification” for foreign nationals. They might be obtaining fake identification documents and if the foreign national uses those documents they might end up being deported. Obtain photo identification only through lawful methods, such as through the foreign national’s home government. BEWARE OF NOTARIOS AND IMMIGRATION CONSULTANTS who offer help filing applications with the government. Many of these consultants have taken advantage of undocumented immigrants by filing applications on behalf of undocumented foreign nationals without verifying whether the individual is actually eligible for the immigration benefit. Congress has not yet passed any law that authorizes the legalization of undocumented people. If a person offers to file an application for legalization on behalf of an undocumented foreign national, they may be putting that foreign national in danger of deportation. If a foreign national has been arrested or convicted in the past, and then applies for an immigration benefit, he or she could be deported from the United States – even if the criminal conviction has been cleared. We strongly suggest that any foreign national seeking immigration consultation or who has been arrested or have a criminal conviction obtain expert legal advice from a licensed immigration attorney or a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) recognized agency before filing any application with the immigration authorities.

Good Moral Character:

It is very important that undocumented immigrants prove that they are people of good moral character. Undocumented immigrants should gather documents proving that they are of “good moral character” while they have been living in the United States. While U.S. immigration law has no clear definition of “good moral character,” the law does state that a person who has been involved in certain types of bad or criminal conduct cannot be considered a person of good moral character. If a foreign national cannot prove that s/he has been a person of good moral character, then it is unlikely that s/he would be able to obtain his/her green card through a legalization program. How does someone prove that they are a person of “good moral character”? A foreign national can prove that s/he is a person of good moral character by showing:

  • Parental involvement in children’s schooling
  • Payment of income taxes
  • Emotional and financial support of family
  • Involvement in community, religious, and/or volunteer organizations

For immigrant men who are at least 18 years of age and who have not yet reached their 26th birthday, they should register with the U.S. Selective Service System. The U.S. government will look at whether the men registered with the U.S. Selective Service System in order to determine their good moral character. Foreign nationals should start getting involved with their community and with their church, congregation, mosque, or synagogue. For example, they should register at their local church.

Physical Presence or Residency in the United States:

Undocumented immigrants should start gathering documentation to prove when and how they physically arrived in the United States and that they have lived in the United States as their primary home since arrival. They should also start gathering documentation to prove that they have worked in the United States. Some documentation to prove their arrival in the United States might be the bus or plane tickets used to travel to the United States or the receipts for such tickets. The Catholic Church recommends that foreign nationals write out in a chronological format, starting from the date the foreign national first entered the United States:

  • Each address where s/he has resided in the United States and the dates of residence at each address
  • The name and address of each employer and the beginning and ending dates of employment at each job

Then the foreign national can use this list to begin to gather documentation to prove residence and employment for those time periods. Foreign nationals should consider collecting documentation in three-month periods to prove that the foreign national was in fact continuously physically present in the United States. Below is a list of documents that help prove residency in the United States. Make sure that they have the foreign national’s name on them – or the name of the family member who wants to legalize. The foreign national should gather as many of these documents as s/he can, make clear photocopies of them, and store them in a safe place.

  • Paycheck stubs and payroll records
  • Lease/Rental agreements/ /or proof of security deposit payment
  • Birth certificates of children born in the United States
  • Marriage certificates if married in the United States
  • Divorce degrees if divorced in the United States
  • Dental, hospital, medical vaccination records and bills, and proof of payment
  • School records, awards, certifications, diplomas, pictures, yearbooks, etc.
  • Religious records such as baptism, confirmation, and registration certificates
  • Census records
  • Immigration and Naturalization Service/Department of Homeland Security
  • Form I-94, arrival/departure record
  • Valid (expired or un-expired) passport with stamped date of admission into the United States.
  • Proof of ownership of real estate (e.g., a home)
  • Proof of application for home loan and proof of paying-off home loan
  • Proof of purchase of an automobile and payments for automobile and car insurance
  • Automobile registration, car title, license receipts and Department of Motor Vehicle records
  • Department of Public Safety records
  • Insurance invoices, claims, policies and payment of insurance
  • Utility bills such as electricity, gas, heat, sewer, water, etc. and telephone bills
  • Credit card history in the United States (e.g., Sears card, etc.)
  • Social Security records
  • Record of payment of federal, state, and/or local taxes with W-2 forms
  • Union records
  • Bank records such as statements, cancelled checks and money order receipts
  • Selective Service registration card
  • Postmarked envelopes addressed to the foreign national here in the United States
  • Photographs of celebrations in the United States, preferably with dates marked on them