Free help available to gain Citizenship
On Saturday, April 20, 2013, qualified Legal Permanent Residents interested in United States citizenship can get the help they need from Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services at Pathways to Citizenship Day event. The event is free and is set from 9:00 to 4:00 at Catholic Charities, 1900 S. Acadian Thruway, Baton Rouge, LA. Like all of Catholic Charities services, the workshop is open to people of all faiths throughout the Baton Rouge metropolitan area. This annual event is encourages hard working legal residents to become U.S. citizens involved in our political process.
Experienced immigration attorneys and law school students will be on hand to review citizenship documents and assist with the application, including completing the process. At workshops throughout the day, participants can take practice for the various citizenship tests administered by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, including English proficiency, American history, and oral interviews.
According to the Census Bureau, East Baton Rouge Parish foreign-born residents who are not US citizens rose 38% since 2000--from 9,201 to 12,762. This accounts for about 60% of all foreign-born residents living in the parish.
“Becoming a citizen can be a maze and an intimidating process for many,” said Corina Salazar, ILS Managing Attorney. “Our staff and volunteers know how tough it is. Many have become U.S. citizens through the process themselves.”
Salazar adds that immigration law is often cited as the second most complicated area of law, taking a back seat to tax law.
“Unfortunately, people who want to become U.S. citizens can become prey to persons unqualified to process the application otherwise known as "notarios", are charged huge fees and do not achieve their goal of citizenship ,” Salazar stated. “Catholic Charities immigration staff has the expertise and proven track record to make sure people aren’t taken advantage of. “
To qualify to become a citizen, immigrants must be at least 18 years old, have resided in the United States as a permanent resident for five years (three years if living with and married to a U.S. citizen spouse), lived in the United States for half of the five or three year period or have active or former military service and pass the English proficiency and civics tests.
To get the best help, people should bring their green card and all passports since obtaining green card, home addresses, marital, criminal, education and employment history for the last five years and children’s information (date of birth, A#, addresses).
Sparked by the growing immigrant population following Hurricane Katrina, Catholic Charities began offering Immigration Legal Services in 2007. The program offers legal representation and guidance with family visas and the citizenship process, community “Know Your Rights” presentations, and assistance to immigrant victims of crime and domestic violence by educating and engaging law enforcement and community partners.
To find out more and to reserve a spot at the upcoming Pathways to Citizenship workshop, call Catholic Charities at 225-242-0337 or click here to send an email.