The clock is ticking for hundreds of thousands of "temporary residents" across Southern California who gained amnesty under the 1986 immigration reform law but must either apply for "permanent residence" or revert to illegal status.
For some, the application period opened last fall. But staggered application deadlines will continue to November, 1990.
The first phase of the amnesty program--enacted by the same law that banned the employment of illegal immigrants but granted amnesty to established aliens--granted temporary residence to qualified applicants.
The law now requires that each applicant remain in temporary status for 18 months before applying for permanent residence. Each applicant then has one year in which to apply for permanent status.
Another requirement--that applicants show a basic knowledge of English, U.S. history and civics--continues to swell attendance at thousands of classes offered by school districts and private groups across the region.
But not everyone must take the classes. The following options are available for meeting the academic requirement, according to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service:
OPTIONS - Taking an INS citizenship test at the time of the interview for permanent residency or taking an INS "proficiency test" before submitting an application. The latter is offered Thursday nights at INS legalization offices and may be taken as many times as necessary to pass. Applicants can be scheduled to take the proficiency test by filling out a form available at INS offices.
Applicants may prepare for the tests on their own. INS textbooks are available for about $10 at the Government Printing Office, 505 S. Flower St., Los Angeles. Several instructional videos and tapes are also available, including "Opportunity U.S.A.," endorsed by the Los Angeles mayor's office. This $270 video series is available at most city libraries and from some community organizations. Further information: Mayor's Office, (213) 485-4844. Dozens of audiotapes are available, including one that sells for $20 from El Paso Final, (800) 662-4662.
- In lieu of a test, applicants may attend 40 hours of a 60-hour course of English, U.S. history and government. The course must be pre-approved by the INS in order for students to receive a valid certificate of "satisfactory pursuit." Many approved courses are offered for free by school districts and community colleges. Smaller classes, offered by community and church groups, include some geared to illiterate students. For information, call Los Angeles Unified School District, (213) 625-3276, or visit INS legalization offices.
- Those exempted from the academic requirement altogether are applicants under 16 years of age or over 65; the developmentally or physically disabled; those with an U.S. high school or GED diploma; those who have completed at least one year of study at a state-approved school, and those who applied for amnesty under the law's Special Agricultural Workers provision.
Applicants must not have been convicted of a felony or three misdemeanors and must show that they are not likely to become a public charge. Those who did not submit to an AIDS test from an INS-approved doctor when they first applied for amnesty must do so for their permanent residence application.
Temporary residents must limit their travel outside the United States to 30 days at a time and no more than 90 days altogether. In emergencies, they may apply to the INS for longer trips.
DEADLINES Timing is critical. Applicants should be aware of their individual deadline for filing for permanent residence. The 18-month waiting period begins on the "issue date"--not the "expiration date"--stamped on an applicant's temporary residence card. At the end of that 18-month waiting period, applicants then have one year to apply. If an applicant waits until the card's "expiration date" to apply, he will have reverted to illegal status.
The INS will mail application forms to temporary residents as their time to apply for permanent residency approaches. However, if an applicant is missed, forms may be picked up at an INS legalization office. Completed forms must be mailed to the INS. The INS will next contact the applicant for an interview or to pick up the permanent residence card.
CHANGE OF ADDRESS INS officials have urged applicants who have moved since applying for amnesty to fill out a change of address form, available at legalization offices.
APPEALS Applicants who are denied either temporary or permanent residence may appeal their cases. This must be done within 30 days of the date on the notification letter from INS. Appeal forms are available at INS offices. Legal representation is available from various community groups for free or a modest fee. Information and referral hot line: (213) 487-0910.
HOT LINES General amnesty information is available from a telephone hot line sponsored by the National Assn. of Latino Elected Officials: (800) 346-2536. The INS amnesty hot line is (800) 448-4994.