Immigration Services

Immigration Services

Ask us about our new Immigration Services Center!

The Immigration Services Center at Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Fresno is in the process of obtaining the Recognition and Accreditation from U.S. Department of Justice to provide legal assistance and representation to the immigrant population. We can provide information, guidance and support on various types of affirmative immigration cases including the types of cases below.

Call (559) 237-0851 to schedule an appointment in Fresno, Bakersfield or Merced. All consultations are free of charge.

⦁ Naturalization – Individuals who are Legal Permanent Residents (Green Card holders) may apply to become U.S. Citizens after meeting the proper requirements, such as being a resident for 5 years (or 3 years if the applicant is married to U.S. Citizen).

⦁ Naturalization for U.S. Veterans – U.S. Veterans who served during times of hostilities or peace may apply to become U.S. Citizens on the basis for their service to the country.

⦁ Acquisition/Derivation of U.S. Citizenship – Individuals born outside of the U.S. who have or had a parent(s) that are (or became) U.S. Citizens may be able to obtain their citizenship on the basis of the citizenship status of the parent.

⦁ Legal Permanent Residence Card Renewal (Green Card Renewals) – Individuals who have been inspected and admitted to the United States and are currently Legal Permanent Residents possess a Green Card that must be renewed every ten years.

⦁ Adjustment of Status – the process that someone can use to apply for a Green Card when the applicant is present in the United States. This means they may apply to obtain a Green Card without having to return to their home country to complete the visa processing after being inspected, admitted, and meeting the corresponding requirements.

⦁ Consular Process – A beneficiary of an approved immigrant petition may apply for a Green Card outside of the United States with the U.S. Department of State at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

⦁ U-Visa / VAWA – A Non-Immigrant Visa may be granted to individuals who are a victim of a qualifying crime in the U.S. or in a U.S territory and collaborated in the prosecution of the crime.

⦁ Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – DACA is the prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual who came to the U.S. as a child and meets several guidelines for a certain period of time. This also grants temporary protection from deportation and a work authorization permit that are subject to renewal. Deferred action does NOT provide lawful status.

⦁ Advance Parole – also known as re-entry permit, is a permit that allows a non-citizen to physically enter the United States for a specific purpose.

⦁ Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) & Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Background Checks
Request for access to documents or other data in the possession of a government agency or public authority, unless the information falls into a category that is specifically excluded from the terms of the legislation.

**Please note all services indicated are not a guarantee that the person is eligible. It is recommended interested individuals consult with a DOJ Accredited Representative or Immigration Attorney to see if they qualify. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is the authority in all affirmative immigration cases that approves or denies benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Does Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Fresno (CCDOF) assist only Catholics?
A: No, CCDOF is committed to serve, advocate, and empower those in most need regardless of race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, nationality, income level, and/or legal status.

Q: What Immigration Services does CCDOF provide?
A: The Immigration Services Center at CCDOF provides information, guidance, and support to those seeking U.S. Citizenship, requesting (or renewing) a work permit, an immigration benefit, and/or legal status.

Q: How much does CCDOF charge clients that utilize the Immigration Services Center?
A: All services provided by the Immigration Services Center at CCDOF are free of charge to all individuals that seek assistance. The client is only financially responsible for the processing fee charged by the government entity that will potentially grant the benefit.

Q: What percentage of private donations raised from local donors are going towards the Immigration Services Center?
A: No private donations are used to fund the CCDOF Immigration Services Center, unless specified by the donor. The services provided at CCDOF’s Immigration Services Center are funded through a grant in partnership with Catholic Charities of California. However, CCDOF does provide food, clothing, and housing support to all those in need regardless of their legal status. CCDOF does not track, nor has it ever tracked, the legal status of families who utilize the social service programs at CCDOF. All dollars raised by CCDOF are utilized to serve those in need throughout the eight-county Diocese of Fresno.

Q: Why is CCDOF getting involved in the immigration arena?
A: CCDOF’s work with migrants is rooted in the Gospel and Catholic social teaching. Our work is a commitment to provide help to the most vulnerable, provide long-term relief, help individuals and families, and rebuild their lives. All of these services are in compliance with the Federal Government regardless of presidential administrations, making our work humanitarian, not political. According to the Census Bureau (2016 data), 20% of Fresno County residents (195,366 individuals) are foreign-born. It is estimated that 15% of the foreign-born in Fresno County (29,304 individuals) are in need of immigration services. The need throughout the eight-county Diocese of Fresno is great which is why it is so important that CCDOF is now able to help.

Q: Do all Catholic Charities offer the same Immigration Services?
A: No, though all Catholic Charities throughout the U.S. are connected through a partner network, each Catholic Charities operates independently. Each Catholic Charities offers different programs and services tailored towards the needs of their individual communities.

Q: Is CCDOF helping people come into the U.S. without lawful status?
A: No, the Immigration Services Center at CCDOF provides information, guidance, and support that will assist individuals migrate to the United States legally, obtain legal status, and/or a work authorization permit after analyzing the applicant’s current status. Though there might be immigrants who are not eligible for an immigration remedy at this time, CCDOF will provide them with resources that are relevant to their current situation that will empower them.

Q: Is CCDOF granting immigration benefits?
A: No, only the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has the authority to approve or deny immigration benefits. The Immigration Services Center at CCDOF provides information, guidance, and support for individuals on their legal immigration matters after analyzing the applicant’s current situation.

Q: Are the staff members at the Immigration Services Center attorneys?
A: No, currently (as of December 2021), the Immigration Services Center at CCDOF is in the process of obtaining Recognition and Accreditation from the U.S. Department of Justice to provide legal assistance and representation to the immigrant population. CCDOF is providing information, guidance, and support on various types of affirmative immigration services and receives technical assistance, advice, counsel, and support in immigration matters from the Directing Attorney of Catholic Charities of California.

Q: Are the staff members at the Immigration Services Center Public Notaries?
A: No, Public Notaries in the U.S. are not entities that can provide legal immigration representation. Only attorneys, who have passed the State Bar, and/or accredited representatives from the Department of Justice with a recognized organization can provide legal immigration services. There is a big misconception by consumers of what a Public Notary is in the U.S. compared to Mexico or Latin America. According to the College of Notaries in Mexico City, in order to be a Notario Publico (Public Notary) you must be a licensed attorney at law, certify a minimum and uninterrupted practice of twelve months under the direction and responsibility of a notary, request in writing the indicated examinations, successfully pass two qualifying exams, express submission to the final decision of the jury, not be a minister of worship, nor be subject to trial, or have been convicted of an intentional crime.

Q: Who is authorized to provide legal immigration services and representation?
A: Only recognized organizations by the Department of Justice that have accredited representatives and/or attorneys with a State License can practice immigration law, this allows them to provide legal advice and representation in immigration matters. Currently (as of December 2021), the Immigration Services Center at CCDOF is providing information, guidance, and support on various types of affirmative immigration cases and trustworthy licensed providers, and is in the process of obtaining the Recognition and Accreditation to provide the proper legal assistance to the immigrant population.

Q: Does the Immigration Services Center at CCDOF apprehend immigrants or share information with ICE?
A: No, only the U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and/or U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may apprehend and/or deport immigrants. All the information collected by CCDOF is confidential and is not shared with outside parties, organizations, or government agencies.

Q: Why do individuals migrate to the United States without lawful status?
A: The majority of the immigrants that abandon their native country are fleeing in search of safety, family reunification, and/or economic opportunities. Many immigrants that decide to depart their homeland make the decision after having no other alternative. Immigration providers and advocates like the Immigration Services Center at CCDOF assist immigrants to migrate into the U.S. legally, despite the process for some that could take more than ten years after completing a rigorous application. Currently, a petition by siblings of Mexican nationality could take over 20 years for their case to be adjudicated.

Q: What is the process to become a U.S. Citizen through Naturalization?
A: After being a Legal Permanent Resident (Green Card holder) for five years, or three if the Green Card holder is married to a U.S. Citizen, the person can apply for naturalization (U.S. Citizenship). Please note they still must meet the other requirements such as, be over the age of 18, have good moral character, have continuous residence in the U.S., pass the U.S. history and civics exam, be able to speak and write English, and demonstrate loyalty to the principles of the U.S. Constitution. For applicants in the USCIS Fresno Field Office, their expected processing time will be approximately a year once the application is submitted. First, they will receive a notice indicating that their application has been received and the payment has been processed, or the fee waiver was approved. Then, in two-to-four weeks they will receive an Appointment Notice to a USCIS Support Center where they will collect the applicant’s biometrics. After ten months the applicant will receive a third letter indicating their interview appointment. At the interview, the applicant will be asked to take the U.S. History and Civics exam. On some occasions at the end of the interview if the applicant meets all the requirements they will be sworn in and be issued their U.S. Citizenship Certificate on the spot, otherwise, they may be scheduled for another appointment.

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