DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

  DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

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Handbook 13: Cross Program Protocols
13-20.3 Immigration and Naturalization: Information and Resources


Cross Program Protocols
13-20.3  Immigration and Naturalization: Information and Resources
Reference Points
Immigration Status Definition
Who Qualifies to Become A U.S. Citizen After Completing Eligibility
General Requirements for Becoming a U.S. Citizen
Benefits of U.S. Citizenship
English Proficiency and Immigration Status
Lost Documents
Government Resources and Consulates
Community Agency Resources
DFCS Immigrant Case Consultation
Other DFCS Staff Resources
Source Documents
Other References

Reference Points
Effective Date: 07/01/06
Last Updated: 9/15/2014
 Legal Basis:
Popup Window Unites States Citizenship and Immigration Services
Popup Window Immigration and Naturalization Legislation (1790-1996)

Acknowledgment   The information in this chapter is taken from the Santa Clara County Department of Family and Children's Services Immigration and Naturalization Resource and Practice Guide, created by the DFCS Immigration Project Committee.  Reprints of the booklet can be found throughout the Department.
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Immigration Status Definitions  


  • Immigrant Domestic Violence Survivor

A collection of federal laws, known generally as "VAWA" (Violence Against Women Act), is designed to protect immigrant abused spouses and children who are afraid to seek police protection because the abuser has threatened to withhold immigration status from the victims if they do so. The laws enable battered spouses and children to obtain lawful immigration status without the abuser’s knowledge or permission. In order to be eligible, the batterer must be either a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (green card holder). Unfortunately, no relief is available under these laws if the abuser is neither a United States citizen nor a legal permanent resident. If you think a parent or child who has been battered might qualify for a green card under these circumstances, there are many organizations that can assist them in applying.  The social worker should make an appropriate referral immediately to one of the resources listed for domestic violence survivors. Often, domestic violence shelters have lawyers specially trained to do these types of "VAWA" self-petitions.


  • Lawful Permanent Resident (Green Card)

A non-citizen who is lawfully admitted for permanent residency under the Immigration and Nationality Act.  A Resident Alien Card (Green Card) is granted to lawful permanent residents.


  • Naturalized United States Citizen

Immigrants are generally eligible to apply for United States citizenship five years after they receive their green card, but some are eligible after only three years through marriage to a U.S. citizen. Those who become naturalized citizens possess the same rights and responsibilities as native-born citizens and cannot be deported. In some cases, lawful permanent resident children can become citizens automatically if their parents naturalize before the children turn 18. Lawful permanent residents 18 years and older must demonstrate five years of "good moral character" before seeking to naturalize.

  • Parolees

A parolee is a person who is not a U.S. citizen who is allowed into the United States for urgent humanitarian reasons or when that alien’s entry is determined to be for significant public benefit. Parole does not constitute a formal admission to the United States and confers temporary status only, requiring parolees to leave when the conditions supporting their parole cease to exist. Parolees enter the country lawfully while the U.S. government decides what status to give them. Some persons are "paroled indefinitely," which is also a lawful status.



If the USCIS is aware of the presence of an undocumented immigrant and has done nothing to deport him or her, he or she may be considered part of this special category referred to as PRUCOL (Permanent Residence under the Color of Law). This commonly occurs when, for instance, an undocumented person applies for lawful status. Before the undocumented person obtains a green card, he/she may be considered "PRUCOL" because USCIS is aware of the immigrant’s presence through the application but is not seeking (at that time) to deport him or her. This category can be very complicated, and if in doubt, consult with a DFCS attorney. In Santa Clara County, PRUCOL immigrants are eligible for some public benefits, including Medi-Cal, Healthy Families, and cash assistance (General Assistance).


  • VISA Holders

People with employment, student or tourist visas are in the United States legally for a fixed period of time and for a specific purpose. They are generally ineligible for public benefits.


  • Refugees and Asylees

Someone who comes to the United States fleeing persecution in his or her home country may have refugee or asylee status. They are in the United States legally, and have the right to apply to become lawful permanent residents. Asylees and refugees have the right to work in the U.S. without a separate employment authorization card. In addition, refugees and asylees are eligible for additional services that are not available to other types of lawful permanent residents. Refugees and asylees may have a stamp in their passport, or a letter from USCIS or INS.


  • Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

Unmarried, documented or undocumented immigrants under 21 are able to become lawful permanent residents in
some cases, such as when being unable to reunify with one or both parents or when placed by the Juvenile Court in long-term foster care or guardianship. For many, this will be their only opportunity to obtain legal status. If you think
a young person might qualify, be sure to inform County Counsel immediately.



  • Undocumented Immigrants

Undocumented immigrants are people who entered the United States unlawfully or people whose legal immigrant or
visitor status expired or was cancelled by the government. Undocumented immigrants do not have permission to work.
Undocumented immigrants are eligible for Healthy Families and emergency Medi-Cal, and for many city and state services, including preventive and protective services offered by DFCS and its contract agencies. Undocumented immigrants may be eligible to apply for lawful immigration status including Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, asylum, or lawful permanent residence through a family member or an employer.


  • United States Citizen

All children born in the United States and its territories are citizens of the United States, regardless of their parents’ immigration status. Many children born outside of the United States may also be United States citizens, either through a parent born in the U.S., or through naturalization. (Children born outside the U.S. to a U.S. citizen parent may lack documentation that they are U.S. citizens, and should be referred immediately to an agency that can assist them in filing the appropriate paperwork with USCIS.)


  • American Nationals

A national of the United States is defined as a person who, though not a citizen of the United States, owes permanent
allegiance to the United States. Nationals can enter the U.S. at any time without going through immigration procedures.
Persons born in the United States territories are American nationals.


  • Qualified Alien

The term is not a separate immigration category; rather, the term "qualified alien" refers to immigrants in many categories who are eligible for certain federal government benefits. 

  • Permanent Resident

("green card" holders)
Immigrants who have "lawful permanent resident" status have been granted permission by the United States
government to reside and work in the United States permanently. They are still citizens of their home country,
but possess most of the same rights as United States citizens. For instance, lawful permanent residents are
eligible for most welfare benefits although sometimes they may not be eligible for them until they have had a “green
card” for five years. One difference between lawful permanent residents and U.S. citizens is that in some
cases, lawful permanent residents can be deported or denied permission to reenter the country. An immigrant
domestic violence victim may have become or be eligible to become a lawful permanent resident through the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA. (These persons are sometimes known as "VAWA self-petitioners.") Lawful
permanent residents can have either a “green card” or a stamp in their passport that reads "temporary evidence of

  • Deportation

The formal removal of an alien from the United States when the alien has been found removable for violating the immigration laws.  Deportation is ordered by an immigration judge without any punishment being imposed or contemplated.  Prior to April 1997, deportation and exclusion were separate removal procedures.  The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 consolidated these procedures.  After April 1, 1997, aliens in, and admitted to, the United States may be subject to removal based on deportability.

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Who Qualifies to Become a U.S. Citizen After Completing Eligibility  

Persons qualified to become U.S. citizens include:

  • Eligible Permanent Legal Residents
  • Derivative citizens through a U.S. citizen parent
  • Adopted children under age 14 (Children must have been placed in the home for two years to request United States citizenship through their adoptive parents.)
  • Adopted permanent residents
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General Requirements for Becoming a U.S. Citizen  

In general, the requirements for becoming a U.S. citizen are that a person must:

  • Be a permanent legal resident
  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Have been a resident of the state/district in which the person is applying for citizenship
  • Demonstrate good moral character
  • Be able to read, write and speak English
  • Have been a legal resident for at least four years and nine months
    • Length of legal residency requirement is two years and nine months, if the person has married a U.S. citizen
  • Not have disrupted residency requirements for any of the prior five years (or three years, if married to a U.S. citizen)
  • Pass a test in basic U.S. history and government
  • Be able to take the loyalty oath
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Benefits of U.S. Citizenship  

For lawful permanent residents, some of the benefits of U.S. citizenship are:

  • Right to vote
  • Right to travel with a U.S. passport
  • Right to live in another country
  • Right to help family members immigrate
  • Right to hold public office and obtain government jobs
  • Right to serve on a jury
  • Right to not be removed or deported from the U.S.
  • Do not have to renew "green cards"
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English Proficiency and Immigration Status   How well someone speaks English may not be reflective of his or her immigration status. A child who arrived in the United States at age 2 might speak perfect English and yet be an undocumented immigrant; an elderly woman who speaks no English may be a United States citizen, having qualified for certain exemptions from the English-language speaking
requirement. And of course, many immigrants come from English-speaking countries and have already mastered the language.
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Lost Documents  

Although many lawfully present persons in the U.S. lose or otherwise become separated from their documents at some point over the years, many types of immigration statuses do not "expire." If, for example, a green card or alien registration card becomes lost, or if an asylum-granting letter is lost or destroyed, the individual continues to be a lawful permanent resident or asylee. Immigrants who have lost their documents should be referred to immigration advocacy organizations for assistance in determining how they should get replacement documents. For more information on this, consult your supervisor, and the attached list of referrals.

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Government Resources and Consulates  

The following organizations and individuals may be able to provide assistance with immigration questions, status information, and referrals.

International Consulates in California:


International Consulates – Countries beginning A thru L

International Consulates – Countries beginning M thru Z


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Community Agency Resources  

 Listing of individuals and community agencies which can provide information and assistance regarding immigration issues in Santa Clara County:

Community and Government Resources


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DFCS Immigrant Case Consultation  

DFCS staff from the DFCS Immigration Services Committee provide case consultations for immigration questions the fourth Monday of every month at 4 p.m. at the 373 W. Julian St. Office in California Room.

DFCS Immigrant Case Consultation

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Other DFCS Staff Resources  

Immigration Resources -DFCS Staff  -list of internal DFCS staff

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Source Documents  
PDF Community Resources: Pamphlet of the Santa Clara County Department of Family & Children's Services Immigration Services Committee
PDF Agency Memorandum #04-23: U.S. Citizenship and Child Welfare Concerns
PDF Agency Memorandum #04-11: Immigration Services: Part II - Information and Resources
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Other References  
bullet2 OPP Chapter 13-20: Immigration Issues in the Child Welfare System
bullet2 OPP Chapter 13-20.1: Placing Children In and Returning Children From Mexico
bullet2 OPP Chapter 13-20.2: Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)
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