By Elsa Baughman
JACKSON – A question. Can the national of a country who has been granted a non-immigrant visa, automatically enter the United States for a visit? No, said Merrilyn Onisko, community relations officer of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). She said the visa only allows the individual to apply for entry to the U.S.
This question and many more were answered at an information session sponsored by Catholic Charities Migrant Support Center and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Friday, Sept. 19, at Catholic Charities.
In an effort to keep religious, lay leaders and volunteers current with immigration issues, Catholic Charities Migrant Support Center offers this type of seminar every year so those who have immigrant parishioners can help them with their questions or to guide them in the right direction.
“Immigration 101, an overview of the Green Card, Naturalization process, the Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law (UPIL) and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA),” was led by Onisko whose office is based in New Orleans.
Among those present for the first time this year were personnel from the Jackson Police Department who are trying to get more familiar with immigration issues so they can address problems or crimes against immigrants when they occur.
Onisko shared basic information on the above mentioned subjects and included other details such as how to check someone’s case status online and how to make an appointment with the USCIS.
She said sometimes people complain about the time it takes to process a case. To illustrate her answer, she noted each day the government processes seventy thousand green cards, nationalizes twenty-six hundred people and handles forty-thousand calls customer service calls.
The USCIS website has a link with information about how to avoid scams. Onisko noted the site can help immigrants to avoid immigration services scams. The site advises to “… remember: Know the facts when it comes to immigration assistance, because the Wrong Help Can Hurt.”
She also mentioned many immigrants are charged for forms. “Never, never pay for a form. They are free and can be downloaded from our website,” she said. The agency charges for processing the form but not for the form.
Also very helpful, she said, is a link in the website for InfoPass, a free service that lets people schedule an appointment with a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Immigration Officer by using the Internet at any time of day or night.
For more information visit the USCIS website, www.uscis.gov/outreach.