Illegal immigrants who took advantage of the government's amnesty program can begin applying for permanent residency Monday, but many will be in English and civics classes instead of immigration offices.
Immigrants who receive permanent resident status get a so-called green card, which allows them to leave and enter the country as they wish and to eventually apply for citizenship. The cards, green until 1976, are now white.Amnesty recipients who seek permanent residency must either take a 60-hour course, pass an oral and written examination similar to the citizenship test given to legal immigrants, or qualify for an exemption.
U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service officials expect about 1.5 million of the 1.8 million non-agricultural amnesty applicants to apply for permanent residency. Most are Spanish-speakers from Mexico, El Salvador and other Latin American countries.
Many will have to attend school to become eligible for permanent residency, but authorities say some potential applicants could find themselves locked out of overcrowded classes.
Classes for amnesty recipients are free in Dallas public schools, but many attend privately run programs with more flexible hours.
Under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, people who had lived illegally in the United States since before Jan. 1, 1982, were allowed to apply for amnesty from deportation and were given temporary permission to work.
The program ended for most immigrants May 4, though some farm workers have until Nov. 30 to apply.