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Can Immigrants in California Be Permanent Residents?

Of the various state laws that went into effect in California in January 2023, one of the most interesting is related to the hiring requirements for police officers. Senate Bill 960 eliminated the American citizenship requirement for foreigners who wish to enter police academies in the Golden State. As long as they’re legally authorized to work in California, they can be hired by city, county, and state law enforcement agencies. Police departments are free to determine whether applicants should be permanent residents of California, which is a legal status not necessarily conferred by a green card.

Permanent Residency at the State & Federal Levels

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines “permanence” in the context of how long a foreigner is physically present in the country. For example, permanence of at least five years is required before someone can apply for naturalization. During those five years, applicants must have been in the U.S. for more than six months each year. Exceptions to this requirement would be military personnel deployed overseas.

Immigration permanence doesn’t tie foreigners to a state. If you lived in California and four other states over five years, you’ve satisfied the permanence requirement at the federal USCIS level. Permanent residency in California is different in the sense that it doesn’t pay attention to immigration status. Let’s say an actress from Malaysia gets a P-1 visa to work on Hollywood film productions for a year. If she stays in California the entire time and is approved for a three-month visa extension, she would establish California residency through physical presence and intent.

Permanent Residency in California

The federal republic system in the U.S. allows states to set their own laws and rules regarding residency status. In California, permanent residency can be established after 366 days of continuous presence and the intention of making the Golden State a permanent home. Immigration status doesn’t play a part. Someone born in Arizona must live in California for an entire year before establishing residency at the state level.

Getting back to the new California law that removes the citizenship requirement for police officers, it’s up to hiring agencies to impose state residency requirements. Quite a few sheriff’s departments prefer to hire deputies who are residents of the counties they’ll patrol. Under the new law, foreign applicants who don’t have green cards could be hired, although this will be at the discretion of each agency.

Both immigrants and non-immigrants such as H-1B visa workers can become permanent residents of California after living in the state for a year and a day. This would include foreign college students, entrepreneurs on special business visas, and even migrant workers who extend their visas for consecutive harvests. Needless to say, a permanent address is required, and it must be displayed on legal documents, such as a driver’s license, bank statement, voter registration card for local elections, vehicle title, or school records.

Many state benefits, such as regular tuition, community healthcare, and vocational training, are only available to California residents. Foreigners in Southern California should consult with San Diego immigration lawyers before applying for social welfare benefits provided by California agencies. Doing this may negatively impact the immigration process in some cases.

If you would like more information about residency requirements or you need the services of a reliable, trustworthy immigration lawyer in San Diego, reach out to KS Visa Law today. Call 858-874-0711 to schedule an appointment.

April 2024
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