Support center for legal immigrants opens
Office will help those seeking citizenship or permanent residency in U.S.
By Juan Castillo

Friday, August 21, 2009

The federal agency that oversees applications for legal immigration will formally open its first support center in Austin today.

The new office, located in the Parkline Shopping Center in North Austin, collects fingerprints and biometric data as part of its background checks of people applying for legal permanent residency and U.S. citizenship, among other things.

Previously, Austin-area residents had to travel to San Antonio for the nearest U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) application support center.

"We realize that's quite a distance. We wanted to make sure that Austin-area residents had a facility more convenient for them," said Maria Elena Garcia-Upson, a spokeswoman for the agency, which is a division of the Homeland Security Department.

The agency opened its first support center in the country in 1998. It has 134 centers. In 2008, they processed more than 3 million applications.

Garcia-Upson said that fingerprints and biometrics are sent to the FBI. Applicants who clear the background checks are then scheduled for interviews.

The Austin center, at 11301 Lakeline Blvd., Suite 150, is already operating; a "grand opening," slated for today, was delayed because of scheduling conflicts and to make sure it was in working order, Garcia-Upson said.

USCIS officials and U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, are scheduled to attend a ribbon-cutting at 11 a.m. Afterward, the agency will host a military naturalization ceremony for four soldiers from El Salvador, St. Lucia and Togo.; 445-3635 ... enter.html