For years now, legal immigrants living locally have had to travel outside Kern County if they needed temporary proof of their authorization to work in the United States.
That's about to change.
Bakersfield's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' Application Support Center, located in a shopping center at 4701 Planz Road, is expanding its menu of services in order to better accommodate foreign citizens working in Kern, Inyo and Mono counties.
Starting Monday, the office will offer up to 50 people per month the ability to get what's called a U.S. Customs and Border Protection endorsement. The service will be offered strictly on an appointment basis.
"It's quite a lot of (driving) miles that we're going to save Bakersfield residents," said Lynn Feldman, field office director for the agency's Fresno field office, which has jurisdiction over the Bakersfield center.
CBPs, as the endorsements are also known, can take the form of a stamp on a passport or a standalone document. Besides comprising proof of legal residency, CBPs are helpful for immigrants planning to travel overseas or apply for Social Security benefits.
The change is expected to make life easier for immigrants working for local oil and agriculture companies, which often rely on foreign citizens to help meet their staffing needs.
The center has been open since 1998, offering biometric services such as taking fingerprints to help identify immigrants.
But the office has never offered CBP endorsements. People from as far away as Boron and even Bishop who misplaced their so-called green cards have had to travel all the way to Fresno to get temporary proof of their right to work in the United States. The service usually takes between 15 and 30 minutes.
The USCIS has more than 20 application support centers in the state. The one in Bakersfield will be the only one offering CBP endorsements. More offices may be authorized to offer the service, agency officials said, depending how well things go in Bakersfield.
They said enabling the Bakersfield office to offer the service did not require hiring more people, though it did entail bringing in new equipment and materials, USCIS officials said Friday.
To schedule an appointment to get a CBP in Bakersfield, go online at www.uscis.gov and type the word "appointment" in the search bar at the top of the website.
Applicants must bring photo identification to their appointment. Also, the endorsements may not be provided unless the applicant has already applied online for a replacement permanent resident card, formerly known as a green card.