Frequently Asked Questions On Immigration
The Legal Immigration and Family Equity Act - the Extention
of Immigration law Section 245(i)
Dec. 21, 2000, President Clinton signed into law the Legal Immigration and Family Equity
Act, which extends immigration law section 245(i). That's the law that allows most
permanent residence applicants to get interviewed here. The act also creates a V visa that
allows certain spouses and children of permanent residents to live and work here while
their cases are pending and extends K visa benefits to the spouses and children of U.S.
citizens. Prior to the act, K visas were available, only to a U.S. citizen's fiance and
the fiance's children.
Finally the act requires the INS to act on 'late amnesty" cases.
Many Able to Adjust Status
Q. Under the new 245(i) law, who can get permanent residence without
leaving the United States - the process, called adjustment of status?
A. You can adjust status if a relative petitions for you or you start an
employment-based case on or before April 30, 2001. To claim 245(i) benefits because of a
petition or labor certification filed after Jan. 14, 1998, you must have been here on Dec.
21, 2000. If you are here unlawfully, you may have to pay a $1,000 penalty to interview
out of status and undocumented applicants qualify to adjust status, even if they start a
case after the April 30 cutoff.
This includes most immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who entered the U.S. lawfuly, even
those who later violated their status. The "immediate relative" category
includes the spouse, unmarried children under 21, parents (where the citizen child is at
least 21) and certain, widows and widowers of U.S. citizens.
Also eligible to adjust status regardless of when they began their cases are
employment-based applicants who were never here unlawfully more than 180 days continuously.
Finally, most applicants who enter the U.S. legally and never violate their status can
adjust status. People applying in their categories won't have to pay the $1,000 penalty.
Eliminate Bars to Residence
Q.What's the benefit of being interviewed here?
A. By adjusting status, you won't need to fear the bars to permanent
residence for people here unlawfully. You face those bars if you leave the United States
after having been here unlawfully for mom than 180 days.
You Have Until April 30
Q. If my relative petitions for me now, but I cannot get my permanent
residance for many years because of backlogs, can I still adjust status?
A. Yes. If you start your case by this April 30. you keep the right to
adjust status indefinitely. Even if it takes 15 years or more for you to get to the front
of the line for a green card, the INS will interview you here.
Does the Legal Immigration and Family Equity Act mean I can get a green card without
having a relative or employer petition for me?
A. No. The law is not an amnesty. The act doesn't change the basic
requirements for permanent residence.
Waiting for That Green Card
Q. Who benefits from the new V visa and K visa rules?
A. The V visa allows a spouse or unmarried child under 21 of a permanent
resident to live and work here while waiting to get a green card. To qualify, your
permanent resident relative must have filed for you on or before Dec. 21, 2000, and you
must have been waiting three years or more for your residence. The new K visa rules allow
the spouse and child of a U.S. citizen to live and work in the United States while waiting
to get residence. The K visa applicant need not have filed by Dec. 21, 2001, and need not
have been waiting any particular amount of time.
Q. What about the late amnesty cases?
A. Late amnesty applicants who filed under the CSS vs. Meese, LULAC vs.
Reno or INS vs, Zambrano cases will have their cases heard. Readers will recall that
"late amnesty" refers to applications filed late under the 1986 amnesty law. The
federal courts found that the INS had been unlawfully discouraging qualified people from
applying and ordered the INS to accept late filings. The INS appealed, and the courts
limited who can get late amnesty green cards. Under the new act, the INS must decide late
To qualify, you must have claimed eligibility for late amnesty before Oct. 1, 2000. You
must file the application within one year after the INS issues regulations on the new law
The INS must issue those regulations within 120 days after Dec. 21, 2000. To get an
amnesty green card, you must have proof that you've been in the United States since before
Jan. 1, 1982.
Some INS officials think that a majority of the late amnesty cases are fraudulent. Let's
hope that the agency overcomes this bias and decides the cases using fair standards. Proving
presence in the United States before Jan. 1, 1982, may be difficult for some applicants.
Only a liberal interpretation will end the lawsuits and provide justice to the late
(By Alan Wernick)