Congress may again consider extending a controversial immigration provision known as Sec. 245(i). Sec. 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act was first enacted as a temporary provision in 1994 and has been extended several times since then. It enables unauthorized aliens in the United States who are eligible for immigrant visas based on family relationships or job skills to become legal permanent residents (LPRs) without leaving the country, providing they pay an additional fee.
Before an alien can apply to adjust to LPR status, the alien must have an approved immigrant visa petition and must have a visa number immediately available to him or her. Currently, to be eligible to adjust status under Sec. 245(i), an unauthorized alien must be the beneficiary of an immigrant petition or labor certification application filed by April 30, 2001. An unauthorized alien whose petition or application was not filed by April 30, 2001 must go overseas to obtain a visa, or wait for another extension to be passed by Congress.
Sec. 245(i) became more significant after 1996, when Congress enacted a law containing a provision known as the "3 and 10 years bars." Now an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States for more than 180 days and then leaves the country is barred from re-entry for either 3 or 10 years, depending on the length of the illegal stay. By enabling eligible aliens to become LPRs without departing the country to obtain visas, Sec. 245(i) shields them from the effects of these bars.
Bills before Congress would extend the deadline under Sec. 245(i) for filing immigrant petitions or labor certification applications. Most of these bills have been pending since 2002. While President Bush indicated that he supported Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) which included an extension of Sec. 245(i), he faced serious political obstacles within the Republican party which ultimately shelved these bills during his presidency.
President Obama has made it clear that he supports Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) which would include providing an avenue for undocumented immigrations to attain a legal status. With a strong president who has the support of his own party holding a majority in Congress, it is very possible that CIR will be passed in the near future that would include an extension of Sec. 245(i).
Section 245(i) sparks heated debate. Supporters characterize it as a humane, pro-family measure that enables prospective immigrants present in the United States to remain with their families while they go through the process of becoming legal permanent residents. Opponents counter that Sec. 245(i) is an amnesty provision that rewards lawbreakers and encourages illegal immigration.
Dyer Immigration Law Group is dedicated to putting those deserving individuals who are in need of CIR in the best position possible to legalize their status once CIR is passed by Congress. While we cannot say for certain when CIR will be passed, we believe it will be soon.