What Is Section 245(i) of the Immigration & Nationality Act?
Many immigrants who would have been forced to leave the United States were allowed to stay under Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
How does Section 245(i) work, and does it still apply to immigrants in the United States today?
An Explanation of Section 245(i)
Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act allows certain foreign nationals to become permanent residents of the United States.
Immigrants are barred from adjusting their status if they entered the United States without first being inspected by a Customs and Border Patrol officer and if they have either failed to maintain lawful status or been unlawfully employed in the country. Section 245(i) was first added to the law in 1994 to allow persons who qualifed for green cards, but not for adjustment of status, to be able to adjust their status in the United States upon payment of a $1,000 fine.
Four years later, on Jan. 14, 1998, Congress phased Section 245(i) out of the law. Immigrants and their families who had already begun the process of changing their status under Section 245(i) as of that date were grandfathered into the section’s benefits.
However, this left thousands of otherwise qualified persons who had not begun the process unable to adjust status in the United States. They could not return to their countries to begin the legal process of obtaining US green cards without being subject to either a three or a 10-year bar upon returning to the United States.
On Dec. 21, 2000, Congress extended the qualifying date for Section 245(i) benefits to April 30, 2001. This law, known as the LIFE Act, allowed immigrants who had labor certifications or visa petitions filed on their behalf between 1998 and April 30, 2001, to qualify for adjustment of status.
Eligibility for Adjustment of Status Under Section 245(i)
The following are groups of immigrants who are allowed to apply for adjustment of status due to Section 245(i):
- Immigrants who entered the United States illegally or without inspection
- Immigrants who have fallen out of valid nonimmigrant status or who have committed visa violations while in status
- Immigrants who worked while not authorized to do so
- Crew members who entered the United States with a D visa
- Immigrants admitted in transit without a visa
- Immigrants admitted via the Visa Waiver Program
Even though Section 245(i) seems lenient, there are several groups of immigrants who are ineligible for adjustment of status:
- Immigrant fiancé(e)s admitted on a K visa who failed to marry the petitioning US citizen within 90 days after arrival
- Immigrants subject to the J-1 two-year home residency requirement
- Immigrants who have failed to appear at a scheduled deportation hearing or asylum interview, or who have failed to follow a deportation order or grant of voluntary departure
- Immigrants seeking adjustment of status based on a marriage to a US citizen that was entered into while the person was in deportation proceedings, unless it can be shown that the marriage was entered into in good faith and not for immigration purposes
- Immigrants placed in removal proceedings upon their entry to the US
- Children in nonimmigrant status or seeking to adjust their status as orphans
- Immigrants acting as informants with S visas who have not received permission from the Attorney General to seek adjustment of status
- Immigrants who engaged in terrorist activities while in the US
Section 245(i) Still Valid
The deadline for Section 245(i) ended nearly a decade ago. However, immigrants who qualify for adjustment of status under the law — and their children and other dependents — still become permanent residents due to 245(i)’s provisions to this day.